According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2007 Consumer Expenditures survey, the average household spent $3,465 on food at home. That's quite the hefty annual grocery tab -- close to $300 a month.
Saving money on your very next trip to the supermarket needn't involve poring over the Sunday paper clipping coupons, or driving all around town to find the best price on frozen peas. Just remember these four simple tips to easily save as much as $100 on your shopping trip.
1. Use your cutting board to chop your grocery tab in half. Prechopped, presorted, prepackaged -- man, we're lazy … and it's costing us, too. When Consumer Reports sent two shoppers to the supermarket for the weekly basics, the one schooled on the cost of convenience rang up a tab that was $79 less.
The biggest budget-busters were bagged veggies ($11 versus $3 for au naturel broccoli bunches), single-serving containers ($9.90 for oatmeal envelopes versus $1.59 for the canister), and presliced cheese ($2 more per pound than having the deli guy work over a hunk of muenster). Food companies have jumped on the consumer-convenience bandwagon to reap huge profits, but that doesn't mean you should buy in.
Dust off the cutting board and colander, and stay away from the worked-over (and marked-up) grub. A few extra minutes of dicing and slicing are certainly worth $79 in savings.
2. Study the per-unit pricing tags taped to the shelves. There are those who keep color-coded files with meticulously clipped coupons indexed by category, retailer, and expiration date. And then there are the rest of us. The good news is that savings can be had even if you don't have a wallet full of coupons.
The secret to savings is to simply pay attention to per-unit pricing. And your grocer provides a handy cheat sheet right on the shelf. The bigger box of cereal is no bargain at $0.08 more per pound than the smaller one. And oh, the horror of the innocuous $1.39 20-ounce bottle of soda, when a few aisles away six 2-liter bottles cost just $5. That's $23.19 less than what you'd shell out for the same amount of pop in the smaller size.
If you are motivated to find coupons, the Web makes fast work out of finding coupons to use before you hit the grocery store's aisles. Try Coupons.com, CouponMountain.com, and CouponMom.com. To make the most of the discounts, check your store's website for double-coupon days, as well as restrictions on coupon use. Signing up for a store's loyalty program can amount to cash back, too. Cardholders get not only better deals on their current purchases, but also coupons worth cash off future trips.
3. Ignore the lure of name brands and go generic. Opting for store-brand items over name-brand ones can cut your supermarket tab by one-third or more. When Consumer Reports went shopping, it stuck to a store-brand shopping list and picked up chocolate-chip cookies, orange juice, frozen lasagna, raisin bran cereal, coffee, and peanut butter for about $24 -- nearly $10 less than what it would cost to buy name-brand fare.
4. Don't overbuy. Leftovers are great (I like day-two pizza), but waste isn't cool. One U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that Americans discard more than a pound of food a day. There are many tricks to keeping track of leftovers (with labels, for example, or a list on the front of the fridge), but you have to remember to actually consume the food before it spoils. On the front end, buying less, even if it means paying a little more per unit, may be financially worthwhile. So keep track of the waste, and adjust your meals and shopping plans accordingly.
Also, take stock of your fridge and experiment with a new recipe. Websites such as Allrecipes.com, Supercook.com, RecipeMatcher.com, and FoodieView.com allow you to input ingredients for a new recipe to try. Or you can simply type ingredients into your search bar, followed by "recipe" for more recipes. Maybe you can find a more creative use for that leftover chicken now.