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More Consumer Tips

Cutting Your Grocery Bill Without Resorting to Ramen

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Cardinal rule of grocery shopping: don’t go when you’re hungry. We all know this, right?  When you’re hungry, you buy food you don’t need and you spend more than you intended.

But there are many more tricks to saving money on groceries and they don’t have to involve coupons. It’s all about being a smart and savvy consumer – knowing a good deal when you see one, and planning out your trip before you set foot inside the store.

“We make choices about how we spend our money across the board. And most of us have more choices than we think we have,” said Patti Wooten Swanson, Ph.D., a nutrition, family and consumer science advisor with the County Farm and Home Advisor Office.

Getting the most for your money is more important than ever as grocery prices continue to rise while families face pay cuts and layoffs. Food and entertainment are often the two areas that families consider first when they cut their expenses, Wooten Swanson said.

Sometimes it’s as simple (or difficult) as breaking old habits.

“It may be a matter of developing new skills: learning to use unit pricing, learning to comparison shop. We buy the things we’ve always bought, or we buy the things our mothers bought,” Wooten Swanson said. “The biggest financial mistake people make is not comparison shopping.”

To cut costs:

  • Buy canned goods at discount or big box stores. Know which stores have the best prices.
  • Plan the week’s meals around what’s on sale. Know when a sale is really a sale, and not just a promotion with the item’s normal price.
  • Take a grocery list and stick to it. Plan not only for meals, but snacks, too.
  • Leave your children and spouse at home.
  • Emphasize plant-based foods in your meals rather than giving meat the center stage; fruits and vegetables are cheaper than meats.
  • Canned and frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones. So if there’s a great sale on frozen corn, go for it!
  • Compare the unit prices on different brands of food. How does the cost compare per pound or per ounce?
  • Stock up on staples such as canned beans, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, as well as pasta, rice and torillas, that you can build a meal around in a pinch. Having
    these items in the cupboard might discourage you from dining at a restaurant.
  • Don’t buy cosmetics or cleaning and paper products at the grocery store. They are often cheaper at discount or big box stores.
  • Understand the store’s placement of items. Products at eye level are often more expensive.  Items on the end of aisles are being promoted and aren’t necessarily the
    best price.
  • If a store is out of a sale item, ask for a rain check to buy the item when it’s back in stock.
  • Coupons save you money if they’re for items you normally buy.

Want more ideas, from auto loans to phone bills?  Check out the Federal Trade Commission's 66 Ways to Save Money.

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