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Save 1/3 Or More On Your Grocery Bill

Feb 11, 2008
Who doesn't want to save money in these soft economic times? One way to do it is to cut your spending on groceries. No, I am not talking about clipping coupons, although that is a way if you don't mind taking the time to look and clip. Frankly, I don't have time for all that. I think my way is faster and easier. Consider these seven tips.

(1) Buy in bulk. Most cities have an outlet that allows you to buy in bulk. Most charge a nominal membership fee. Even with the fee, the savings over a course of a year make it worthwhile. The advantage to buying in bulk is that the cost of individual units is less. While it may not be practical to buy fresh produce inbulk, there are many non-perishable items that can be effectively bought in bulk. Some of these include canned goods, dry cereal, pasta, frozen meat, etc. Most of these can be easily repackaged to a manageable size for storage. Another idea is to buy in bulk with a partner and split it.

(2) Buy more than one. The problem with buying only one of anything is that you are at the mercy of the grocer the next week when you need to replace it. Buying more than one of commonly used items allows you to store the extras, so that you can wait for the next sale to restock. Most grocery stores rotate sale items on a monthly basis, so that if you purchase a month's supply, you have enough to last until the next sale.

(3) If it's not on sale, don't buy it! While this may seem to be a hard concept, by following the above rule, you likely will not need it until the next time it's on sale anyway. We follow this rule religiously in our house and it works to save us 30-50% on a regular basis. By all means if it's a dire necessity, buy it. If not wait until the next time it goes on sale.

(4) Buy fresh food. The general rule in most households these days seems to be to buy pre-packaged, heat and serve meals. While there may be a time savings, it comes at the expense of a higher grocery cost and compromised flavor. I learned this lesson shortly after my wife and I were married. I, being the typical bachelor, cooked most of my meals out of a box. My wife, however being from the Philippines was more used to going to the market and cooking everything fresh on a daily basis. I still remember the stunned looks on peoples faces who were behind us in the grocery line. Our cart would be overflowing with all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables, rice and meat. It would still cost about half what their half-full carts of packaged food cost!

(5) Buy store brands if possible. While the nationally advertized brands may get more attention, they are usually more expensive. Many store brands are actually quite good. Most of the major chains have their own brand. Try them, you may be pleasantly surprised.

(6) Use "stretchers". No, not the kind you carry sick people on. I mean the kind my mother and grandmother used to make food go further. Most meat dishes can effectively be stretched by using half the called for ground beef and supplementing with beans such as navy or pinto. Even Pork and Beans works well. We do this commonly with "sloppy joes" at our house and the kids love them. Bread crumbs or oatmeal can be mixed into a pound of hamburger to stretch things when you are making burgers for a crowd. I know of one national chain restaurant that uses ground beef and beans in spaghetti. I have not noticed their sales dropping off.

(7) Use leftovers creatively. Sometimes the little odds and ends that are left from a large meal can be effectively converted into soup or a casserole with a little creativity. Sometimes a happy accident occurs that you may actually want to repeat.

We use all these tips at our house to one degree or another. In so doing, our monthly grocery bill is less than most comparably sized families we know. By trying some of these, I'm confident yours will be too!
About the Author
Dave is a "wanna be" chef and father two picky eaters. Visit him at Cooking With Recipes for more information.
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