Gloria Nye | 5/19/2008 11:15:51 PM
Finding ways to save on groceries is always a good idea, but especially now when simply driving to the store costs more. You can stretch your food dollars in many ways, according to LSU AgCenter family economist Dr. Gloria Nye.
Do your homework before shopping, Nye says.
“Once a week, sit down and decide on menus for the whole week or longer,” Nye advises. “If that’s not practical, at least consider your evening meals.”
She also says to plan meals that use less expensive ingredients.
“Check what foods you have on hand before you make your list to avoid duplicate purchases,” Nye advises. “Review store ads for best buys. Clip coupons, but only for items you normally buy.”
Also, make a food budget and stick to it. Set aside cash for the groceries and do not use a credit card, she says.
To save on gas, plan on shopping only once a week for perishables and less often for nonperishables, she says, adding, “Stick to your shopping list. A list keeps you on track and reduces the risk that you will forget something and have to return. It also helps reduce impulse buying.”
It’s also a good practice to have the family member who can resist impulse buying do the grocery shopping, according to Nye.
“Avoid shopping with children or other family members if they contribute to impulse buying,” she says. “And remember, the more time you spend in the store, the more likely you are to buy something not on your list. Do not shop when you are hungry, because you are likely to buy more.”
Nye offers a number of additional ways to stretch your food budget:
– Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables that will be fresher and usually less expensive. Avoid convenience foods, junk foods and sugary soft drinks.
– Read the shelf tags and labels to compare unit costs because smaller or larger sizes are not always cheaper. To really save, substitute store brands for name brands. Look for store deals on the highest and lowest shelves. Middle shelves tend to hold the pricier items.
– Compare the unit cost of items available as frozen, dried or canned. Buy whole chickens, which cost less than pre-cut. Buy a large package of meat and divide and freeze it into meal portions at home. Buy regular rice and potatoes instead of instant. Pay attention at checkout to be sure you get charged the right prices.
– Back at home, cook only as much food as your family will eat. This avoids waste. Save and use leftovers. Drink juices, water or tea instead of expensive soft drinks or alcoholic beverages. Cut back on fattening and expensive desserts.
– Plant a garden or grow vegetable plants in pots on a patio, so you can prepare more meals “from scratch.” Make your own soups, baked goods and snacks. Pack your own lunch and bring snacks, coffee or soft drinks from home. Vending machines and eating out can become expensive habits.
For additional information on food shopping, contact an LSU AgCenter Extension family and consumer science agent, or look in the food and health section on the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.