Ouch – food prices begin to pinch

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I heard this morning that grocery prices have risen by $10 a basket in the last three months…I can believe it.

A lady in front of me in the grocery line yesterday paid $4 for two onions – but she said she can’t live without her Vidalias.

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Here are a couple of suggestions on how to save more at the check out from supermarket trend tracker Phil Lempert, who visits 12 to 15 grocery stores a week:

Shop for store brands instead of name-brand products on everything from canned goods to cereals.  Personally I swear by anything with the Kroger label.   Is a tin of McCormick’s cinnamon that much better than a Kroger tin – it costs a buck and a half more.

Consider buying frozen seafood such as tilapia, flounder, salmon and shrimp. The price is typically 20% to 30% less than the fish in the counter that may have come to the grocery on ice or been previously frozen anyway. I love those packs of flash frozen salmon – just brush with some balsamic vinegar and oil and bake for 30 minutes.  Done.

Check out the frozen fruits and vegetables, especially those not in season, Lempert says. “These were picked at the peak of flavor and nutrients. You’ll save huge bucks sometimes over half.”

Pay attention at the checkout to make sure the prices and discounts from coupons and frequent-shopper programs register correctly.

Put your kids in charge of clipping coupons and then give them a percentage of the savings as their allowance. “You’ll teach them about value and get rid of a tedious job.”

Be wary of the prices of convenience packages or 100-calorie packs. They are usually more expensive. “You may find putting 10 cookies or chips in a reusable container can save you money and still keep your portion size in check.”

Go with a buddy to warehouse food clubs and divide up the great deals. Be sure not to buy too much, which is easy to do at a warehouse club. “It’s not a bargain if the food expires before you’ve had a chance to use it.”

Always shop with a list, he says. If you don’t, it’s very likely you’ll buy other things. Even if you just go for milk, take a list that says: “Just buy milk.”

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