Save Dollars On Groceries
by Ruby Bayan
When I settled into a life in the US, one of the first routines I had to deal with was shopping for groceries. Of course, I noticed the exorbitant price of food items -- at least from my Asian point of view -- and felt uncomfortable parting with so much money at the supermarket.
I was new to the grocery-shopping routine in the US and feared that I was missing some money-saving secrets that other housewives take advantage of. So, wasting no time, and refusing to waste any more precious dollars, I embarked on a mission to discover the ways to save money on food and grocery items in this new environment I was in.
The first grocery-money-saving trick I discovered was the coupon. Sunday's newspaper bundle not only gave me a pound of recyclable paper, it also gave me some five to ten dollars worth of cents-off coupons on the grocery items I normally buy. But after a few more trips to the supermarket, I realized that gathering those little clippings was just one of the many ways to slash grocery bills. Here are some saving tips to try for your next trip to the supermarket.
Buy Only What's On Sale
Go over the Sunday paper not only for coupons but also for weekly sales in your neighborhood supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience outlets. Look for the products you're budgeting to get this week and note down which store is putting up a sale on most of the items in your grocery list. The fact is no one store is always the cheapest, so be sure to check what's on sale where this week.
Remember that wines are marked down at the liquor store and toiletries are lowest-priced at the drugstore instead of at the supermarket, so catch the sales where the items are normally best priced.
Also, take advantage of seasonal sales and price slashes, especially on fruits and vegetables. Feast on the bounty of the fresh harvest of the season and if you get a sudden craving during off-season, consider canned or frozen substitutes.
Pass On The Fancy Packaging
Packaging is added cost. Boxed items are more expensive than bagged items and bagged items a little costlier than loose items. Also, single servings are pricier per ounce compared to "family size" containers, so consider buying the two-gallon jug and filling small reusable containers at home.
Pre-packaged items at the aisles are many cents more expensive than those sold at the deli corner, the meat block section, and the bakery counter. Instead of grabbing pre-packaged and shrink-wrapped meats, head for the meat block section and have them slice your steaks and cold cuts. The same goes for your favorite cheeses. Then opt for the fresh bread at the bakery counter instead of the specially-wrapped ones in the bread aisle.
Prepare The Food Yourself
Greens, fruits, sandwiches, appetizers and other "prepared" salads, foodstuffs and dishes are always available at the supermarket. They're there for people who'd rather not wash, peel and slice fruits and vegetables, or steam shrimps, or marinade chicken wings. But if you have the time and manpower, you can save money by doing these food preparations yourself. Ready-to-go food items always come with a premium for the convenience.
Likewise, instead of buying frozen food like pancakes, waffles, mini-pizzas, and croutons, fix these yourself and freeze some for later use.
Buy Discounted Items In Bulk
Considering shelf life and rate of consumption, you can save a few dollars by purchasing heavily discounted items in bulk and storing them. For example, paper products like napkins, toilet paper, and roll towels are cheapest wholesale. Canned goods that go on sale at three for a dollar are always a good buy. Marked down produce like corn, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower can be bought in bulk, frozen, and thawed in portions, especially when prices go up again.
Read The Fine Print
Most supermarkets provide the price-per-ounce of each type of item on their shelves. This information can be found as fine print on the price labels identifying the products. So, when choosing among different sizes and varieties of the same type of product, in order to determine which item is most reasonably priced, check the price-per-ounce information. You will notice that you can get good deals by comparing similar products of different sizes and types of packaging.
And while you're focusing on the fine print, check out any bonuses or offers printed on or attached to the product labels. Some item labels are specially marked with mail-in rebates, discounts on your next purchase, instant discount tear-off coupons, cents-off on the purchase of related items, or even free promotional items inside the package. Don't miss out on these money-saving gimmicks.
Join The Supermarket Club
Stores want their customers to keep coming back, so they offer membership cards that entitle loyal buyers to bottom line discounts at the checkout counter. Membership cards are usually free, and discounts are guaranteed. In the long run, even just five to ten percent off the weekly grocery tab can rack up considerable savings.
And Finally, Resist Impulse Buying!
Planning is your best weapon against impulse buying. When you have a set grocery list, a week's meals planned around the season's sale items, and the iron will to resist grabbing something totally outside of the budget and meal forecast, you know you're virtually putting money in the bank.
It took some practice and many weekend trips to the commercial center for me to get my grocery-buying act together. I think I've finally gotten the hang of it. In fact, my checkbook is beginning to show some evidence of my effort.
[First published at New2USA.com, 2000]