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“Everyday Cheapskate”

Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 11:47 am

Spending how much on groceries?

SYNDICATED COLUMNIST

everyday cheapskate - mary huntmary hunt

Is your monthly grocery spending eating up a large portion of your income? You’re not alone. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that a family of four, using a moderate-cost plan, spent an average of $1,062 on groceries per month in 2015 — that’s $12,744 annually!

Want to cut that cost by, say, half? You can if you are determined to become a smart shopper. By using every trick and tip in the book, you could save about $7,500 over this coming year — without sacrificing your family’s health or the joy of eating great food. Here’s how:

CHOP. CHOP. Sure, those precut bags of vegetables and individual packets of oatmeal are convenient. But Consumer Reports says that you’ll pay twice as much for prepped food. The worst offenders are cut, prewashed and bagged veggies ($11 per pound prepped versus $3 per pound for bulk broccoli), single-serving commodities ($9.90 for a box of oatmeal packets versus $1.59 for a canister of oats) and sliced cheese ($2 more per pound). Do your own chopping, shredding, grating and measuring to save money.

BUY RIGHT. Most of us purchase more produce and other perishables than we can use before they spoil. A rotten apple here, a limp carrot there — spoiled produce means money in the trash. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the average American household throws out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy, with a cost estimate of $1,365 to $2,275 per year for the average American family of four!

REFUSE FULL PRICE. I’ve said it a dozen times and I’ll say it again: Only buy what’s on sale. If it’s not on sale this week, it will be soon. So just wait. Assuming you have room in your freezer or pantry, stock up on items you know you will always use when the price is marked down. And get creative by planning your weekly purchases of perishables around sale items.

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KNOW YOUR UNITS. It’s easy to compare cost of items. Just look closely at the price labels on the shelves.

RECIPE CHOICES. Instead of choosing menus and recipes from Pinterest or your favorite recipe site, choose recipes according to what you already have in your pantry and what you can buy on sale.

WEAR BLINDERS. Take the time to make a grocery list before you go to the store. When you’re at the store, stick to it like glue. Don’t let your eyes wander, as an estimated 60 to 70 percent of supermarket purchases are unplanned.

ORGANIC PRUDENCE. Save your dollars to buy organic when it really matters, like for soft-skinned fruits, meat, milk and chicken, which are more susceptible to pesticides. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website to learn more about organic foods and healthy choices.

UN-BRAND. There may be a couple of brand name items that you can’t live without. But beyond that, give up your brand loyalties. Opt for the generic brand, the store brand, or private label, all of which are almost certainly cheaper. If the item turns out to be inferior — with all the flavor of cardboard — return it for a refund. You may be surprised.

SHOP SMART. Read your coupons carefully, and look for restrictions and expirations. Make sure that sale items are marked and located appropriately in the store — you could easily pick up something similar to what the sale flyer shows, but that is actually different and full price.

PAY ATTENTION. If you have the slightest doubt, ask an employee to scan a package or coupon to verify the discount. Don’t assume. Food retailers can get tricky, but you’re smarter than their ploys.