Since food is the third biggest drain on budgets, next to housing and transportation we will concentrate on ways to save on groceries this month. This week we will evaluate shopping.
1. Keep a running tally of how much money items cost as you place them in your cart. Pull up the calculator and then ask yourself are those fresh green beans really worth that amount when I could get the be same amount of frozen or canned for much less. You may have been told fresh is much more nutritious but that is not the case. When I worked for Hunts tomatoes were in cans ready for store shelves less than 24 hours after they were picked preserving the nutritional value. Fresh fruits and vegetables purchased in the store may be a week or more from the day they were picked meaning they have less nutrients than both frozen and canned.
2. Buying in bulk can be a huge money saver or not. Never assume the big bulk buys at the discount stores are automatically the cheaper option. When shopping on a budget, be sure to stop and compare the price per unit or ounce for the item you’re buying.
If the items is a great buy and is perishable work with a friend and share. The other option is to purchase the item and then can or freeze what you will not consume before it goes bad. If you don’t have a plan don’t buy it. Throwing away spoiled food adds dramatically to your budget.
3. Pay with cash. One of them most cost saving budget strategies is the envelope method. You determine how much you can spend on each category in your budget. Get several envelopes and label them with the budgeted area, such as groceries. Place the cash you have budgeted for the category in an envelope and when it is gone you are done until the next month.
4. Buy cheaper protein. Don’t judge the cost per pound or per unit buy rather by how many meals it will make. For example, if you purchase eggs for $5.00 per dozen a family of four can get protein for one meal for only $3.33 or 91 cents per person. If you buy a two pound roast for $6.00 a pound a family of four could eat dinner and have leftovers for two for lunch the next day, so six meals = $2.00 per meal. If a whole chicken is $1.69 per pound and is two pounds a family of four came eat for 80 cents per person
Think of these prices when you are tempted to eat out. Where could you feed a family of four for these prices.
5. Use curbside pickup. How many times have you gone into a store to get two items only to leave with several bags full? It’s a lot easier to avoid the temptations when you can order online and pick it up without ever going into the store. The other advantage to ordering online is the ability to easily compare prices. And, you can save time and the hassle of shopping in the rain or snow.
6. Shop the bottom and top shelves. Have you ever noticed that the most expensive items on the grocery shelves are at your eye level? Larger companies pay for shelf placement and therefore the name brands, the most expensive items in the category are on those eye level shelves. If you are wary of generic brands purchase just one can and take it home and try it.
Some generics are not as good but many are. Pasta is a good example. The best pasta is made with semolina flour so if the less expensive pasta is made from that flour it will be just as good as the expensive brand. Be aware even some expensive pastas are not made with semolina so check before buying any pasta.
7. Finally, always check the unit price. It is located on the tag on the shelf with the price of the items. It is usually in the bottom left-hand corner. This week I was shopping for cheese and picked up my usual pound package. Since I was attending an even and needed to grate lots of cheese I decided to check the unit price of the grated. It was the same. That same trip I needed several pound of butter to replenish my butter supply. A half pound was $2.18, and a pound was $4.49 meaning if I bought two half pounds instead of a pound I could save 13 cents and since I was buying four pounds that was a 52 cents savings. Since I buy butter regularly that will really add up over a year.