Sandra R. Cain Extension director

We are all feeling the pinch when it comes to rising food costs. One way you can save time as well as money is to shop less frequently.

Less trips means less gas and less of a chance of impulse buying of things you really don’t need. You will also save some time by shopping less frequently.

A good shopping list is your No. 1 tool to help stretch food dollars and save money at the grocery store. You must plan ahead to have a good list, and plan to stick to your list.

Be sure to plan ahead. Add items to your list as they run low, so you won’t have to make extra trips to the store. Extra trips can ruin your food budget due to all the temptations in the store.

Eat before you go food shopping. Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry. If you are hungry in the grocery store, you are likely to buy more than you planned. Hungry shoppers buy too much and usually make poor food choices.

If possible, shop alone. If you must take children with you or even another adult, be sure that they have eaten before you go shopping. Also,

make them your shopping partners by allowing them to make some selections within preset limits. This can also be a good time to teach children to read food labels in order to make healthy choices.

Always read the grocery ads. Many times just what you need will be on sale, or a substitute item is on sale. If you can buy and use the extra before it spoils, this would be a good time to stock up.

Use unit prices. The unit price is the price for one “measure” of the item. For example, it may be the price per pound or the price per ounce.

Many stores will have the unit price labels on the shelf just below the item. Make careful comparisons. You will find that sometimes, the larger container will have the best price per unit, and other times, the smaller container will have the best price.

Compare store brands or no-name brands with the well – known national brands. The store brands are almost always cheaper than the name brands.

Use coupons if it really helps save money for something that you need to buy. Even with a coupon, sometimes the national brand is still more expensive than the store brand.

When comparing some food items, you need to compare the cost per serving or the cost per meal. For example, some meats have a lot of bones. So even though it may be the lowest cost per pound, it is not the best buy because so much of it cannot be eaten.

Use the food label especially the nutrition facts panel. The food label makes it easier to compare different foods and make healthier food choices.

Always consider food safety when shopping for food. Get your refrigerated and frozen items last so that they can keep at a safe temperature until you get home. If the weather is very hot or if you cannot go home immediately, take a cooler with ice in your car, so foods can be kept at a safe temperature.

To avoid cross contamination, place any meat that may drip away from other foods. Some grocery stores have plastic bags available in the meat section for this purpose.

Watch out for those items that are known as impulse items. Stick to your shopping list and limit or avoid those extras like sodas, alcohol, sweets, and chips. Such items are usually high in cost, high in calories, and low in nutritional value.

Source: Florida Cooperative Extension


Avocado Dip

2 medium ripe avocados, peeled and pitted

1 package (8 ounces) fat-free cream cheese

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup picante sauce

1 tablespoon lime juice

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Tortilla chips

In a small bowl, mash avocados and cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the yogurt, picante sauce, lime juice, salt and garlic powder. Serve with chips. Refrigerate leftovers.

Mango Black Bean Salsa

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (11 ounces) Mexicorn, drained

1 medium mango, peeled and chopped

¼ cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

2 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon garlic salt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Tortilla chips or scoops

In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, mango, onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic salt, and cumin. Refrigerate until serving. Serve with chips. Refrigerate leftovers.

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at

Sandra R. Cain Extension director R. Cain Extension director
Tips for saving money at the grocery store