5 Ways to Drastically Save on Groceries

Food eats up a big portion of budgets. Here's how to slim that spending down.

According the USDA, the average American family of four spent an average of $250 per week on food in February 2017, if they had a moderate to liberal budget. That can mean upwards of $1,000 a month on food or $12,000 annually. That is a huge chunk of most budgets and can be scary to see in writing.

While this is the average, it does not need to be your reality.

There are simple things you can do to save money on your groceries. I’ve got my five best tips here. I’ve been following these ideas for years and they really can work.

1. Switch Stores

There are times when your larger grocery store might offer a better discount on some items — like these things grocery stores will do for you for free. However, have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you’re shopping at the store that offers you the best prices? It may not be worth driving too far, as you may lose more in gas expenses than you’d recoup in savings, but take stock of your local stores and see if there’s one that really may have better bargains.

For example, if you have an Aldi nearby and are not shopping there, you may be missing out on the simplest way to save. It is true they do not accept coupons, however, the prices there are often lower than the prices you pay at your regular store, even if you clipped a coupon. There are lots of options out there, so make sure you’re considering what others might be right for you.

2. Shop Ahead

Most people create a shopping list based on the items they need now. That is important, but you may also want to add items you will need later when you find them on sale.

To help, if you look at your store’s weekly ad, often times the items you see on the front page are loss leaders, which means the store may actually lose money on the prices they are offering. So this may be the time to get the best deal. These sale items can be discounted as much as 50%. This may mean that you purchase three, four or more of the item on sale. Doing so allows you to feed your family and get the lowest price possible.

Keep in mind, stores tend to do this with the idea that these extremely low prices will draw you in and you’ll do all your shopping there, ultimately making up their losses on their sales. If you do decide to shop there, and see other items that are “on sale,” make sure you flip up the sales tag to see if you’re really getting a discount.

3. Plan Ahead

The reason most grocery budgets fail is because people fail to plan. Each week, sit down and plan your meals including breakfasts, lunches (don’t forget meals for work and school), snacks and dinner. And make sure you do your planning the right way. (If you’re looking for frugal meal ideas, check out this 16-cent breakfast.)

The problem most people face with meal planning and budgeting is they do it backward. Most people plan their meals and then create a shopping list but you may want to consider working it from another direction.

First, check your pantry and your freezer. If you happened to get a deal on chicken breasts last week and three weeks earlier rice was on sale and you bought several bags, you can use these items to create chicken and rice. You now have a meal planned that will cost you no extra money.

Once you’ve planned your meals based on what you have on hand, look at the weekly ad. Check to see what is on sale that you might want to use for this week’s menu. Add in those extra items your family needs this week.

Finally, plan out additional meals you need and add those items to your list. Hopefully, most of what you need for your food for the week is already in your pantry or freezer or is going to be on sale.

With a bit of planning and changing your way of thinking, you can knock down that weekly grocery budget.

4. Create & Use a Price Book

As mentioned above, stores can offer amazing deals on items you need. You should stock up, but how much should you buy? That is a challenge, but if you track the sales cycles you can learn how much to buy as you follow when items go on sale.

The way a price book works is simple. You write down the product that is on sale including the size, date and what you paid (not taking coupons into account). Then, watch the weekly ads. The next time you see that same item go on sale, make a note in your book.

As you do this, you will start to understand the sale cycles and can buy just enough to get you through each period of time, so you don’t have too much on hand, but just enough to help ensure you always get the best price.

Of course, not all items follow a cycle, but you might be surprised to learn which items do. However, you have to put in a little bit of work to break the code for yourself.

5. Use Coupons the Right Way

I’m not against using coupons. In fact, I feel they are a great way to save money. However, you need to use them in the right way.

The problem many couponers face is they use coupons as soon as they get them. That is not always the best way to make them work for you. Instead, consider saving them to use when items are on sale.

When you find those items on the cover of the weekly ad (like we mentioned in point two) and you have a coupon to pair with the sale, you’ve really increased your savings and turned a hot deal into a smokin’ hot deal.

So when you get the coupons in your Sunday newspaper, file them away. Watch the weekly deals, and get out the coupons when you can pair them. In fact, if you really watch, you will learn that many items that have coupons go on sale after the coupons are released. That is not a coincidence.

Now you’ve got the tools and tips you need to really make a difference with your budget. It might take a little effort to implement some changes, but it can be worth it.

Want to save more? Here are five tricks to get discounts on everything you buy. And no matter how much you save, try to stay on budget. Going into debt to buy groceries could affect your credit. You can see where your credit stands by checking two of your scores free on Credit.com.

