How To Save On Foods: 8 Ways To Lower Your Grocery Bill In The Store
#1: SAVE ON FOODS BY SHOPPING WISELY
In order to effectively save on foods, you need to first learn some tricks of the trade. Have you ever heard of "Category Management"? Consumer packaged goods manufacturers and grocery stores spend millions and millions on their Category Management strategies each and every year to effectively figure out how to convince you to spend more money. I know this because I worked in the field for some time.
Category Management came about many years ago when stores realized that by simply dropping the price of one brand to increase sales, the competitor's brands sales decreased by that same amount. They had to figure out how to make more overall sales.
You may already know some tricks of the trade, and if you do, put that knowledge to good use and shop wisely. Some strategies that they utilize are:
- Convenience items go in the back of the store. Did you ever notice that quick 'grab and go' items like milk, bread and eggs are always in the farthest aisle from the doors and are usually in the back of the store? The stores are counting on you to pick up some unplanned items as you run to grab that bottle of milk for your morning cereal.
- $1.99 is much less money than $2.00. This one drives us all nuts, but it works. Learn how to round up before you decide to buy.
- Low cost, high impulse items go next to the cash register. These folks are counting on you to start reading the recent issue of Cosmopolitan magazine as you're waiting in line. They know you'll be hooked on some article or dying to give your spouse one of the quizzes and so you'll buy it. Cha ching!
- There's a reason why expensive brands are called "top shelf". In Category Managment-speak, store brands and cheap items go on the lower shelves. The brands they want you to buy (for whatever reason) are on the "reach" or the middle shelves. they are the items that are easiest to get to -- and most visible to a child sitting in a shopping cart! The most expensive items are on the top shelf.
#2: BUY GENERIC
I am a selective brand snob. My laundry detergent will always be Tide. My bath soap will always be Dove or Oil of Olay. If I do buy a jar of mayonnaise, you can bet your sweet bippy it will be Hellmans. Before I started my career in Corporate America in the Consumer Packaged Goods sector, I would have slashed my wrists before I would purchase any generic or "cheap" product. But then learned the truth.
Years ago, there was one company who produced Johnnie Walker Red scotch. They wanted to bump up the sales but didn't want to hurt the brand image by lowering the price. So...they took the JW Red, put it in a different shape bottle with a different label, named it Scoresby and priced it several dollars lower.
Many of the store or generic brands that you see are produced by premium manufacturers.
All of that said, there are five items in the store that you should ALWAYS buy generic:
- Produce - Don't be suckered in by a Chiquita or Dole label. It's all pretty much the same.
- Over the counter medications - The FDA requires that all medications with the same active ingredient keep to the same standards. What you're paying top dollar for is the label.
- Organic foods - As Teri Gault, Founder of The Grocery Game, put it: "Certified organic is certified organic. There's no need to go for the brand name."
- Basic skincare and beauty products - Next time you reach for that bottle of body lotion at the store, pick up the store brand next to it and compare ingredients. Enough said.
- Pantry staples - Single ingredient items (flour, sugar, spices, etc.) are held to government regulations for production, packaging and storage.
Let's do a little comparison of current prices at my local grocery store:
- Aluminum foil: Reynolds 200 sq.ft. $8.49 - Store brand 200 sq.ft. $5.99
- Paper Towels: Scott 1-ply 100 sq.ft. $1.99 - Store brand 1-ply 100 sq.ft. $1.00
#3: PLANT A GARDEN
Planting a vegetable garden is an easy and inexpensive way to save on foods throughout the summer months. If you don't have space for a vegetable bed in your garden, look to achieve the same results through container gardening. You will even find some seed varieties that have been specially bred for pots or containers.
A package of tomato seeds will only cost you a dollar or two. That same package of seeds will produce many, many tomato plants that will yield a tremendous amount of tomatoes throughout the season. With vine tomatoes at my grocery store currently going for $.79 each, I'd say your tomato plants will give you a fairly good return.
Stay away from fruits and vegetables that are fragile, hard to take care of or simply aren't that expensive to buy, such as watermelons. Good options for planting are: tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash and peppers.
