Market watchers estimate that grocery shoppers spend about $2.17 per minute during the first 30 minutes of a shopping trip. After 30 minutes, the cost goes up 50 cents a minute. So getting into the store, making your selections and getting out quickly not only saves time, but money as well.
Making a grocery list that follows a store layout can reduce repeat trips up and down the same aisles, impulse purchases from those aisles, and the time required to complete a shopping trip.
Shopping less frequently can also yield a savings. Shopping for loss leaders or other specials may not always result in savings. The lower price offers a savings only if a shopper can -- and will -- use the item. Loss leaders are advertised items a store is willing to sell at or below cost to attract customers.
Should a shopper drive from store to store to purchase loss leaders? In making that decision, consider the time, distance and cost of travel. Shoppers who regularly watch for specials at the same store may realize a greater overall savings.
Coupons do not necessarily offer a savings. It's important to compare the unit price of generic or store brands against national brands less the coupon savings. Unit price is the cost per serving or use. Generic or store brands may be less expensive than a national brand with a coupon. Those generic and store brands are often produced at the same facility as a national brand, but packaged differently.
Cooking methods may influence savings. For example, for grilling or stir-frying, a more costly tender cut of meat or poultry will typically be needed. If slower cooking methods -- such as in the oven, on top of the range or in a slow cooker -- are used, a less tender and less expensive cut of meat or poultry can be used.
Other tips for saving money at the grocery store include:
* Keep a master grocery list in a central household location, such as on the refrigerator door so family members can add items needed to complete the list. Organize the list by food category (produce, dairy, meats, baking supplies, etc.) or by aisle of the store in which you will be shopping.
* Shop less often, and go early in the day or after supper when stores are less crowded.
* Be aware of store display strategies. The most expensive items will often be placed within easy reach. Lower-priced items may be on upper or lower shelves where they are harder to reach.
* Don't assume that seasonal or other items displayed at the ends of the aisles are on sale; compare prices.
* Compare unit prices, which are usually posted on the shelf. If they are not, divide the price by the total number of servings or ounces in the product package. Consider not only the lowest cost per unit, but also whether you or your family can eat the product before its "use by" date.
* Consider buying lower-priced protein foods, such as dried beans that, when cooked, will offer bargain-priced nutrition.
* Cook once; eat twice. Prepare eight servings for a family of four and freeze half for a quick and easy future meal. Freeze the extras immediately, so family members don't see them during the first meal and serve themselves too-large portions. Remember that three ounces of protein -- about the size of a deck of cards -- is generally considered a serving. Oversized servings not only add cost, but can add pounds which are difficult to shed, especially during winter months when most people are less active.
* Brush up on your cooking skills -- it's less expensive, and often healthier, to eat at home.
* Cooking together with family or friends can be a plus, as chatting while working in the kitchen can help to build relationships.
For more information on food preparation, nutrition and food safety contact the Bourbon County Extension office at (620) 223-3720 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Online, go to www.ksre.ksu.edu/humannutrition or www.rrc ksu.edu.