By Samantha Kennedy
UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
10 Tips for Stretching Your Grocery Dollars
Everyone needs to eat, and especially in these tight economic times, everyone wants to make their food dollars stretch even farther. How does one make that happen? By following these ten tips for getting the most bang out of each food buck.
- Make a list and stick to it. Grocery shopping with a list will help reduce food costs by eliminating the purchase of unnecessary “impulse buys.” Make sure the list is complete, including both food and non-food items, and only buy what is on it to help reduce unnecessary spending.
- Never shop hungry. Eating something before grocery shopping curbs cravings and helps reduce the likelihood of straying from the list. A growling tummy can be hard to ignore when surrounded by shelves of pricey convenience foods, which can lead to extra spending.
- Buy store brands. Brand names usually cost much more than their generic counterparts. Compare labels and ingredients to learn just how similar store brands are to their costlier cousins and substitute generic whenever possible to save money.
- Check unit prices. Shelf tags will often list the cost of each product per ounce. By taking an extra moment to compare unit prices, it is easy to determine which product is the best value for its size and price. Bulk items are not always the most economical, so compare carefully.
- Clip coupons. Coupons can be a great way to save money on groceries if they are used correctly. However, do not buy a product just because you have a coupon for it. If it is something you will definitely use or something you would have bought anyway, then a coupon can be a money-saver. Otherwise, the money spent needlessly and is a bad deal even with the discounted price.
- Prepare meals from scratch. It may seem counterintuitive, but purchasing staple ingredients such as rice, pasta, and spices which can be used to create home-cooked meals is less expensive in the long run than buying meal kits and prepared foods. Potential savings in time is costing more since prepared foods cost much more per unit than staples.
- Choose the store with the best prices. Groceries are available at a variety of different places, but not all stores are created equal. Larger supermarkets can purchase merchandise in larger quantities and may offer products to the consumer at a lower price. Small convenience stores usually charge more for the same items.
- Review the pantry. Before shopping, check to see what is on hand to avoid unnecessary spending on duplicate items. Unless the item is past its expiration date, is spoiled, or contaminated by pests, it does not need to be replaced.
- Follow the seasons. Having a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available all year-round is terrific, however many of these items are out of season locally at different times of the year. That means they have been imported from other states or countries, adding to their cost. By sticking to produce which is in season locally, money will be saved.
- Banish the bottles. Bottled water is nearly 300 times more expensive per gallon than tap water. By purchasing a refillable filtered pitcher and using reusable water bottles, savings can amount to hundreds of dollars a year and reduce the amount of waste going into the landfills.
For more tips like these, please call Samantha Kennedy at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Service at (850) 926-3931.