CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 5, 2007 – When people think of saving money, they often first consider putting off those big ticket purchases, like vacations or a new big screen, or even research less expensive options for what they’d like to buy. But there are savings to be found in everyday tasks and one of the easiest ways is during your weekly grocery shopping trip. Here are some tips to consider the next time you head to the market.
Plan a menu – If you don’t start thinking about what’s for dinner until 5:00 pm, you’re probably spending way more than necessary to feed yourself and your family. The less planning you’ve done the more likely you are to buy convenience foods: pre-cooked meals, pre-marinated meat, pre-cut vegetables. It also makes you more likely to scrap cooking altogether and eat out. So, plan a week’s worth of meals in advance and get ready to start counting the money you’ll save.
Draw up a list - Make a list of ingredients you need to prepare your meals and plan on hitting the grocery store just once a week. Stick to your list and avoid impulse buys. In addition to helping you save money, creating a list each week will also help save you time during your grocery shopping. And, you know what they say – time is money!
When buying fresh, buy only what you can eat – Most fresh foods will last for about a week in today’s refrigerators. Pay attention to how much you and your family consume. Are you constantly throwing away rotten fruit and wilted vegetables? Adjust the quantities you buy accordingly.
Pay for the food, not the packaging – Instead of those perfectly portioned pots of fruit yogurt, consider buying a large tub of plain yogurt and adding your own fresh fruit. Make your own “snack-packs” with reusable plastic containers. Think like a farmer: eat foods that look like they just came out of the ground. There’s a reason “whole foods” sounds so close to “wholesome”: whole foods not only save you money, but they keep you healthier too.
Clip coupons – If you havent already started, begin clipping coupons. The trick is, only use them only for items on your list. Although easy to do, try to prevent buying an item just because you have a coupon.
If possible, shop without your kids – Not only can they slow you down, but your kids may not understand the rationale behind your list. Rather than fight with them over the eye-catching fruit-drinks, candy and cereal boxes (and be tempted to buy them to avoid an in-store melt-down), leave your kids at home. You may find this is easier to arrange once you are only shopping once a week.
Avoid the lure of the “one stop shop” – Don’t buy toiletries, medicine cabinet supplies, paper products, trash bags, etc. at the grocery store. These non-food items can be had for much cheaper at the discount stores.
However, discount stores have their down-sides – Buying bulk on groceries doesn’t always make sense. Do you have space for the giant jar of pickled eggs? Will you use up the giant sack of potatoes before they sprout? Throwing away food is like throwing away money, wiping out any savings you may have gained.
Eat before you shop – It seems so simple, but don’t underestimate the psychology of hunger: it’s easy to justify any purchase at the grocery store when you’re hungry. There’s no sense in tempting yourself. Again, planning helps here: if you are only shopping once a week, it’s easy to plan to go after you’ve eaten (even if it’s only those almonds you scarf down in the grocery store parking lot).
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