Oklahoma State University, Division of Agricultural
Sciences and Natural Resources
Newswise — Groceries gobble up the
largest part of a typical American family’s household
budget, to the point of rivaling a mortgage payment in
some parts of the nation.
The U.S. Department of Labor
estimates that the average American family of four
spends $8,513 per year on groceries. That averages out
to $709 per month.
Worse, food prices rose 4
percent in the United States last year and are expected
to climb as much again this year, according to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Sissy Osteen, Oklahoma State
University Cooperative Extension resource management
specialist, said there are a number of things that
consumers can do to help out their wallet, with the
first being simply making fewer trips to the store.
“Make a big trip once or twice a
month,” Osteen said. “The fewer times you’re in the
store, the less opportunity you’ll have for impulse
buying. Research indicates that consumers making a
‘quick trip’ to the store end up spending 54 percent
more than they intended.”
A consumer who goes to the store
three times per week and spends $10 on impulse purchases
each trip will end up spending an additional $120 per
month. By going to the store just once per week,
consumers will spend only $40 per month on these
purchases; shopping once per month results in only $10
spent on impulse items. The shop-less save-more strategy
can save families nearly $1,000 per year.
Shoppers can easily shave
several dollars from their grocery bill by purchasing
generic or store brand products over national brand
“In most cases you won’t
sacrifice much in quality,” Osteen said. “Everything
from cereal and frozen vegetables to canned goods and
prescription drugs is available under a generic or store
brand label. You can save from a few cents to a couple
of dollars per item. The savings can quickly add up.”
If there are a number of grocery
stores in your area, compare the weekly sales ads and
plan menus accordingly. Look for cheaper cuts of meat.
Chicken thighs and legs cost less than chicken breasts.
Osteen said coupons also can be
a good way to save money. Many stores will double
coupons up to a dollar.
“Be sure to compare the
discounted price to the price of a store-brand product,”
she said. “Even with a coupon, you may be better off
buying the store brand.”
Also, when it comes to shopping,
make a list and stick to it. Plan the week’s meals and
snacks and jot down everything needed for each meal. If
possible, shop without your children so you are not
tempted to give into pressure from youngsters for an
extra treat or toy that is not on the list.
“Be sure to compare prices on
everything. Bagged apples may be cheaper than bulk
apples,” Osteen said. “Bagged salads will cost you more
than buying the ingredients separately.”
Most grocery stores post the
price per ounce, pound or other unit of measurement. The
largest size of a product may not always be the
cheapest. However, Osteen cautions against buying more
than you will use.
“If you end up throwing things
out, you’ve wasted your money, no matter how good the
deal was to begin with,” she said. “Additionally, if you
find that you have accumulated too many grocery items,
skip a shopping trip and plan your week’s meals around
what you have on hand. This saves money and time.”
Eating out is another way
consumers can let spending get out of control. Make an
effort to cut back on eating out, drive-through dining
and food delivered to the home.
“If you must eat out, try doing
so at lunch time to take advantage of lunch specials and
lower prices,” Osteen said. “Instead of going out for
lunch everyday at work, bring lunch from home. Spending
just $2 per day on a homemade lunch versus $6 per day at
a sandwich shop can save you nearly $1,000 per year.”
Many consumers stop by a coffee
shop on their way to work for a latte or cappuccino.
This $4-per-day habit can easily add up to more than
$1,000 per year. Osteen recommends investing in a
good-quality machine and making your own coffee at home
or at work.
“There are some expenditures
families can do without, but groceries are always
needed,” Osteen said. “Taking some time to plan menus
and curbing eating out can help keep your budget on