Here are some other ways to save through planning:
Cook once, eat twice. To make the most of your time in the kitchen, consider “batch cooking,” or cooking and baking in large quantities and freezing portions for future meals and snacks. Also consider “planned-overs,” or buying enough of a main ingredient for several meals. For example, prepare a round steak for one meal, then use the leftovers in several different ways, such as in a stir-fry, fajitas, or vegetable–beef soup.
Pick the right store. Different types of stores offer different types of bargains. For example, the warehouse club (such as Costco) is the place to stock up on nonperishable staples in large sizes. The supercenter (such as Walmart) has low everyday prices. And the neighborhood supermarket may be the best choice when time is tight or you need only a few items.
Also consider a food coop if there’s one in your area. Prices at food coops are almost always lower than those at health-food stores, and the turnover of products such as whole grains, dried beans, nuts, and seeds is likely to be higher at a food coop than at a supermarket, so the quality and freshness of these items may be superior.
Signing up for a CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture) may be another way to get fresh, high-quality produce and other farm products at reasonable prices. In a CSA, consumers buy “shares” from a farmer or group of farmers, then receive a box or bag of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. To be sure a CSA will be economical for you, before you sign up, ask for an estimate of how much food to expect each week and a list of what produce to expect when.
If possible, avoid shopping in corner markets and convenience stores; not only do they tend to have a limited selection of healthful options, but they also tend to have higher prices because of the convenience they offer.
Make a list. The longer you spend in the grocery store, the more you will buy, so always shop with a list to guide you and help curb impulse purchases. To get through the store even faster, organize your shopping list to match the aisle-by-aisle layout of the store. Taking the time to make a list will also help you avoid costly trips back to the store later in the week for items that you forgot during your first shopping trip.
Keep records of your shopping success. To become familiar with the best bargains and places to shop for your most commonly used items, jot down notes about your shopping results, and maintain your own personal price book. Note the cycle of sales in nearby stores. For example, in most stores, items such as chicken breasts or canned vegetables are on sale every six weeks. If you note the dates of these sales, you can stock up and freeze or store your bargains for future use.
Clip coupons for foods you eat. Only clip coupons for foods you usually eat; otherwise, you may end up spending more on a slightly discounted, expensive item than you would on a comparable, nondiscounted, low-price item.
These days, coupons can be found not only in your local newspaper but also online, on food manufacturers’ Web sites, and even on your cell phone! A good strategy for using coupons is to wait to redeem them until an item is on sale. Because most coupons are good for six weeks to three months, watching for a sale makes it worth the wait.
One source of online coupons is www.thegrocerygame.com, which provides members with a grocery list for a chosen supermarket, giving the lowest-priced items coupled with store savings and manufacturers’ coupons. There is a fee to use this service, but it may save you a chunk of change in the long run. Other online food coupon resources include www.redplum.com and www.coolsavings.com. To learn more about getting coupons on your cell phone, go to www.cellfire.com.