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Capital One’s New Dining Credit Card: Should You Apply?

Here's a solid rewards card made for people who love food.

Capital One just launched a brand new cash-back credit card with a big focus on food. The Premier Dining Rewards From Capital One card offers cash back rewards for all transactions, with extra incentives for dining and grocery purchases. If you’re frequently spending at restaurants, bars and grocery stores to get your grub on, this card might be right for you.

What Perks Does the New Capital One Card Provide?

The new Premier Dining card is a cash back card with competitive rewards rates. Cardholders earn 3% cash back on all dining purchases, 2% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cash back rewards are unlimited and have no expiration date, and they’re redeemed in the form of statement credits or checks.

Right now, Capital One is offering a $100 cash-back bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months of becoming a cardmember, which should be pretty easy to do if you’re frequently dining out.

The card comes with a number of other benefits. There are 24/7 concierge services to assist with travel bookings, reservations and shopping. Capital One even provides travel perks that can include free room upgrades and early check-in or late check-out times at eligible hotels.

Plus, they cover up to $1,500 in travel reimbursements if your trip is cancelled or cut short, and they provide price protection for eligible items if you find a lower price within 60 days of the date of purchase.

What Will the Card Cost Me?

The Premier Dining card has no annual fee. The annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases and balance transfers is a variable 15.24%, 20.24% or 24.24% based on creditworthiness. There’s also no balance transfer fee or foreign transaction fee.

It should be noted that this card is intended for people with excellent credit, so if you don’t know where your credit stands, you’ll want to check before applying. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, here on Credit.com.

Consumers who can qualify for the lowest available APR will be getting a decent interest rate.

Why Should You Apply for This Card?

If the majority of your credit card spending occurs at bars, restaurants and grocery stores, this card is a great option. While we’ve seen higher cash back rates on dining, they often apply to rotating spending categories that don’t last forever. The 3% cash back is a great permanent cash back rate for dining, and the 2% cash back for groceries is a decent supplement.

If you pay your balance off in full each month, this card will deliver its best value. There’s no annual fee, so if you can successfully avoid interest charges, you’re essentially earning money back on your purchases.

It’s also a good card for balance transfers and foreign transactions, as both will incur no additional fees.

Why Shouldn’t You Apply for This Card?

If you spend more on other purchase types than you do on dining and groceries, you may be leaving cash on the table by choosing this card. Many other cash-back rewards cards offer greater rewards for all purchases, and if your spending is more diverse, you’ll likely earn more by choosing a card with a better overall rewards rate.

You’ll also want to avoid this card if you’re looking for a great signup bonus. The $100 cash back bonus isn’t very exciting, and a consumer with excellent credit should be able to qualify for cards with far better signup offers.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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How Much Are Americans Spending on Bacon Each Year?

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If you’re like most Americans, you’re hog wild about bacon. There’s bacon-flavored bourbon, bacon-flavored vodka, chocolate-covered bacon, chicken-fried bacon, bacon-flavored toothpaste, bacon-flavored gumballs and cupcakes, chocolate bars and donuts and … you know this list is infinite, right?

Yes, Americans love bacon so much that they’ll even continue reading an article about bacon that starts out with the phrase “hog wild.” In fact, when asked if they’d support a petition declaring bacon the national food, 65% of Americans surveyed told pork supplier Smithfield they would indeed. And Americans’ love of bacon hasn’t declined. The amount of bacon sold in the U.S. increased 5.4% year-over-year in 2015, with sales totaling $4.21 billion, according to data from the North American Meat Institute. At more than 908 million pounds sold, and a U.S. population of roughly 321 million people, that’s closing in on an average of three pounds of bacon for every American.

And, of course, it’s not just Americans who love their bacon. Canadians apparently have quite the, um, appetite for “meat candy” as well. When asked to choose between bacon and sex, 43% of Canadians chose bacon, according to a light-hearted survey conducted by Maple Leaf Foods back in 2010.

Bacon, it seems, is beloved in many parts of the world, so it just makes sense that the Saturday before Labor Day was declared International Bacon Day back in 2009 (that’s Saturday, Sept. 3 this year).

If that sounds like a reason to celebrate to you, on International Bacon Day or any other day, the folks over at BaconToday.com, a site dedicated to “bacony goodness,” have put together some recipes to help you get your bacon on, including this bacon-infused Bloody Mary recipe.