To stretch the dollar even further, look to your garden to replace prepackaged grocery items such as salsa, or flash freeze or can vegetables to have a summer harvest throughout the winter.
#4: LEARN TO COOK CHEAPER CUTS OF MEAT
Learning how to work with cheaper cuts of beef and poultry is a sure way to save on foods. There is quite a spread between the cheapest and most expensive cuts of beef and poultry at the grocery store, leaving many options in the middle:
- BEEF: beef liver $1.79/lb - filet mignon $16.99/lb
- PORK: picnic shoulder $1.69/lb - tenderloin $8.99/lb
- CHICKEN: roaster $.99/lb - thin-sliced cutlets $6.59/lb
The cost differential isn't always about the quality of the meat, as there are hidden labor costs as well. You pay more per pound for boneless and skinless chicken breasts than you do for whole chicken breasts that you can debone and skin yourself.
Working with cheaper cuts of meat and poultry may take special handling, particularly when buying cheaper cuts of beef which generally need to be marinated for several hours up to overnight to help break them down and make them tender. Here are a few recipes and ideas to get you started:
#5: DON'T' THROW IT OUT
Most people don't realize how much money they throw away every day in the kitchen. Here are a couple of tips to show you how food can also be recycled:
- If you've purchased or cooked a whole chicken or turkey, don't throw away the bones. Use them to make a giant pot of chicken stock that can be used in other recipes or become the basis of a future soup. The same goes for beef bones, etc.
- Leftover vegetable bits will also come in handy as you make stock. Toss in carrot tops, that half an onion in the fridge that's starting to dry out or the bottom of the celery stalks that you have no use for.
- Think compost. Lots of things that you toss out every day make wonderful fertilizer for your garden like egg shells, coffee grounds, etc.
- Many times I find myself making a recipe that calls only for egg whites or the yolks. Those egg whites are perfect for making meringue cookies, and the egg yolks will make a delicious creme brulee for dessert.
- Stale bread has a whole host of uses. You can make homemade croutons, bread crumbs or stuffing for a chicken or turkey.
#6: REDISCOVER BEANS
Beans are an affordable way to give your family good, healthy protein and still save on foods. If you purchase canned beans, they will generally run you about $.05 to $.06 per ounce. Dried beans are sometimes slightly higher at $.10 per ounce. If you're not a vegetarian and love your meat and poultry, use the beans to stretch what you're preparing -- less meat, more beans.
#7: DUPLICATE RESTAURANT FAVORITES AT HOME
This one isn't as tough as you think unless, of course, you want to duplicate Cinnabons or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. There are several websites who have made a business out of visiting popular restaurants and duplicating everything from their main dishes to their beverages. Try Top secret Copycat Recipes' site for starters.
#8: MAKE IT HOMEMADE TO SAVE ON FOODS
I'm not suggesting here that you should start baking bread every week (although it really is very simple and inexpensive if you have a bread machine). But there are a few things that we instinctively reach for on a store shelf that are simple to make and will save you some money by making them yourself.
If you're going homemade to save money, be smart in choosing what you will make. A can of whipped cream at the store will cost you about $2.50. A pint of heavy cream to make homemade whipped cream will also cost you $2.50. The quality might be better, but you're simply not saving yourself anything.
Mayonnaise, on the other hand, is a perfect example of improved quality and less money. A 16 ounce jar of Hellman's will cost you approximately $3.50. The same amount of homemade mayonnaise will cost you closer to $2.00.
A 20 ounce bag of frozen french fries will cost you $2.50 to $3.50 or more. A 5 pound bag of potatoes will run you about $3.00. Do the math. If you're a carboholic, 5 pounds of potatoes will make a heck of a lot of french fries, potato chips, mashed potatoes and potato skins! And if you're health conscious, you can make baked french fries to cut down on the oil.
More by this Author
Travel New England: Discover the most unique places to visit in Maine that are off the beaten path.
Delicious but easy Nutella recipes, including a dessert panini, won tons, crepes, croissants, s'mores and much more. Plenty of ideas to fulfill your chocolate-hazelnut obsession.
Visit Connecticut and discover a host of places to see and things to do that are just a little off the beaten path.