Spice Up Your Meals Without Hurting Your Wallet

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A fistful of parsley dries out in the refrigerator after you used it for a dish or two. And the 15 bottles of spices on your spice rack have long lost fragrance before you noticed.

Sound familiar?

It’s a common home-cook frustration. A new recipe calls for a tablespoon of fresh basil and a pinch of smoked paprika, but when you go to the grocery store, even the smallest quantities of those ingredients provide far more than you need. Why?

The answer is simple: It’s good business.

Big bunches make big money

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As far as fresh herbs go, sellers make more money off of large bunches, according to John Stanton, professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Demand for fresh herbs — like basil, cilantro, mint, rosemary, thyme, and parsley — has increased dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to gourmet restaurants, and the rise of celebrity chefs and cooking shows. Growing fresh herbs has become a high-profit niche market, experts say, but it’s costly to compete.

Because herbs are at their best when freshly picked, it is important for sellers to establish a quick supply chain. To be successful, they must develop an efficient system to move the herbs from growers to customers, Stanton said. Herbs are also more delicate than vegetables. To prevent damage to the leafy herbs and keep their attractiveness, growers, distributors, and sellers also have to handle them gently and package them properly for long shelf life.

“You cannot have the product sitting around some place too long,” Stanton said. “The withered parsley is almost as powerful as the unwithered, but it just doesn’t look good.”

The complex, labor-heavy logistics that get herbs from growers to grocers in good condition cost a lot of money. Selling herbs in large bunches — more than what a home cook may need — helps make up for these costs.

While no one wants to reveal profit margins for the products they sell, Stanton said growers profit more from fresh herbs than from competitive produce, such as tomatoes and carrots.

The struggle of minimizing waste

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Jeanine Davis, associate professor at the department of horticultural science at NC State University, said small packets of herbs are good alternatives to big bunches of cilantro, parsley, or mint.

While home cooks may avoid food waste by electing the fresh herbs that come in plastic containers, they aren’t necessarily saving money. For instance, a full bunch of cilantro costs $1.99 at Wegmans, a regional supermarket chain in the Northeast, but 0.25 ounces of the same product packaged in a plastic is priced at $1.25. The package is actually more expensive if you calculate the cost per unit. And it may still come with more than you need, as well.

If you’re more concerned about minimizing food waste, subscribing to meal kits might be the way to go. Herbs, spices and seasonings come in the exact amount you need for a dish from meal subscription services like Blue Apron or Sun Basket.

How to make fresh herbs last longer

Compared with buying smaller packages of herbs or subscribing to a meal kit, buying those big, fresh bunches of herbs is the most affordable choice. Buying more than you need doesn’t mean you’ll inevitably waste food either. Karen Kennedy, education coordinator at the Herb Society of America, shared these tips with MagnifyMoney for getting the most value out of your herb purchases:

Spices last longer but can still be problematic

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Most commonly, dried spices are sold in bottles at grocery stores. Each bottle contains a few ounces of herbs, generally about 1 to 2 ounces. Prices vary dramatically by spice.

Kai Stark, purchasing manager at Frontier Co-op, an Iowa-based natural product wholesaler that owns the organic spice brand Simply Organic, told MagnifyMoney that spices are costly because some are extremely difficult to harvest, such as saffron and vanilla, making them incredibly labor-intensive. Others are prone to crop failures, making them risky items for farmers to grow, Stark explained.

Still, many may think two ounces of nutmeg for $5 is costly, especially when the recipe calls for only a tiny bit. Stanton, however, argues that people believe that dried herbs and spices are expensive because they only think of the cost per bottle. He referred to a roasted chicken meal as an example:

“Let’s say a jar of tarragon costs about $3, and a nice chicken may cost $7,” he said. “So you put the chicken in a pan. You took a pinch of tarragon and then you put it in an oven. The cost of the meal is [actually] the full $7 dollars of the chicken and about 3 cents of tarragon.”

“It’s better to think of it as cost per use and then it’s not that expensive,” he added.

How to keep your spice costs down

The trick to getting the most value out of a spice is using the whole bottle. Even though it might seem cheaper to buy dried herbs and spices in larger quantities, Kennedy suggests consumers stock them in small amounts to avoid waste.

In the case of nutmeg, you might want to buy a 0.53-ounce bottle that costs $2.

“If you can’t use it all before the flavor diminishes, you haven’t really saved anything,” Kennedy said.

Stark said the bulk aisle would be the place where consumers should look to save money on spices.

