Tips to Save Money at the Grocery Store

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grocery shopping

Have you seen the prices at the grocery store lately? That seems to be the question everybody is asking. Food prices have soared in recent years and most families are looking for ways to cut costs. Fortunately, unlike many necessary expenses, food is an area where we can save money. The key to success at saving food dollars is planning!

Think about expenses for the month, including household expenses, school fees, activities, etc. Budget for each activity. During this time, it is crucial to also set aside a budget for food that will sustain your family for the month, include food that may be purchased at restaurants and the grocery store. This budget should be made prior to the first day of the month.

For many families, the beginning of the year is a time to improve on various aspects of everyday living. One thing that the whole family can be involved in this year is meal planning. Planning meals with your family is a great way to get input from younger and senior family members. Many households have picky eaters or members with food allergies, planning together will give them an opportunity help select menu items that they too will enjoy throughout the week.

First of all, plan for the seven day week. Most of the time we only plan meals for special occasions or one or two days out of the week, at most. During the planning stage, use sale flyers from your local grocers. Most of these can be found online, while a few grocers still have the print versions in the store, or in your weekly newspaper. Many grocers also have apps that offer discounts that you can use. If you have young learners in your home, meal planning can be an excellent time to begin teaching sight reading. Allow children to search the print grocery flyers with you to identify various fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, dairy products, names of product brands, and to learn numbers. Along the way you are also teaching them planning and organization skills.

As you plan, consider meals that you can cook once and eat twice, for example on Monday prepare baked whole chicken with brown rice and a garden salad then on Tuesday, you can prepare chicken tacos loaded with tomatoes and lettuce from leftover salad “fixins” and the baked chicken. Slow cooker meals and casseroles are meals that can often be eaten twice. Taking leftovers to work or school for lunch is also a great idea to save money. The restaurants bank on the fact that most people do not plan ahead for their meals and therefore, will have to “eat out”. When we eat out we consume more calories, sodium, and sugar. Preparing your lunch can save more than $200.00 a month, if you frequently eat out. Eating out just twice a week, spending on average $9.00 a lunch, you are spending $18.00 a week, which adds up to $72.00 a month or $864.00 a year. It adds up!

Once you have your menu planned. Check your pantry and refrigerator to see what items you already have to make meals for the week. Write a shopping list for the items that you will need. Writing a shopping list will save you time and money in the grocery store, which always seems to be crowded these days. Research shows that every minute after 30 minutes of shopping increases the food dollars spent. A shopping list prevents the purchase of items that we already have a home and helps us to remember the exact things we came to purchase, thus eliminating a return trip to the grocer. Gas prices are expensive, too!

Armed with the shopping list, keep in mind the family’s food budget for each trip. This can be divided by the estimated number of trips that will be made to the grocer during the month. Stick to the grocery list, stick to the budget, stick to the plan! Using sales flyers, coupons and grocer savings programs can save money at the checkout. At the end of the month it will be interesting to see how the family managed their food budget. When looking at the budget outcomes, remember to also consider the money saved when not eating out into the equation.

If your budget is very tight or your family is experiencing a loss of income, do not hesitate to visit local food pantries and distribution centers to ensure that your family has food. Most food pantries require a photo ID and proof of income.

If you would like to learn more about food resource management or schedule More in My Basket Food Resource Management Classes contact Cheri Bennett at N.C. Cooperative Extension Richmond County Center, located at 123 Caroline Street, Rockingham, Suite 100 or call 910-997-8255.