Does slashing $1,000 from your annual grocery tab seem all but impossible? It does sound rather aggressive when expressed in annual terms. So how about $20 a week? Now that’s doable! Spend just $20 less each week at the supermarket, and in a year you’ll have $1,000 tax-free to spend some other way.
The secret to finding that $20 is to regularly cut a little bit here, make a small adjustment there — a dollar here, five bucks there. Be consistent, even when the effort seems worthless. Little things do add up. I promise.
Be an early bird. Meat managers chop the price of meat, fish and poultry when expiration dates are imminent. Dented cans, really ripe produce and other cosmetically challenged items find their way to deeply discounted salvage bins. Ask your store’s personnel when markdowns are made, then time your trips accordingly so you’re first in line to scoop up the bargains.
Caution: To be on the safe side, always freeze meat bargains within 24 hours if not consumed. Recently I paid $2.47 for a package of six pork chops marked down from $6.77 because it was the “sell by” date; $.40 each for beat-up cans of chicken noodle soup which when perfect are $.89.
Switch to store brands. These days, store brands are often the same as the national brand, only the label and price are different. They’re cheap not because they are inferior, but because there are no advertising costs to tack on.
The price difference can be remarkable. Check out these examples: English muffins: National brand 6/$4.29; Store brand 6/$2. Cheddar cheese: National brand $6.08/lb.; Store brand $3.58/lb. Coffee: National Brand $9.89/12 oz.; Store brand $6.99/12 oz.
Make the switch when available. And if it turns out you just can’t stand the store brand? Return the unused portion to the supermarket for a refund.
Think meatless. It takes only a small attitude adjustment to think of meat as a side dish or ingredient rather than the entree. Or occasionally skip it altogether in favor of beans, rice, eggs or cheese.
For example, a package of four boneless, skinless chicken breasts is regularly priced about $7, or $1.75 each, at my local market. Serving one per person represents a total meal meat cost of $5. Or one breast sliced and saut￩ed with lots of fresh vegetables served over pasta or rice or in omelets feeds four and drops that meat cost to just $1.75. That simple trick represents a net savings of $5.75 for that one meal.
And now for the biggest tip of all: Eat at home more often. The average American family spends $2,700 a year eating out. That’s over what they spend on groceries. Reduce your restaurant meals by half, and use that money instead to buy that new sofa or take a great family vacation!
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.