5 On Your Side

Trim fat from your grocery bill

Posted April 24, 2008
Updated April 29, 2008

First, it was gasoline prices on the rise. Now, food? It's taking a growing chunk out of household budgets.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, egg prices are up 60 percent from a year ago. Pasta prices jumped 30 percent, and fruits and vegetables increased 20 percent.

Some experts say higher food costs could actually have more of an impact on the economy than high oil prices. The average household spends three times as much for food as for gasoline.

But the food budget is a great place to cut spending, and it's an area where savings can add up over time without making major life adjustments.

Here are some tips:

Make a list and stick to it. Don't shop when you're hungry. And don't take your children with you. Those are ideas most everyone knows. But here are some other ideas you might not have thought about:

Just because it's in an ad, it doesn't mean it's on sale. When checking weekly sales ads in the newspapers or online, keep in mind that companies often pay to have their products featured. Do pay attention to what is on sale. When it's staples, like paper products, cereal and juice, buy extra.

Clip coupons and then some. Many stores let you use both a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon at the same time on the same item. Many stores also accept coupons from other stores and even expired coupons. Just ask.

Look beyond the Sunday paper for coupons. Visit Web sites, such as valpack.com. Also, ask for a price match. If a product is on sale at a competitor, many stores will sell it at the same price. Take the sale circular as proof.

Bigger doesn't always mean a better price. Check the unit price and do the math. A recent study shows that in a typical supermarket, the larger size of a given brand is a poorer value 25 percent of the time. And remember, buying four items for $1, might not really be a deal. If not, buy only what you'll use.

Don't buy toiletries at a grocery or drug store. Go to a large discount store or warehouse club. Soap, shampoo, shaving cream and similar items can be 20 percent to 50 percent less. The same goes for household items, such as laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.

Weigh the cost of convenience. Prepped and cut foods often cost more. For example, a 10-ounce bag of trimmed romaine lettuce runs about around $3.59. A whole head was $1.99. Shredded carrots could cost you $2.49; shred them yourself and pay 99 cents for a pound.

Buy store-brand, or generic. You can find everything from salsa to bread to cookies to napkins. Store brands can save you money and often, the food items taste just as good, if not better. In fact, many store brands are actually made by the same companies that make the name brands.


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  • chfdcpt Apr 29, 2008

    Oh the love of Big Lots. I can get my laudry and kitchen soap cheaper than at the grocery stores. And my yearly membership at Sams has paid off several times by now. I never buy meat at the grocery stores anymore. With 3 growing boys, I need to save everywhere I can.

  • jinxdinx Apr 29, 2008

    I have to disagree with the tip to avoid buying toiletries at drug stores. By using the Extra Care Buck program at CVS and the Register Rewards program at Walgreens, I've gotten months worth of Sunsilk & Pantene shampoo and conditioners, Gillette razors, Colgate and Crest toothpaste, and Mennen and Dove deodorants for FREE or practically pennies. Using those programs combined with coupons creates great savings and frees up grocery money for other items.

  • forjesus Apr 28, 2008

    For great savings tips, especially in the Raleigh area...there are 3 great resources that will lead you to a TON of websites, sales, coupon info and more.

    Sue Stock at the News & Observer..http://projects.newsobserver.com/taking_stock


    Faye Prosser...http://www.smartspendingresources.com/

  • HopSkipJump Apr 28, 2008

    FOr those that hate to cut coupons themselves look online for people doing this:

    Last year I found someone on CL that "gave away" coupons and would also categorize them based on your preferences. She "sold" her labor at minimal cost. The cost to me to use her services? $5 every 2 weeks for about $30 in savings.

    I cut my own now, lol, but to get me started, this was a great way to go.

    Another helpful hint for saving money at the grocery store is to go while you are already out, either on the way home from work, or another event.

  • hometechnc Apr 28, 2008

    Good Story Idea ...

    But someone didn't do their research. Valpak.com? ...couldn't find a single Grocery coupon there!

    Clicked on the Grocery Tab and found Coupons for Sunrise Dental, the Handyman Connection, Raleigh Airport Parking.... pretty much the throwaways you would find in the ValPak mailer.

    Would have been nice to get some useful sources from the story.