“You can purchase the exact amount of spice you want, whether it’s a pinch or a pound,” he said.

To be sure, not every grocery store has bulk spice aisles, and there may not be a specialty spice shop in your town. If that’s not an option at your local grocer, and you feel like you’re wasting money on spices you don’t use up while they’re most potent, consider these tips:

What you can do to make spices last longer

To keep their shelf life as long as possible, Kennedy said it’s best to store the dried herbs and spices in airtight glass jars and and place the bottles in a dry, dark, and cool location. Use your nose as a judge: You may want to toss your spice jar when a strong aroma or flavor doesn’t come off right away when you open it.

“When the fragrance begins to fade, so has the flavor,” she said. Most spices are good for one year when stored properly.

Spices sitting on the shelf for a year may not smell as good as when they were freshly bought, but Stanton said that doesn’t mean they are not safe to eat.

The expiration dates on food are mostly irrelevant, said Stanton, adding that they were labeled by companies hoping that consumers would regularly toss old products and buy new ones. Indeed, expiration dates are not required by law. Industry groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are trying to get food manufacturers and retailers to stop labeling expiration/sell by dates to help consumers reduce food waste.

“If you have an old bottle of dried herbs, you might have to put a little more on,” Stanton said. “So instead of costing 3 cents to make the tarragon chicken, it actually costs 6 cents.”

The post Spice Up Your Meals Without Hurting Your Wallet appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

7 Surprising Facts about Food Prices

Cash-back credit cards can help earn money back when you spend at the grocery store.

Many people believe that Americans waste a bunch of money eating out — that avocado toast and lattes are budget wreckers, for example — and that’s sort of true. In 2014, an important line was crossed — for the first time since the government tracked this sort of thing, families spent more eating out than eating at home.  But when you really look into the numbers about the way Americans spend money on food, a far more complex picture emerges.  Like many other typical household purchases — such as refrigerators or clothes — many food items are actually much cheaper than they were a generation ago. And overall, food isn’t nearly the budget-busting line item it used to be.  In fact, according to government statistics, U.S. families are spending much LESS overall on food than they did a generation or two ago. Food now eats up about half as much of the family budget than it once did.

Even that fact is a good news/bad news story, however, according to Annemarie Kuhns, a food economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Part of the reason food consumers less of household spending is because housing costs and health care consumes so much more.

“It really depends on the food you are purchasing,” Kuhns said. “Processed food is less expensive, but fresh fruits and vegetables are much more expensive.”

To get a better picture of what’s really going on with your budget, here are 9 surprising facts about food spending. As you read them, remember, it’s always easy to find an anecdote or two that confirms a belief you might have — most of us have a friend who complains about not being able to afford a home, but does indeed indulge in avocado toast regularly. That’s just an anecdote, however, a narrow view of things.  To really understand the issue, you have to look at the broader picture.  Most of the data below comes from the Consumer Price Index maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which follows food prices by pricing a representative market basket of goods periodically.

1.) Yes, food is generally getting more expensive

First off, you aren’t crazy. Your grocery bill keeps getting bigger — and the cost of food is rising faster than most things. From 2012-2016, food prices rose 6.1%, but the overall consumer price index rose only 4.5%.  NOTE:  That’s bad, but it’s less than the 9.5 percent rise in housing costs and 11.7 percent increase in medical care costs.   This is a long-term trend, too. The USDA says grocery store prices are up 4.5% faster than economy-wide prices during the past 30 years.

2.) Food is cheaper this year, though (Eggs are a HUGE bargain)

Last year, for the first time in nearly 50 years, so-called “food-at-home” prices dropped. The USDA says retail food fell 1.3 percent. Some items fell far more. The price of eggs, for example, dropped almost 20 percent in a year, thanks to lingering impacts of the avian flu. That’s good news for you, but bad news for grocery stores, and we’ve seen plenty of them punished on Wall Street as a result. Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, said in March that its same-store sales had fallen 0.7% during the end of 2016.

3.) Yes, we are eating out a lot more

Economists call eating out “food away from home” — as opposed to food-at-home — and it’s true that Americans are spending more while eating out than ever.  This has something to do with the state of the economy: During the 2007-2009 recession, food away from home share fell, for example.

