Although inflation has been relatively flat, the price of food continues to skyrocket. That is due in part to the impact fuel has on growing and transporting product. There are a growing number of semi-professional “couponists” but there are so many ways to keep the food budget down and not starve along the way.
Clip Coupons — these are everywhere but my favorite is the Sunday newspaper and online. By the way, is it a better deal? Lately, you might have to buy three boxes of cereal in order to save a $1. OK – $.33 off on a box — no thanks.
Buy Bulk — when there is a sale, stock up. You can freeze most meats and veggies for extended times. Big box stores offer value on paper products and trash bags — much better deal than the neighborhood grocery store.
Farmers’ Markets — many communities have weekly farmers’ markets. Check them out for fresh foods and values. And/ or, grow your own food. A packet of seeds is a cheap investment in food for the table.
Season for Everything – if it is in season, buy it. That is especially true for fruits and vegetables. Clementines are a steal in December and January. Build your menus around the seasons.
Shop on a Full Stomach — before going to a supermarket, eat so you don’t fall victim to urges.
Work a List — if you have a tight budget, make a list of what is needed and don’t stray. And, if you know the store, build the list around the aisle layout so you eliminate wasted steps.
Stick to the Perimeter — stores are laid out to play on your instincts. The fresh stuff (fruits, veggies, dairy, meats/fish) are on the perimeter. The salty prepackaged foods are on the inside aisles. Endcaps are noticeable but not always the best buy. The priciest things are at eye level so look up and down and you shop.
Store Brands — generic or store brands used to be inferior in quality. That is usually no longer the case. They are always cheaper than name brands. They are usually produced by the same maker of the name brand foods.
Ignore the Packaging — do you really want to pay for expensive packaging? Go for price vs. fancier more attractive prices. Also evaluate sizes. Sometimes the unit price on a bigger bottle is actually more than the smaller ones. Check the pricing code on shelves before buying.
Scratch It — it is always cheaper to make a meal from scratch, and healthier too. Buy rice, flour and all the basics. When time permits, pull out the cookbook and make a meal from scratch.
Leave the Kids — supermarkets are probably the last bastion of families. But, when you go for food, definitely, leave the children home. They grab everything (including at checkout) and you are worn down and end up compromising by buying something not on your list. Single, alone, and by yourself is the cheapest way to do it.
Divide and Conquer — buy family size packages and put into smaller packages. When everyone is full, plan for the next meal. Amazing how far you can spread leftovers.