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Save at the Supermarket

Save at the Supermarket

A few common-sense changes can save dollars at the check-out.

By Gary Foreman

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Worrying about high prices at the supermarket won't get you anywhere. Doing something about them is a better option. 

When it comes to daily needs, groceries are the largest category of spending that we can moderate without making major lifestyle changes.

Most of us don't buy food alone at the supermarket. The biggest non-food bill boosters are laundry detergent, fabric softener, toilet tissue, diapers, toothpaste, paper towels, and shampoo. Pet food is another entry to this list.

Know Your Habits
The best way to reduce your bill is to study your family's habits and see where you can make changes to save money. Every family's situation is different, and some even grow or raise their own food.

Begin by analyzing your receipts. What items are the most expensive? Work on them first. Can they be eliminated entirely? If not, are there lower cost alternatives?

Junk food is not the only thing that can drive up grocery bills. Your diet also makes a big difference. Vegetables and starches cost less than meat and so a diet that includes a lot of meat will be more expensive than others. Likewise, some specialty foods and those labeled as low calorie, low sugar, and low salt will add heft to your bill.

The grocery store is often not the best place to buy specialty items. If you buy them often, look for more direct, lower cost alternative sources.

Time or Money?
Our love of convenience adds to grocery bills, too. Most of us are short on time and not surprisingly, grocers see this as an opportunity to increase their profits.

Supermarkets offer a wide selection of frozen meals, refrigerated prepared dishes, fresh food that is cleaned and chopped, ready for a quick sauté, at the most, or food that is already cooked (think of rotisserie chickens, for example). 

As a general rule, the less processed a food or product is, the less expensive it will be. Less processing often translates into more healthful food, too. It also means you will have to do more cooking.

While you're waiting in line, take a look at your grocery cart. How much prepared food is in the cart? You may not think you have time to clean carrots, but you will pay extra for the baby-cut prepared ones. 

Finally, learn to compare prices so that you can identify and stock up when you find a true bargain. The best tool for this is a price book you keep yourself. This is nothing more than a listing of those items you commonly buy and the lowest price(s) for each item. This will help you identify the true sales. Shoppers who use a price book regularly claim to save up to 20 percent.

With even two or three adjustments, you may find you save a noticeable amount on your grocery bill. And your family may even eat more healthfully for it!

Gary Foreman is a former purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website


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