Grocery Shopping 101

By Jill McKenzie

March 29, 2016 6:00 AM

The cost of food keeps rising, so how can we spend less in the grocery store?
Here are some strategies to help you when buying food:
• Set a monthly budget and use a menu-plan and shopping list to help you stay within it.
The outer perimeter of the grocery store has the most nutritious food — be efficient and avoid temptation by preparing your shopping list according to where things are in the store.
Avoid the junk food aisles altogether, and never shop hungry.
If your kids pester you for treats or talk you into extra spending, try to leave them home.
• Know the prices of things you buy regularly so that you can stock up when they are on special. Did you know the highest priced name brands are usually shelved at eye-level? Look above and below for cheaper varieties of the same thing — take a chance on generic store brand products and see what you think.
• Read the nutritional labels and compare fibre, salt and added sugars to be sure you are buying the healthiest food. Go for whole grains and reduced sugar wherever possible. Compare prices by cost per weight. Most stores break down the cost per 100 grams, so don’t be fooled by packaging that makes the product look bigger.
• Use coupons wisely: manufacturer’s and in-store coupons help you save, but not if you won’t use it or don’t need it. No matter where you shop, get the store rewards card or a Co-op number and use these faithfully. You are already spending the money, collect the benefits coming to you.
• Watch for specials on meat and buy extra (especially if you have a freezer). Frozen fruit is cheaper and can be used in smoothies and desserts; frozen or canned vegetables are quick and easy to prepare. Dried beans can be soaked overnight then cooked, and there are many recipes online for fish casseroles or patties to use up cans of fish that can be very affordable.
• Check your fridge daily for things that might go to waste and use them up in soups or casseroles, or freeze them for later.
• When cooking, double the amount and freeze half for later to avoid picking up take-out or ordering in.
• Reintroduce yourself to that crockpot or bread maker if you have them. Cooking from scratch can save.
• Now is a good time to stop buying single-use items that are bad for the environment and hard on your wallet. Disposable cleaning clothes, paper towels, coffee pods, paper plates etc are costly and unnecessary.
• Mop the floor with a mop rather than the wet cloths that cost you money. Wash and reuse your own cleaning rags, dust clothes and dishes. You can use vinegar and baking soda to clean most things in your home and Google recipes to make your own laundry soap.
• Take your own cloth shopping bags to the grocery store and cut down on the amount of plastic headed for the landfill.
• Go green and save money! How much money do you spend on the children’s version of everyday products? Hand soap, tooth brushes and paste, mouthwash, flossers, individual sized yogurt, juice, cheese sticks and the like, all cost more and are marketed to your children using cartoon characters.
• Don’t buy anything “kid’s sized” for a month and see if you actually miss it or need it.
• Use bars of soap rather than the more expensive body washes and hand soaps.
• Dig through drawers and closets in your home and see what you have that you can use up without buying anything at all. Being prepared can save you money. Don’t get caught running to the gas station late at night for batteries, toilet paper, light bulbs or similar items.
The cost at convenience stores is prohibitive and a bit of planning on your part can save a lot.
Compare prices — sometimes light bulbs are cheaper at a hardware store and pet food can be much less at the farm supply.
Step out of your routine and try another grocery store when there are specials and definitely check the weekly flyers for deals.
Watch the register to be sure items ring in at the advertised price.
Weigh fruit and bulk items so you’re not surprised at the cost, and check your receipt before leaving the store.
Accidents like being charged twice or a wrong price are hard to prove once you’ve left the building.
Add up the cost as you shop before entering the check out, look through the cart and remove any impulsive, full priced items.
Ask at the store how often things go on sale and buy extra then.
Keep your grocery receipts and give yourself a pat on the back when you notice a reduction in spending.

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