It is possible to save money shopping for groceries without cooking everything from scratch, packing your purse with coupons, or purchasing foods in season.
Alice Henneman, an Extension educator with the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, figured the savings consumers can make just by changing some of their consumer habits. She used prices which were representative of her locality, and prices may vary by store and region. Examples represent what might be saved from spending less and/or avoiding uneaten food. Add up the amounts which pertain to your usual habits to see what your savings might be.
1. Garbage check. We lose money whenever we toss food because it spoiled before we got around to eating it. If wilted lettuce is a frequent occupant of your garbage can, serve more salads on the days immediately following your shopping trip. If leftovers are wasted in the refrigerator, consider freezing them for later meals. Use ripe bananas in banana bread, or mash and freeze until you have time to make the bread. Example. Tossing a half bag of "tired" lettuce: $1.00.
2. Avoid shopping when hungry. Everything looks good on an empty stomach. Eating before going shopping not only helps prevent impulse buys, it may save calories. If shopping with kids, feed them in advance, as well. Example. Impulse purchase of snack crackers: $2.50 (or more).
3. Brown bag it. If you normally eat out at noon, consider brown bagging it at least one day a week. Take food left over from the evening meal to work the next day. A peanut butter sandwich and a piece of whole fruit can be quickly packed in the morning. Example. Eat a sack lunch once a week: Save $2.50. Eat a sack lunch 5 days a week: Save $12.50 (or more!).
4. Check expiration dates. Avoid buying a food past its prime. If it's on sale and near its expiration date, use it soon. Example. Dumping a half gallon of soured milk down the drain: $1.50
5. Costly convenience foods. Think about how much time you can really save when buying a convenience food. It takes just a few seconds to mix your own sugar and cinnamon rather than buying it pre-mixed. Microwaving a bowl of quick oatmeal rather than pouring hot water over a pre-measured package adds only a minute or two. Example. Buying a carton of quick oatmeal providing 30 servings rather than 3 boxes instant oatmeal containing 10 packets each: Save $5.50.
6. Store brand savings. Store brands are comparable in nutrition to name brands. And, taste-wise, there may be little difference. In some comparisons, they have been preferred over the name brands. Some store brands may vary more in size, color or texture, which may not matter, depending on their use. A less than perfect appearing vegetable may be just fine if used in a casserole or soup. Example. Buying two store brands and saving 50-cents on each: $1.00.
7. Staple food stock up. Invest in staple foods when they're on sale. Buying a boatload of bananas isn't a very good investment. But, stocking up on staple items, such as canned tuna, tomato sauce, or canned fruit, can be. Remember to check the expiration dates and use the food before it becomes outdated. Example. Stocking up on 10 cans of food reduced by 20 cents apiece: Save $2.00.
8. "Checkout" temptation. As you're waiting in line, think twice before buying some last-minute temptation. Example. Resist the magazine with the latest diet: Save $3.50.
The more cost-saving tips you use and the more foods you can use them with, the more you can save. If you were able to use each of the preceding examples in one week, you might save as much as $20.
Multiply by 52 weeks and the savings would be $1,000 a year. Think about what you could do with that amount of extra cash at the end of the year!
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or email@example.com.