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Easy Grocery Shopping Strategies

Escalating food costs are encouraging many consumers to rethink their grocery shopping habits in terms of saving more money, maximizing efficiency and generally becoming more knowledgeable and effective in the process.

Plan Your Grocery Shopping Ahead Of Time

1. It always pays to plan ahead. Review weekly store flyers. Peruse the website of your favorite supermarket for ideas on menu planning, special promotions and offers. Know the weekly specials in advance. Make note of double coupon advertisements.

2. Plan your weekly menu by utilizing at least a few of your favorite staple ingredients. Incorporate some of the weekly store specials into your menu. This can curb unnecessary food expenses.

3. When making your grocery list, do not include detergents and household products. Focus on grocery items only as it will give you a more realistic appraisal of your food costs. Group items by category in your list.

4. Avoid duplicate purchases by checking the contents of your kitchen cupboards and refrigerator. Be sure to examine the refrigerator crisper drawers. More money is wasted on perishable produce than just about anything else.

5. Review and organize your coupons. Go through your grocery list and match the coupons to the items accordingly.

6. Have a small snack before going to supermarket (if necessary). Supermarkets along with drugstores are notable places for “impulse” shopping. Avoid going to the supermarket when you are hungry. You are less likely to waste time and money at the bakery or deli.

7. Take along your grocery price book (if applicable) and a personal calculator. Some consumers find that they can still save money without a price book.

8. Compile at least an initial, approximate cost of your groceries. Make an effort to stay within your weekly budget.

Supermarket Tips

1. Study the layout of the supermarket and how products are organized. The supermarket entrance requires careful maneuvering as it is loaded with "impulse" buys and of course, that is where the fresh produce is located. Avoid the counters and colorful displays stocked with more expensive specialty or processed foods. Also, avoid the middle aisles that feature prepackaged foods and snacks. It is more economical to cook from scratch. Products placed at end aisles may not necessarily be a bargain.

2. Do not shop at peak times at the supermarket.

3. Weigh your produce and tally the cost before you go to the checkout.

4. Review your grocery list. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket first for your staples such as dairy products and fresh produce.

5. Reach for the shelves. Avoid shelves that are within easy reach. Look at the products that are on the higher and lower shelves. You may find some surprising bargains based on unit cost or some other variable.

6. Pay attention to the unadvertised specials and loss leaders, even if the items are not on your grocery list. You can use the opportunity to stock up.

7. Evaluate unit pricing for the item in question. Buying in bulk is often recommended as a money-saving strategy. However, in some cases, it can be a waste of money, not to mention food. Consider frequency of use and storage space when purchasing items in bulk.

8. Emphasize value over convenience. Buy block cheese as opposed to grated cheese. Try not to rely on bagged salads. Purchase fresh or frozen foods rather than canned. Become more proactive about nutrition. Read the label of every item. Note the sell-by-date. Organic is not necessarily better or more nutritious, although generally, it certainly is more expensive. Determine which organic foods make sense for you and your budget.

9. Consider purchasing more store brands and seasonal foods for additional savings.

10. Carefully review the prices for carbonated beverages. In some cases, buying carbonated beverages and even milk can be cheaper at large chain drugstores. However, one has to weigh the trade-offs in terms of convenience and transportation costs. How much time do you want to spend hunting for bargains?

11. Check your cart before going to the checkout. Do you have most of the items on your grocery list? How many “impulse” buys did you accumulate? Examine the food you have in your cart. Do you have a lot of junk food, some of which you could do without? Any duplicate or extra purchases? Do you need several flavors or brands of instant coffee and ground coffee? Do a quick preliminary estimate of the total cost of your groceries.

12. At the checkout lane, have your coupons ready, observe the scanner and avoid the "impulse" buys such as candy and magazines. Inquire about any store “rewards” savings.

13. Review your grocery bill promptly for any errors.

14. Pay only in cash. This is the easiest way to avoid overspending.

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