As prices rise, find ways to trim grocery bills

May 5, 2008

The rising cost of gas, diesel fuel and other forms of energy can affect the price of many other things that we purchase, from milk and bread to coffee and sugar. It can be a real challenge to keep family food costs manageable in today's economy, according to a foods expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"Saving money on your food bill will take some practice and planning," says Kathy DiGuiseppe, supervisor of Penn State Cooperative Extension's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program in Montgomery County. "But small changes can add up to large savings."

DiGuiseppe recommends these strategies to help families get the most from their grocery dollars:

-- Create a food budget. "Take the time to figure out how much money your budget allows for food each month, then divide your monthly food budget by how many times you shop each month," she says. "Get cash for the budgeted amount and take only that amount to the grocery store. This will assure that you spend only what you budget."

-- Plan meals before you go to the grocery store. Write up a menu of the meals and snacks you plan to prepare for the week, while making sure they are affordable and fit your food budget. "Consider using the food you may already have at home on your menu, which will save you money and help clean out the pantry," DiGuiseppe advises.

-- Make a list of the food you will need to prepare your meals. After checking the cupboards, review your menus and make a list to take to the grocery store. "Choose the grocery store that will give you the most for your money," DiGuiseppe says. "You usually have to pay higher prices in convenience stores. Supermarkets will nearly always have lower prices than small stores, because they can buy their stock in larger quantities."

-- Shop the grocery store ads and look for coupons. Remember to use the coupons only on items you actually use, and avoid buying items just because you have a coupon. "Make sure the item with the coupon is really the best buy," says DiGuiseppe.

-- Buy less expensive store brands instead of highly advertised brands. "Store brands often are the same quality as the name brands and almost always save you money," she says.

-- Don't shop on an empty stomach. If you go to the store hungry, you are likely to buy more food -- including unnecessary and expensive items. "Instead, have a small snack before you go grocery shopping," DiGuiseppe says.

-- Beware the end caps. Food on aisle "end caps" is attractively displayed to entice shoppers to make additional purchases, but these displays do not always feature sale items or bargains.

-- Compare prices by using cost per unit of various foods. The "unit price" usually is listed on the grocery shelf. The unit price is the cost of the item per ounce, quart, gallon, pound or any other unit of measure. Also compare forms of food. Buy a lower-cost form of the food if it will do as well. Example: frozen green beans if fresh are too expensive.

DiGuiseppe says if you follow these tips regularly, you'll start to see a difference in your expenditures. "Food costs can really add up quickly for most families," she notes. "We can't control the cost of fuel or even food, but if we manage our food dollars wisely, we will have more money in our wallets in the end."

Source: Penn State

Explore further: Better-tasting grocery store tomatoes could soon be on their way

Related Stories

Study—Berkeley soda tax falls flat

August 18, 2015

A Cornell-University of Iowa analysis of a soda tax passed last fall by voters in Berkeley, California – the first such city ordinance in the country – found the measure so far has fizzled, raising retail prices for high-calorie ...

Rutgers tomato reinvented with even more flavor

August 3, 2015

A new tomato that combines the nostalgia-inducing flavor of an heirloom with the durability of supermarket varieties is Rutgers' answer to anyone who wonders what happened to the flavorful Jersey tomatoes of the past.

The incredible shrinking ESR machine

July 15, 2015

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have come up with a way to shrink a research instrument generally associated with large machines that make bulk measurements of samples down to a literally ...

Recommended for you

Just how good (or bad) is the fossil record of dinosaurs?

August 28, 2015

Everyone is excited by discoveries of new dinosaurs – or indeed any new fossil species. But a key question for palaeontologists is 'just how good is the fossil record?' Do we know fifty per cent of the species of dinosaurs ...

Fractals patterns in a drummer's music

August 28, 2015

Fractal patterns are profoundly human – at least in music. This is one of the findings of a team headed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and Harvard University ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.