Thursday, December 20, 2012

Slashing Your Grocery Bill

          If you've got a hungry family to feed, you know how quickly a trip to the grocery store can sap all the life out of your wallet. There are though, dozens of ways to slash that grocery bill. All it takes is to be aware of basic shopping strategies, as well as the ploys stores use to get you, the consumer, to spend more than you have to.
          Number one rule heard time and again:Don't shop without a list. The time it takes to plan your meals and make a list not only saves money but time as well. You'll be much less likely to buy things you do not need, and won't forget the things you do. First, sit down with your grocery circular in front of you, and plan the weeks menus around the current sales. Then make your list as you go. When you get to the store do not fall victim to the ole' "bait and switch". If the sale item is out of stock, be sure to get a rain check to be honored by the store at a later time.
          Shop at the right time. Shop early in the morning or late at night. First thing at opening time many stores reduce much of the meat from the previous day. 24 hour stores do this at 12:01AM. When you shop early or late, you also simply have a better shopping experience, with no crowds and long lines. The bakery is a great place to practice end of day purchasing, as items are reduced then in preparation for the next day's baked goods to arrive or be baked.
          Stocking up can be another money saver. When items are on sale, buy a few at the good price. Resist doing this with produce though, unless you are sure you will use it or can freeze it. A good investment if you have room for it is an extra freezer. Extra meat and frozen goods bought on sale can be kept, as well as extra cooked meals made from items bought in bulk. This saves cooking on hurried nights too. Another handy tool is a vacuum sealer, also good for sealing up portions of food bought in quantity for later use.
          There's alot of truth to the old adage, "Don't shop on an empty stomach." Eat a meal before your shopping trip or you may find yourself impulsively filling your cart with all sorts of tempting goodies. Try to do your shopping before that nasty PMS hits too. Avoid snacks and treats at the check-out or at the ends of the isles. They are almost always very overpriced. Other items are over priced as well, things such as snacks in zip-top bags and other fancy packaging. Forgo the frills. Your brands without the fancy packaging are cheaper. Also, just because something is a bigger size, does not mean it's a better bargain. Sometimes it is, but you must stop and notice the price per unit portion of the store shelf price sticker. Take notice also to the number of ounces in a package. Sometimes packages are odd shaped, or tall, and appear to hold more than they really do. You in turn may pay the higher price thinking you are getting more for your money when really you are not. It is more economical also, to buy 2 or 3 liter bottles of soda, which can often cost a mere 79-99 cents. Generally speaking, cans and small individual serve bottles of soda cost far more. One exception is when 12-packs go on sale for 3 to 5 for $10.
          Cleaning items can sap your budget quickly. You do not need a different cleaner for every surface and room in your house. One good antibacterial cleaner, some ammonia and pine cleaner are enough. Vinegar and water works wonders for glass and windows. Although liquid soaps are trendy and smell nice, the best bargain will always be bar soap. Don't write off the discount stores and dollar stores. Cleaning products, as well as boxed and canned food items, are dirt cheap there.
          You need to be aware of your store's offers and policies. Know your deals and what they mean. For example, 10 for $10 usually does not mean you must buy that many. You can buy 1 for $1 as well. Ask at your store to be sure. Search out the markdown shelf too, usually located in the back of the store. Things there sometimes sell for pennies just due to a dented can or peeling label. Courtesy cards also mean saved money, as much as a dollar off a single item just for having a card to scan. Some stores also give coupons with their receipts. Still other stores offer dollars off your order each time you reach a certain amount spent there. Be sure not to waste more gas looking for bargains at particular stores than it is worth in saved money. 
          Buying "easy to prepare" items and convenience foods is a source of great spending also. It's cheaper to prepare foods yourself. Take note of what items are inexpensive at different stores that you frequent, and throughout the course of a month you can cycle through the different stores picking up the items you need.
        Growing your own veggies saves money, and depending on the size of the space you can garden, it can be a nice amount of savings. A packet of seeds costing a dollar can yield twenty or more dollars worth of veggies. Of course, this isn't an endeavor for the lazy...a garden requires a lot of work! Growing my own herbs has proved especially rewarding...using my own fresh herbs in recipes is thrilling to me!
          It is certainly worth your while to plan your menus, make lists, and shop with an eye for bargains. Doing the bulk of your grocery shopping at a discount chain or outlet type store, frees up money for other things your family needs. You can eat smarter and less costly by following these tips.

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