Friday, March 27, 2009

Ten Tips to Save Big on Your Food Bill

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Save on Food with Dollar Savvy's Tips

As reported by MSNBC, here is an abbreviated form of Dollar Savvy Magazine's 10 ways to save on groceries. Dollar Savvy suggests turning grocery shopping into a game, using strategies just like any other game. Following are their tips:

1. Read grocery ads before shopping. Building your menu around sales items.

2. Navigate the store like a pro. Shop the perimeter of the store. Food essentials (produce, meats, dairy, and bread) are usually located around the store’s perimeter.
Shop the middle of the aisle. Pantry staples are usually smack-dab in the middle of the aisles. Look up, look down, look all around. Generally, the most expensive brand-name items are on shelves at eye level. Less expensive store brands are on the upper and lower shelves.

3. Get organized! With grocery store sales in mind, make a list of what you need to buy and stick to it. By being organized, you not only make fewer trips to the grocery store but also end up throwing out less food.

4. Do the math. When comparing prices at the store, always compare price per pound (or per gallon, for liquids). It’s the only objective way to compare costs.
5. Study your store’s selling patterns for sales. Grocery store sales often occur in patterns. For example, we know of a grocery store that puts our favorite ice cream on a “buy one, get one free” sale on the third week every month. On the first week of the month, it’s only a dollar off. Learn the patterns (and keep track of them in a notebook).

6. Learn the tricks of their trade. Here’s a well-kept secret: When a grocery store advertises a special — say, buy ten containers of yogurt for $5 — you don’t have to buy the number of items they’re advertising. In this case, you could buy one container for 50 cents. Unless the store specifically states otherwise, you should buy as few as you want.

Here’s another: Sometimes it’s hard to find handheld grocery baskets — they are usually tucked into a corner at the store’s entrance. You feel like a cart is your only option, and that’s what the grocers want. Once you have a cart, they reason, you won’t even think twice while filling it up. If you only need a few things, seek out the baskets … and stick to that shopping list!

7. Use coupons (wisely). Buy extra copies of the paper for high-value coupons on items you use a lot of. Trade and save. Have friends or family that you know use coupons? Offer to host a twice-a-month coupon-trading session over coffee. Use Facebook or Meetup to exchange coupons with friends and family.

Go online to save. More and more Web sites are offering coupons you can print out. (Right here on Organic Journey Online, I do a coupon post monthly, bringing you a large selection of savings that are easily printable. Click this link to take you to the most recent one).

12: Sort your coupons smartly. Organize your coupons the way you organize your shopping list: in the same order as the store aisles.
Seek out stores that double or triple coupons. Some grocers double coupons up to $1 in face value; others triple coupons regularly (or on certain days of the week).

Know when small packages can yield the biggest discounts. Buying the largest size of most items is usually the thriftiest option, but calculating bargains might work out differently when using coupons (especially “two-fer” coupons that require you to buy two of the same item to get your discount). Using a coupon and buying two smaller-size items may yield you a better price per pound.

8. Save rain checks for a rainy day. If you go shopping on Saturday or Sunday, these sale items are probably already out of stock. Good — that’s exactly what you want. Ask for a rain check on the sold-out bargains, and you can cash in on those sales when it’s convenient for you.

9. Layer, layer, layer. Use a manufacturer’s coupon with items already on sale and you'll save double. Use them at grocers who double or triple their coupons, and you'll save even more.

10. Watch the register. Knowing this, keep a watchful eye on the cashier’s display as the cashier scans each product. Make sure that discounts for sales and coupons are applied. Make sure that the clerk keys in the proper produce codes for perishables without price tags, so that you’re not paying for exotic mushrooms when you’re buying green peppers. And make sure that the register is logging items with price tags correctly — when there’s a mistake, many stores give you the product for free when you point out their errors.

And after you have confirmed that your purchase was correctly tabulated, be sure to keep your receipt. This is a good practice for a few reasons: If the item is on sale but doesn’t ring up with the sales price, you can bring the receipt back to the store for a refund. (Some stores may refund you the difference if that grocery item is on sale at a competing store, too.) If you get home and find out that one of your items is damaged or has a broken seal, you can easily return it. Finally, many register tapes are printed with valuable local coupons on the reverse side. Read carefully and keep saving!

Excerpted from "Dollar Savvy: 317 Ingenious Money-Saving Tips." Copyright (c) 2009 The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. To read more from Dollar Savvy, click here.

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