Don’t be so quick to judge this consumer behavior, however. It’s true that many Americans don’t take the time to cook any more, but rising restaurant prices are partly to blame, also. Higher food-away-from-home prices mean more overall spending, whether or not people spend more nights at restaurants. And there’s some indication American’s love affair with certain kinds of restaurants has ended.  Back in 2014 — the same year Americans eating at home fell into second place in the BLS data – NPD Group said the average American dined at a restaurant 74 times annually, the lowest reading in more than 30 years.

Continued trouble at fast-casual chains seems to confirm that finding. Restaurant analyst TDn2K says that overall, restaurant same-store sales have now fallen for five straight quarters, and traffic fell more than 3% in the first quarter of this year, compared to the prior year.

4.) No, food isn’t the budget killer you might think

Overall, food consumes a lot less of a family’s earnings than it did back in the 1960s, or even the 1980s. Between 1960 and 2007, the share of disposable personal income spent on total food by Americans, on average, fell from 17.5 to 9.6 percent, driven by a declining share of income spent on food at home.

This seems hard to believe, but it’s true, says Kuhns.

“You have to think of it in terms of relative vs nominal terms,” she said.  “It’s one of those things were prices go up each year, but so does income.”

The share of income spent on total food began to flatten in 2000, however — partly because food prices began to rise, and partly because incomes have stagnated.

In the end, if you are still convinced that Americans eating out too much is the cause of many personal finance problems, consider this: The Agriculture Department says that in 2014, Americans spent 4.3 percent of their disposable personal incomes on food away from home. That’s not a budget buster.

5.) Food is a budget killer for the poor, however

The richer you are, the less you care about the price of food, for obvious reasons — but more critically, the less your monthly budget is subject to shocks from rising food prices.

In 2015, middle-income households spent 12.4 percent of their income on food, while families in the lowest one-fifth of income spent fully one-third of their money on food. That’s a stunning gap, and makes poorer families very sensitive to sudden increases in the price of essentials like milk or bread.

6.) We sound a bit like whiners

One might conclude that those who complain about rising food prices in the past decade or so have forgotten history. Even in a bad, recent year (2008), food rose about 6%. Back in the 1970s, double-digit increases were typical.  In 1973, food prices rose 16.4%, and then in 1974, another 14.9 percent. Those increases were blamed on food commodity and energy price shocks, and the larger economy saw shocking inflation, too.

7.) Historically, eggs are now the best bargain — Butter is cheaper, too

It can be hard to compare the price of items across the decades, but there are ways. For example, a look at a 1971 Sears catalog shows a basic refrigerator cost $399, or about $2,450 in today’s dollars. That would buy you a heck of a refrigerator today.

Another useful method is to compare the increase in costs over time, which the BLS does.  A fascinating chart compares the cost of items back in 1913 vs 2013.  Butter was once the most expensive item in a consumer’s grocery sack. Now, coffee, steak, and many other items are more expensive.  The price of potatoes has climbed 39-fold since 1913, but the price of eggs is up only 5-fold during the same span. Bread costs 25 times more; sugar costs 12 times more; coffee 20 times more, but rice only 8 times more.

If you’re looking for a more recent comparison, NPR crunched other BLS data comparing 1982 and 2012 (all in 2012 dollar) and found that most meats are much cheaper than they used to be (steak is down 30%!); but some vegetables are more expensive (peppers up 34%!).

How much do Americans spend on food anyway?

That’s not an easy question to answer, as circumstances vary so widely, but the USDA tries. A family of four with two children under 5 spent between $571 and $1,116 on food-at-home each month during 2015, the agency says. That same family with older kids spends between $657 and $1,305, proving it’s best to keep your kids from growing up.

On the other hand, a single male between 19-50 spends between $172 and $346 monthly.  That doesn’t include eating out, of course.

Don’t be so hard on food.

Finally, Kuhns stresses that inflation data on food is a very tricky calculation and government statistics can’t capture all the factors that really make up “price.”  When calculating inflation for items like computers, economists factor in that buyers get more for their money today than they did in the past — today’s PCs are far more powerful.  Those adjustments aren’t made for food, she noted, even though today’s supermarket shoppers get a lot more than they used to.

“When you go into a grocery store aisle, it’s nothing like 1985,” she said. “We have bagged lettuce. Imported vegetables.  We have access to a lot more fruits and vegetables,” she said. “In the 80s, most stuff was local and you could only get what was in season. Now you can get whatever you want any time of the year.”

Image: franckreporter 

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Creating a Menu Plan to Save on Groceries

A great way to reduce your grocery spend is by planning meals ahead.

