I used to love grocery shopping. Pushing the cart along the lanes of colorful packages and produce – all yelling “Buy me!” or “Don’t buy me I have too many calories!” It was fun and challenging.
But all that has changed. Now I dread my trips to the store because prices get higher every week. Did you know that the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the average American family of four spends $8,513 per year on groceries. That’s about $709 per month for mathematically-challenged people like me.
I’m told food prices went up by 4 percent in the United States last year and are expected to climb as much again this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
So, how do we keep money in our pocket even as we have to keep feeding ourselves? The good people at Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension had some really good tips:
1. Take fewer trips to the grocery store. Make a big trip only once or twice a month. A consumer who goes to the store three times per week and spends $10 on impulse purchases each trip will end up spending an additional $120 per month. By going to the store just once per week, consumers will spend only $40 per month on these purchases; shopping once per month results in only $10 spent on impulse items. The shop-less save-more strategy can save families nearly $1,000 per year.
2. Buy generics. Cereal, canned foods and frozen foods can be cheaper sold through the store brand name. In most cases, quality isn’t that much different. I’m a big proponent of this. Kroger Brands especially can always be counted on for quality and taste.
3. Comparison shop. If there are different grocers in your area, compare sale prices before you shop.
4. Use coupons. Many stores will double the amount of your coupons up to $I. Ijust learned that one of our local stores (Piggly Wiggly) offers a five percent senior discounts on Wednesdays. That coupled with a few coupons can save you big bucks.
5. Make a list and plan your meals. Stick to that list so you’re less likely to impulse buy and less likely to buy food that you don’t need. Buying less food that you don’t need means you can cut down on tossing food out that spoils because you didn’t eat it in time.
6. Cut out eating out. Buying a cup of coffee every day can add up. Buying lunch every day for $6 can add up.
7. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. You tend to throw a lot of food that you don’t actually need into your cart (chips, dip, cheezy poofs). I always spend more money on groceries if I shop when I’m hungry.
Rules aside, I’m not certain it’s always cheaper to cook things at home from “scratch.” I can go out and spend $25 plus bucks on ingredients for my special lasagna, or purchase the Lean Cuisine variety at about $2.49. Eight servings (boxes) amounts to just over $20. Anyone have any ideas?