Grocery bills account for a sizable chunk of the typical family’s budget each month; next to housing and transportation, it’s often the largest expense of a household. With such importance, it’s wise to approach grocery shopping with the same fervor you would when looking for a place to live or a car to drive.
“It’s going to vary on the size of the family, but a typical household should plan on spending 10 to 15 percent of its budget on groceries,” says Margo Mitchell, president and CEO of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Oklahoma.
1. Make a list; check it twice. Going to the grocery store without a list is like building a house without blueprints. You know you need food, but what foods do you need to make healthy and nutritious meals? Set aside time to plan a menu – including breakfast, lunch and dinner – for each week.
“Plan menus in advance,” advises Mitchell. “Make a grocery list from those menus and stick to that list when you go to the grocery store.”
2. Be prepared. Like the Boy Scouts, you should always have essentials ready to go in case you need to whip up an impromptu meal. Keep track of what you do have in your pantry, spice cabinet and refrigerator that you use frequently. If you are running low on any items, be sure to add them to the grocery list so you can replenish your supplies.
3. Shop smart. By purchasing a Sunday paper for around $2 each week, you can make your money back and then some by taking advantage of the newspaper’s coupons. Remember that coupons only save a shopper money when they are for items that are already on the shopping list. Saving $1 on two boxes of cereal that are not necessary is not really saving money.
Also in that Sunday paper are circulars advertising specials at discount stores. Coupling those specials with coupons can result in big savings. Local grocery stores often send circulars in the mail throughout the week advertising specials, so be on the lookout for those as well.
4. Shop seasonally. One of the easiest ways to save on produce at the market is to buy produce that is in season. During the summer, there is a reason that produce like berries, melons and tomatoes are so reasonable at local markets. Conversely, prices for those items rise during the colder months because crops have to be shipped from farther away. Shopping for produce seasonally is good for your wallet, the environment and your health.
On The Rise
Saving money on food purchases has never been more popular. The increase in energy costs coupled with the growing demand for commodities such as wheat and corn are causing prices at the grocery store – from items such as eggs and cheese to coffee and pre-packaged meals – to go up.
Those rising prices are also causing restaurants and fast food chains to pass increased food costs along to customers.
Margo Mitchell, president and CEO of Consumer Credit Counseling of Oklahoma, says that one of the most cost-effective things to do to save money on food is to prepare it at home.
“It costs a lot of money to eat out for lunch or dinner,” Mitchell says. “Even if it’s just $5 a day, that adds up to more than $100 a month.”
Preparing lunches at home and taking them to work is a very cost-effective way to dine. Mitchell also suggests considering an alternative meal to dinner when dining out.
“Dinner at a restaurant can be very expensive, especially if you order that appetizer and dessert,” she says. “Eating lunch or even breakfast at a restaurant is often much less expensive.”
With the rise in popularity of coupons has come several websites that help novice coupon-clippers by pointing out deals and matching in-store specials to clipped coupons.
Money Saving Queen: Sarah Roe shares local deals in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City metro areas on her website,
Consumer Queen: Melissa Garcia shares steals and deals on her website, www.consumerqueen.com. Garcia also gives presentations in the Oklahoma City area on how to begin clipping coupons.
Coupons.com provides free coupons provided by manufacturers daily. Be sure to find out what your market’s coupon policy is; some may have rules about accepting coupons printed from the internet.