For Better Living: Save Money at the Grocery Store

By: Sandra Cain - Bladen County Cooperative Extension

The price of food is continuing to go up. Consumers are searching out bargains at the grocery store – certainly a change from the previous norm of relying on convenience foods. The search for lower prices may force shoppers to look less at healthier choices and more at the bottom line in search of bargains.

Here are a few tips that can benefit your health and your pocketbook at the grocery store:

— Make a list and stick to it. With a list, you are less likely to buy on impulse. You’ll also save by avoiding extra trips back to the store when you forget something you need. Keep a running list of what you need. Compare your list to the weekly sales papers and add items that are on sale.

— Buy on sale and stock up. If you have room in your freezer to store extra food, over-wrap items to keep air out and extend the life and protect the quality of things you get at a deal.

— Buy seasonal vegetables and fruits. Buy only what you’ll use – fresh produce has a short shelf life. Be creative with your produce if it’s nearing the end of its shelf life. If the bananas get too ripe, for example, make banana bread. We lose money when we have to toss food because it was left too long and ends up in the garbage.

— Avoid shopping when you’re hungry. You’ll likely wind up putting “extras” in your grocery cart and eventually on your waist line if you get a snack attack. If you don’t think you spend much money on snacks, try keeping a tally of all the snack foods you buy in one week. It may surprise you how much you are spending.

— Shop alone. Leave the kids and other family members at home. Too many shoppers can drive up the total grocery bill in a hurry.

— Use coupons for items you typically buy. You can find coupons in newspaper ads and online, too. If the grocery store you use has double or triple coupon days, take advantage of it.

— If you don’t already have a store discount card, sign up.

— Plan meals ahead and try planning your meals around sale items. Not only does this help with making the grocery list, but it also helps you plan leftovers for lunches, which saves money over going out to lunch. Leftovers also can be used for a quick dinner when your time is limited and you may want to grab fast food instead. Knowing in advance you can count on leftovers also keeps you from overbuying foods which have a limited shelf life. Remember to check expiration dates.

— Choose less processed food and cook from scratch more often. Cooking from scratch is better for both your health and budget. Processed food is often high in sodium, fat and calories. A recent study showed that more than half of consumers are buying fewer prepared meals and cooking more often from scratch.

— Buy food in bulk when it’s cost effective. You can do some simple math to determine the unit pricing, and some stores list unit prices on the shelf tag along with the overall item price. It’s cheaper to buy larger quantities of some foods. If you want smaller packages of food for convenience, repackage them at home in smaller bags. But check your prices carefully; sometimes the bigger size isn’t a bargain and the cost of several smaller bags or boxes may actually be less.

— Consider store brands. Be sure to consider store brands. Most often, these cost much less than name brands and taste just as good!

Source: Colorado Cooperative Extension

Creamy Beef and Onions

1 pound lean ground beef

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

2 medium onions, cut into thin wedges

1 garlic clove, minced

1 jar (12 ounces) fat-free gravy

2/3 cup reduced-fat plain yogurt

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Hot cooked noodles

4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

In a nonstick skillet, cook the beef, mushrooms, onions and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain. In a bowl, combine the gravy, yogurt, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and pepper. Pour over beef. Cook just until heated through. Serve over noodles. Sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 4 servings

Sandra Cain

Bladen County Cooperative Extension