The Bloody Mary Sue-eee

1 oz. Vodka
3 oz. Tomato Juice
2 oz. Bacon Hot Sauce
A couple dashes of peppered bacon salt
A couple dashes of lemon juice
Garnish with a couple of strips (or more if you’d like!) of Coastal Caliente Jalapeno Bacon (cooked)

Grab a cocktail shaker and add ice. Combine ingredients into the shaker. Shake and pour into a glass. Add the bacon in place of a celery stick. You can add olives if you wish.

BaconToday suggests pairing this drink “with some bacon-wrapped hot dogs and you’re good to go! For an appetizer, wrap up some garlic stuffed olives with a half slice of bacon, place a toothpick in the center to hold the bacon and olive together, and bake until crisp.”

Remember, it’s great to enjoy your food, but if you pig out too much, your spending could take you straight from hog heaven to wallowing in the mud (yes, more ridiculous pork-related metaphors). It’s easy to keep your credit scores in good shape by paying your bills on time, keeping your credit card balances low and watching for signs of identity theft and unauthorized transactions on your accounts. You can keep track of your credit by getting your two free credit scores, updated monthly, at Credit.com.

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9 Foods to Buy in Bulk if You’re Looking to Save Money

I’ve been a frugal mom for the past 19 years.  At first, it was out of necessity and now it is out of habit. Throughout the years, I have figured out the best ways to save money on groceries for my large family of nine.

Why Buy Food in Bulk

  1. To save money: When you buy food in quantity, you can save some serious money. I’ve found that I can save as much as 50% on an item by buying more of it at once. 
  2. To start a food storage system: By starting a food storage system full of shelf-stable foods, if a natural disaster or any other emergency happens, you will be able to eat.
  3. To shop less often: If you’re like me, you don’t have time to go grocery shopping all the time. If you have a bulk supply of foods, you won’t have to go as often.

What Foods to Buy in Bulk

1. Apples

Apples can last several months in a cool, dry place.  Of course, you could also process them into applesauce, apple butter, etc., but in general, if you buy several bags of apples, or better yet, pick several buckets of them, they’ll be fine for a long time, as long as you don’t wash them right away.

2. Strawberries

I love to buy lots of strawberries when they’re on sale because they’re so easy to freeze. Did you know that you can even freeze them with their greens still attached? If you freeze strawberries for smoothies, you can easily throw the whole strawberry with the greens still attached, into the blender. It is edible.

3. Onions & Peppers

If you find a great sale on onions and peppers, you can totally stock your freezer with pre-chopped vegetables. Recently I found bags of red, yellow and orange peppers for only $1.50. I bought several and chopped them up to save for future meals. If you’ll be cooking with them, you’ll never notice that they were frozen first.

4. Cheese

This is probably my favorite grocery item to buy in bulk. At our local grocery store, shredded cheese costs nearly $5 per pound. But, when I go to a membership store, I can get it for around $2.75 per pound. This is a huge savings! We make so many recipes that call for cheese, I always keep a 5-pound bag of it in my refrigerator and two more in the freezer.

5. Spices

I prefer to buy my spices by the pound, rather than by the bottle. Spices last for years! Typically, if you buy them by the pound, you’ll spend less than you do on some of those little bottles.

6. Dry Pasta

This is another food that has a very long shelf life.  You’ll need to do your due diligence to be sure that it is not in an extremely humid environment, but pasta will last for months, if not years, as well.

7. Canned Goods

I like to buy these in bulk when we go to Aldi, because they’re the cheapest there. Typically, I buy a case of canned goods at a time, so that I always keep a well-stocked pantry. If you choose to do this, be sure that the items you’re buying are things you use up on a regular basis.

8. Oats

I like to keep a food-safe bucket in my kitchen full of oats.This has helped me save so much money on breakfasts through the years. By buying it in bulk, I save about $1 per pound, when compared to typical grocery store pricing.

9. Meat 

When I see a sale on meat, I always grab it, if the price is low enough. Meat is usually the most expensive grocery item in your meal, so this is a great area to do some bulk shopping. In the past, we’ve found ground beef on sale for $2 a pound and we loaded our freezer up with as much as we thought we could eat in the next several months. We also buy a side of beef from our local farmer, which can save several dollars per pound, depending on the cut of meat that we are talking about.

5 Things You Should Think About Before Buying in Bulk

Now that we’ve talked about all the amazing foods that you can buy in quantity, I want to be sure you think through whether it’s right for you. Before you make your bulk-food-buying decisions, go through these questions one by one and make sure buying that food is right for you and your family.

