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SAVE MONEY ON GROCERIES

Added May 2, 2008

 Source: 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 items.

“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 track.”

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