Although it’s not particularly fun, creating menu plan is one of the simplest way to save money. If you can create a menu plan, you can save money. It is as simple as that. There are two main reasons that a menu plan can save money:

  1. You don’t eat dinner out as often.
  2. You know what to buy at the grocery store.

Let me explain how each of these really can affect your budget.

The Dining Out Sneak Attack

See if this relates to your life: You are heading home from a long day at work and when you finally tear through the door, the first thing you hear is “What’s for dinner?” or “I’m starving! When are we going to eat?” After the hectic day you’ve had, you realize you have no clue what you are going to feed the family. So, you end up spending a ton of money dining out — for the third time this week.

Now imagine reliving that same scenario eight or ten times per month. That means you’ll dine out for more than 200 meals in a year. Say you spend $20 per meal, in one year you’ll have spent more than $4,000 dining out.

Dining out is great, but it can quickly eat up your budget. Establish a dining out budget and stick to it. We started doing this when we were working ourselves out from more than $37,000 in debt. For us, it is normal to fix dinner at home and something to which we are accustomed.

Your menu plan helps you know what you’ll make for dinner every night. It is one less thing you have to worry about night after night and it’s a wonderful way to manage your food budget.

The Lower Grocery Budget

The other way we save money with our menu plan has to do with my weekly grocery shopping trips. Before we had a menu plan, I would walk the aisles of the store with my list while trying to figure out what I might have for dinner that week.

Of course, despite my very best efforts, I always found myself forgetting items. That lead to more return trips to the store during the week. And, when I did that, I would often toss additional items that we did not necessarily need into the cart. Plus, by making multiple trips, I was spending more money on gas.

When you create a menu plan, you know every meal and snack you will have for the week. Your menu plan then becomes your guide to creating a shopping list. The list will include all the items you need for every meal and snack for the week. You end up with a comprehensive, workable shopping list.

Creating a Menu Plan

When it comes to learning how to create a menu plan, the key factor is planning. It is simple to plan a weekly or even bi-weekly menu yourself, but you’ll need to take a few things into consideration before you do.

1. Check the Freezer, Pantry & Fridge

To start, look at items that may spoil or expire soon. Come up with a meal where you can use these items before you end up tossing it into the trash.

Next, check for items you have on hand. You may have found a great deal on noodles last week and stocked up. That may mean adding spaghetti to your meal plan this week.

You should also look for ways to make multiple meals out of one item. For example, you may make a large roast chicken for dinner one night and, later in the week, whip up a batch of chicken and noodles with the left overs. You won’t be wasting food and you’ll get your money’s worth.

2. Check the Grocery Store Ad

You might have several items on hand to make four meals, but that still leaves three more to plan. Rather than making whatever sounds good, look at the store flyer to find items on sale. You may see that ground beef is on sale, so that may lend itself to grilling burgers.

When checking the local grocery store ad, focus on the front cover and any short sales dates. These items are often best deals you will see for weeks. You should not only plan on making meals with items you can find here, but also stocking up on them so you have them on hand for future meal plans.

Bonus tip? Try using cashback credit cards while shopping for grocery stores. You can earn rewards that can go towards your monthly food bill. Before applying for any new credit, it’s best to make sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.

3. Ask Your Family

Remember to ask your family for input while making a meal plan. If you find a package of chicken breasts in the freezer, ask them what chicken based meal they’d love to have that week.

This helps you come up with new ideas, but also helps you know that you are selecting meals your family will enjoy. By making things your family will enjoy, you can avoid wasting food and money.

4. Put Your Plan in Writing

When you create a menu plan, it is very important that it is in writing. You should also plan for every day of the week. Dinner is important to plan but don’t forget to include breakfasts, lunch (even if packing them for school or work) and snacks.

5. Don’t Plan Too Far in Advance

There are many who like to menu plan for a month. While that can be good for some, I don’t recommend this. When planning so far ahead it can be difficult to check the weekly ad to ensure your meals use items that are on sale. Planning meals for any period longer than two weeks can result in missing those key sales when prepping your meals.

6. Make Your Plan Visible

The final step is to make sure you plan is visible. If you and your family can’t see it, you can’t use it. Rather than tuck it into a drawer, put it on your refrigerator where you see it every morning. Then, before you leave for work, make sure that any frozen items get thawed properly so you can use them to make dinner.

I recommend that you print out the menu plan you wish to use and have it laminated. Put it on the fridge with magnets and you’ll have a reusable menu planning form.