  • Do you have enough freezer space?
  • Do you have enough pantry space?
  • Will you truly be saving money?
  • Are you likely to waste any foods by purchasing this much?
  • Do you eat this food often enough to warrant buying it in quantity?

[Editor’s Note: No matter how you buy your groceries, you don’t want to throw too much on your credit card and fall into debt. The interest rate on the card might just eat up your savings and the balance can hurt your credit score. You can view two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.].

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Somebody Just Bought a Watermelon for $4,700

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Some people can’t resist the temptation to splurge on a fancy dinner. Then there are others who can’t resist the temptation to splurge ¥500,000, or about $4,700, on a rare black watermelon.

According to Mental Floss, that’s exactly what happened Tuesday, when a lucky bidder took home a rare melon after an auction in Asahikawa, Japan, at a fresh produce market.

Densuke watermelons are known for their “black and shiny skin as well as their crunchy texture,” according to The Japan Times. They’re also considered a primo gift in Japan, notorious for fetching high prices, especially when they’re part of the country’s first harvest of the season. Peak season is usually in July, so this Densuke was prime for the picking.

Many consumers couldn’t afford such an extravagance. For instance, the average American, at least, doesn’t have thousands gathering dust in their savings account and can hardly afford to cover an unexpected expense or emergency. In fact, a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve in 2014 found 47% of Americans said they wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency expense. (You can learn how to retrain your brain to cut debt and build savings here.)

And even people with some savings can benefit from carefully considering any splurges they’re inclined to make — particularly if they plan to charge the purchase to a credit card. High levels of debt, related to pricey watermelons or otherwise, could wind up hurting your wallet and your credit score.

Before you consider running up any big bills, make sure you know where your credit stands, as it’s a huge indicator of your financial standing that can affect your ability to secure a home loan, rental agreement and so much more. You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com. And, if your credit is in lackluster shape, you may be able to improve your score by paying down high credit card balances, disputing any errors with the credit reporting agencies and limiting new credit inquiries.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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5 Tricks That Could Fool Your Kids Into Eating More Veggies

If you have young kids, you’ve probably been ’round and ’round with them multiple times about eating a balanced diet. The “good eater” is a rare thing, after all, with most kids preferring french fries to broccoli any day.

You’ve probably also read all of the tips on how to be a “good example” by eating your own vegetables, enforcing the “one-bite rule,” “making food fun” and getting kids to choose their own vegetables at the grocery store (is this something super moms have time to do?). Instead of tips on how to make vegetables more exciting, what you really need are some recipe ideas that will make your kids crave the cauliflower, beg for the beans and ask when you’re going to make that pasta with all the pretty colors again.

So, if you’re tired of the cajoling, the whining and wasting money on food your kids refuse to eat, here are five menu ideas that will have your kids coming back for seconds.

1. Spinach & Artichoke Lasagna

This smooth and cheesy recipe is perfect paired with a simple salad and also makes for great leftovers. Try doubling up on the spinach for a greener and more healthful meal. It’s so delicious, your kids won’t even notice the vegetables inside.

2. Cauliflower Bechamel

This recipe is great because you can get an entire head of cauliflower into a highly versatile sauce and no one is the wiser. Your kids like mac & cheese? Slowly melt cheese into this sauce, mix with macaroni, top with more cheese and bake. Want to add some extra veggies into the mix? Add some finely chopped broccoli, spinach or peas so your kids can pick out the green stuff if they want, without realizing they’re getting vegetables anyway. This sauce freezes well and can be used anywhere you’d use a cream sauce. (Pro tip: For a richer sauce, use milk instead of broth or water.)

3. Pot Pies

They’re easy, comforting and so, so yummy. Whether you use chicken, turkey, tofu or some other protein, be sure to throw in lots of healthy veggies. By chopping the vegetables very small, kids will be less likely to notice they’re eating something good for them.

4. Fruit & Veggie Popsicles

Here’s an easy way to get more vegetables in your kids’ diets. Combine kale, spinach, peas or even sweet potatoes with fruits and a bit of sweetener, and then run it all through a quick blend. Take that concoction and freeze it and you’ve got a wholesome summer snack your kids will love and you’ll feel good about.

5. Bacon!

As the saying goes, everything’s better with bacon, so if you and your kid eat it, try adding bacon to vegetable recipes to coax them into eating. One example are these zucchini boats with bacon gremolata.

If grocery costs are a concern for you, try these tips on how to eat for less than $6 a day. Saving money on food can help you stick to a budget plan, pay down billsconsolidate debt and reach your financial goals. A sound management plan can also efficiently subsidize your food budget plan for alleviating debt.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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