A special thank you to Tim Smithson for providing us with this helpful guest post today. Thanks Tim!
You’ve no doubt noticed that food prices have been rising latelyâ€”and at a much faster rate than other items on your budget.
In February 2011, according to the Department of Labor Statistics, food prices saw their biggest monthly increase in more than 35 years, since November of 1974. Vegetable prices made up around 70% of the record rise.
The rest of 2011 may not see record numbers every month but we’ll still be seeing more upward trends in overall food prices.
Put together rising prices for budget staples, like food, with a slumping economy and you’ve got a situation where it really pays to learn how to save money at the grocery store. Here are 10 ways to pay less at check-out:
1. Shop less, save more. Learn to shop only once a week or even once a month if possible. Shopping less frequently encourages you to plan and be more frugal. It also saves time and gas money.
2. Eat produce on time. Not all your fruits and vegetables will be ready to eat at the same time. You’ll need to eat produce like bananas and lettuce right away; cantaloupe and apples can sit for a while. Don’t eat anything before its time.
3. Have a shopping plan. And stick to it. Some experts estimate that more than half of all purchases can be categorized as â€œimpulseâ€ buys. That kind of spontaneous expenditures will surely kill your budget. Create frugal menus based on your budget and then faithfully execute your plan.
4. Been there, ate that, saved the recipe. If you find a frugal dinner recipe store it away and use it as a regular meal. This helps planning and saves lots of time.
5. Forget deli meat. If you want luncheon meats on a budget then you’ll have to cook the meat chicken, ham, turkey, roast beefâ€”and flavor and slice it yourself. Processed meats are as much as 75% more expensive than what you can make it for yourself.
6. Try buying generic. Brand-name food costs a lot more than their generic equivalents. What’s the difference in quality? You’ll have to decide that for yourself and the only way to do that is to buy some and sample it.
7. Consider the â€œdollarâ€ store. Spices, condiments and snack foods are three food-related items that you can get at the nothing’s-more-than-a-dollar bargain outlets.
8. Buy meat during the holidays. Turkey at Thanksgiving, ham at Easter, corned beef at St. Patrick’s Day and sometimes hamburger at July 4th are loss leaders that supermarkets discount to entice customers into the store. So take advantage and stock up on them when you can. Then freeze and use them the rest of the year.
9. Veggie out. Once you’ve stocked up on all the meat you need, you can concentrate on eating less of it. Eating more veggies shrinks your waistline as well as your food budget.
10. Bring a calculating device. If don’t have a smartphone or PDA, bring a calculator to do the math on which items make more sense per unit or in bulk. If you do have the latest hand-held gadget you can also compare competitor’s prices from their websites.
Food prices won’t be coming down anytime soon. Until they do, reduce the sticker shock you’ll suffer in the food aisle by putting into practice these ideas on economizing at the supermarket.
*This guest blog post was written by Tim Smithson. He is a 20 something writer who regularly contributes to the Check ‘n Go blog, providing helpful personal finance articles.