It took my family and I a little time to get use to the menu plan, but now that we use it, we can’t imagine not having it available to help us plan our meals. I still am not a fan of sitting down to plan what to eat each week, but when I am done and realize the time and money I’m saving because of it, I always smile and then hang the plan back on the fridge.

Your menu plan is a catalyst to reducing your grocery bill and saving on dining out.

Image: RoBeDeRo

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6 Ways to Stop Blowing Your Grocery Budget

Saving money on groceries doesn't need to be difficult and it doesn't always mean cutting back.

If you’re like many Americans, a large chunk of your budget is spent on food — maybe 10% or more. Percentagewise, we spend less on food than we did in the ‘60s, but 10% is not an insignificant portion of your income.That’s why so many money-saving articles focus on groceries as a great place to cut back on spending.

And the truth is that grocery spending is so variable. You could spend $200 per month to feed your family of four, or you could easily spend more than $1,000. With all that variability, it can be easy to blow your budget for groceries. If you find that you’re consistently spending more than you’ve budgeted for groceries, following these tips can help with saving money:

1. Figure out If Your Budget Is Even Reasonable

One issue might be that you have an unreasonably small grocery budget. Maybe your budget is inspired by a few articles from Pinterest about feeding a family of seven for a mere $250 per month. Let’s get real, though. Those families (often the moms!) spend hours meal planning, cooking from scratch, clipping coupons and driving to various grocery stores to snag the best deal.

Their results are amazing but that amount of effort isn’t feasible for everyone. As a working mom in a two-income family, there’s no way I can spend that much time saving money on food.

So if you’ve budgeted $150 per month to spend on groceries, maybe that’s not enough. Here’s how to find out:

a. Break Down Your Spending by Category

First, dig out your grocery store receipts from the past several weeks. If you don’t usually keep receipts, make a point to save them from your next few shopping trips. Shop as you normally would for those trips.

Then, break down your grocery spending by category. For instance, you might divide it into meat, dairy, breads and grains, premade items, veggies and fruits, etc. If you purchase items like cleaning products, cosmetics or toilet paper during your grocery shopping trips, divide those into a separate category as well. Remove everything that’s not actually grocery store spending from this category. Fast food and restaurant spending should be dealt with separately.

Once you’ve got your categories, add up what you spent in each category over the course of a month. This may not be a true average, but it’s a starting place.

b. Set a Reasonable Budget

Finally, you can see what you actually spend on food groceries. Now it’s time to see if that budget is reasonable. A good place to start is with the USDA Food Plans, which average the cost of cooking at home each month. In May 2017, the USDA thrifty plan for a family of four was $561 per month. The liberal plan for a family of four was $1,097 per month.

If your food spending is close to the thrifty end of things, maybe you’re actually not spending too much on food. Maybe you’re just setting your budget too low. But if you’re coming out on the high end of food spending — or if you want to outdo the USDA — use the following steps to trim your spending.

2. Look for Savings in Your Highest Spending Categories

Since you’ve got your spending categorized, you can easily find out where you spent the most money. For instance, if you’re consistently spending half your food budget on meat, it’s time to start cutting back there — perhaps by eating meatless meals a few times a week. Or maybe you’re spending a bunch of money on prepared meals that you could make much more cheaply at home.

Once you know where you spend the most, you can target that category for reducing spending. Some options include clipping coupons for items in that category, shopping manager’s specials, or simply cutting back on eating those types of foods.

3. Look Into Different Local Grocery Stores

There’s a reason Whole Foods is nicknamed “Whole Paycheck.” It’s a great place to find certain specialty items. But if you’re doing all your grocery shopping at high-end stores like these, you will spend more.

Our family saves a fortune just by shopping at Aldi, a discount grocery store that’s becoming more common across the nation. We used to do most of our shopping at a local chain but realized we saved a couple hundred bucks a month just by buying what we can at Aldi.

Chances are you’ve got some cheaper grocery options local to you. For instance, ethnic stores can be a fabulous place to pick up exotic spices and basics like rice and pasta on the cheap. Or you may find that a wholesale store membership saves your family a ton on food staples. Plus, you can use reward credit cards while shopping to earn even more deals. (Before applying, remember that most reward cards require a decent credit score — you can check two of yours for free with Credit.com.)

4. Create a Bank of Easy-Fix Meals

If your family is anything like mine, quick to prepare weeknight meals are a necessity. Without them, you fall back on going out to eat. Pinterest is a great place to find recipes for quick and easy meals that rely on whole, healthy ingredients.

