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Many imports are dropping at the same alarming rate that food prices are soaring. Many families have been forced to rely on dinners consulting large doses of pasta and rice to try to keep the food bill at least manageable while trying to stay afloat. It's frequently a difficult choice at the end of the month when there is not enough for the mortgage and yet another trip to the grocery store.
Listen up! You do not need to make the sacrifices you might have thought necessary. There are ways to eat well and pay your other bills! It may take some adjustments in your thinking, buying and lifestyle, but these changes can literally save you a few hundred dollars a month – and even more – depending on the size of your family.
Finding ways to save money does take time. It's a learning process. Treat this as a job. Your rewards will automatically follow.
- COUPONS – start clipping!
- Clip every coupon you can find even if it's for a product you do not normally use. Learn to share with neighbors and friends. Find them in your Sunday newspaper and frequently during the week as well. Print them off from websites such as CoolSavings.com or even individual manufacturers such as Proctor and Gamble.
- Do not throw away those free fliers that come in the mail each week. They have some great coupons you may be missing out on!
- Find a way to organize your coupons – a method that makes sense to you and one you will use. Throwing all the coupons into one box or a junk drawer will almost guarantee you've wasted your time saving them since you will not be able to find them when you want to use them.
- Learn how to match the coupons with what's on sale that week in the stores. This does take a few extra minutes, but it's worth it. Most of the larger grocery stores even tell you to find the coupon in the paper!
- Do not be afraid to try a new product or a new brand, it could be better and cheaper.
- HINT: Here's a great insider's tip on how to use coupons! Individual stores must key in each UPC code for each product. When you scan your coupon, the software that reads the UPC code on the coupon will determine if you have purchased the right product, and will automatically provide the correct discount. BUT stores are notorious for cutting back on these computer inputs. Instead of inputting a code for each individual product, many stores will only input codes for the brand itself. In other words, let's say you have a coupon for Campbell's soup but it specifically states "not for creamed soups". Most stores do not have systems that are programmed in sufficient detail to tell the difference. All it sees is "Campbell soup" and – bingo! Most likely, it will work just fine.
DOUBLE COUPONS – why you should stay away
- Avoid any store that offers "double coupons" even if you're not using coupons. Someone is paying for all these extra perks, and it's you! Start paying attention to the inflated prices in these stores.
- When you see "You saved $ 32.19" on your receipt, you can be sure that these savings were already gobbled up by the prices you actually paid. (IE, saving $ 1.10 as a "double coupon" on a pound of margarine instead of .55 is not a deal when the margarine cost $ 3.49 instead of the $ 2.49 other stores are selling it at.)
TRY NEW STORES – do not limit yourself to buying food at only grocery stores
- Some larger national and regional "drug stores" carry more than health and beauty items. CVS and Walgreens have weekly coupons for things such as tuna, soups, bath tissue, Jello, and cleaning products. These coupons usually provide some significant savings over normal store prices. Many times they let you use a manufacturer's coupon as well.
- If you have not yet discovered the wonders of your local "dollar" store, head on over at your earliest opportunity! The larger ones (ie, Family Dollar) have their own private label products that are priced at about 25% – 50% of their brand name matches. Most take manufacturers coupons too! The canned goods, paper products, and their cleaning products are comparable to the national names. The national brands they do carry are significantly cheaper than a regular grocery store, or even some of the discount retailers (Walmart, Kmart, Target, etc.).
LEARN PRICES – you'll never appreciate the savings if you do not know how to compare
- If you are like most shoppers, you have probably become used to shopping in one or two places, paying "whatever" to get what you needed, all in the interest of time. Those days are gone! Almost everyone is now in a position where the dollar must be stretched beyond recognition and saving money is more important than saving time. Start learning!
i. Comparison shop. Spend a few hours one day and just drive around to different stores, or even check on line (most stores have websites and you can see their weekly sales and circulars right there). Learn what a can of peas costs – national and store brands. You might be shocked at what you've been paying!
ii. Do not go crazy with the "Buy One Get One" sales. Frequently a store will inflate the price on a particular item before giving you the second one for free. This is an excellent reason to know your regular prices before getting excited about a sale. For instance, Store X might sell chicken breasts for $ 2.99 a pound on a regular basis. Then they announce a sale where chicken breasts are "Buy One Get One (free)". Before running out to stock up, look at the new price per pound. It may suddenly have snuck up to $ 3.39 a pound … or more. Read your labels and make sure you're getting the deal you think you are before heading to the check out line.
- LEARN HOW TO "BATCH SHOP" – Find a local strip mall where you can get almost everything done in one stop. Bring your CVS and Walgreens coupons, then head over to the dollar store for some canned goods and paper products, and finish up with meats and produce at the grocery store. One parking lot, three stores.
Once you see the money you are saving at the end of the month, you'll never want to return to the "old days". Whether you only shopped at Wild Oats and a kosher butcher, or you headed to a Super Walmart once a month, there are ways to still save more money without sacrificing quality, quantity, or taste.