Start trying out these types of meals. If you find a hit, keep the recipe close by. Try to find at least a few of these recipes that use ingredients you tend to keep around.

5. Do Some Freezer Cooking

When you find a great sale on expensive ingredients, pick up extra. Then, double up on your recipe, and put half in the freezer. This is a win-win. You get to save on groceries, and you have a meal ready to go for a busy evening!

For instance, if you find a great deal on ground beef, buy enough to make two lasagnas. Make them both at the same time, and pop one in the freezer. If you get into this habit, you could suddenly find yourself spending less on expensive ingredients, and you’ll have a freezer full of delicious meals to choose from.

6. Cut Back on Waste

How much of your grocery budget goes down the drain the form of wasted food? If you’re like most Americans, it’s a lot!

Start keeping a tally of the foods you throw away after they go bad. Keeping track for a month or two could reveal some interesting information. Maybe you’re over-ambitious when you buy fruits and veggies. You think your family will eat them, but you never get through them all. Or maybe you consistently throw away leftovers. It’s time to freeze those leftovers, pack them for lunch or make smaller servings of your recipes.

Cutting back on waste is an amazing way to save on groceries. Make a point to wait to grocery shop until the fridge is nearly empty. You’ll get more specific with your grocery shopping and more creative with your meal plans.

Even if you’re already saving on groceries, there’s usually room to save more. These tips will help you do just that.

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10 Ways to Save on Groceries … Without Clipping Coupons

Hate clipping coupons? There are plenty of other ways to save on groceries.

One of the largest expenses for most budgets is groceries. As much as we want to save money on food, it can feel next to impossible — that is, unless you want to sit and clip coupons.

While using coupons works for many, it is just not an option for some. Of course, if you do clip, these are additional things you can do to increase your overall savings. Here are a few of them.

1. Shop Store Brands

There is a common misconception that store brand means lower quality. This is not true. In fact, many store brands are the exact same name-brand product, just with a different label on the front.

2. Look High & Low

When you shop, the most expensive products are usually placed at eye level. You will often find less expensive items on the very top or lower shelves.

3. Avoid the End Caps

People are drawn here, and when they see items, they often assume that because they are on display, it must mean they are a good deal. Check the original and competitor prices to make sure you’re really getting a bargain.

4. Don’t Fall for Gimmicks

There are some common gimmicks stores use to help trick you into spending more. Here are two you will want to watch for:

  • Buy quantities at a set price. For example, if you see something priced at 2 for $5, you do not have to purchase two items, you can buy one. Be sure to check any details.
  • Purchase limits. When you see terms like “limit three” next to a display, it makes you think that if there is a limit, it is a must-have item.

5. Redefine Dinner

There is no rule that says you have to make a huge three-course meal every night of the week. It is OK to have soup, sandwiches or even salads for dinner. By making simpler meals, you can save on the food you need to purchase, thereby dropping your grocery bill.

6. Shop the Right Day

Many grocery stores offer “short-sales” which are one-, two- or three-day sales. If you shop on one of these days, you will not only get those additional discounts, you will also get the regular weekly deals. Doing this will put you in the store just one day a week, which can absolutely help you save money.

7. Change Things Up

If you have more than one store near you, why not try a different one? If you can split your trip and shop the sales at each of them, you can save on your overall grocery bill. Of course, if they are not close, take into account the time and fuel you’ll spend on making two trips.

8. Make a Menu & Shopping List

By planning a menu and a shopping list, you not only know what you will need to purchase at the store, you’ll feel more organized when you get home from work and need to prepare dinner. You might check out my menu plan and shopping list forms.

9. Shop on a Full Stomach (& Alone if You Can)

If you have ever shopped when you are hungry, you usually find that you toss in additional items you normally would not purchase. If you shop when you are full, you will be more likely to stick to your list.

It is also easier to not purchase additional items when you shop alone. I realize this may not be an option for a lot of families, so just make sure that you shop once everyone has already eaten. You can also ask your kids to help you find certain items, which will keep their minds on what you need.

10. Shop in Season

When you shop produce, only purchase the in-season items. For example, black grapes are in season during the summer months. Sure, you might find them during the winter months, but you will pay a premium, as they are more difficult to get into your store.

Looking for more tips for lowering your food bill? Here’s 7 ways shopping like a chef can help you save. And, for more smart spending reads, visit Credit.com’s personal finance learning center.

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