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Don't Let Today's Grocery Prices Bust Your Budget
by George Adcock
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

George Adcock is the author of three books on financial and estate planning, former editor of The Financial Planner magazine and of Pension World magazine, regular contributor to numerous financial journals.

Prices at the supermarket have soared in recent months due to increased transportation costs (gas prices), the use of corn for ethanol, and overseas demand for wheat, plus the weakness of the dollar. According to the Department of Agriculture, in 2006, we spent six percent of our income on groceries. Today, we are spending 13 percent.

And prices continue to rise. Eggs are up 40 percent and going higher. Milk is up 26 percent and rising. Vegetables are becoming untenable.

Yet, we can fight this food inflation with some smart shopping strategy. Here are some tips to help you cut that supermarket bill.

1. When a store has an item on sale for a significant savings, say $.49 for something that normally sells for $.89 or even $1.00 or more, buy as much as you can afford. This is easy with canned goods. They store for a long time. Meat is OK too. It will last in the freezer for much longer than the food police claim, so long as you freeze it immediately. Fish is not quite so easy. You can freeze it and keep it safely for up to a month, but beyond that is not recommended. Some sites recommend buying only frozen fish. We do not, unless you’re buying sushi grade. And since this is about saving money, we don’t think you’ll be doing that. Buy fresh and freeze it yourself. It tastes better, and you don’t know how long the frozen has been frozen. Even some vegetables can be frozen. Blanch them and they will freeze fine. This works well for asparagus, leafy greens, and a number of other veggies.

2. Don’t be afraid of meat that is not bright red. Quite often, stores will reduce the price significantly on beef that has darkened. But it is perfectly good. After all, many pay a premium for aged beef. And I’m sure you’ve bought ground beef that was bright red on the outside but inside was dark. But it was perfectly good wasn’t it? Pork and lamb also are still good if they’re right up on the sell by date. Not of course veal or especially chicken.

3. Brown eggs generally are cheaper than those pretty white ones we all buy. No one wants the brown ones. But guess what? They taste the same. Ignore the aesthetics and save a few pennies.

4. When possible prepare more than one meal from the ingredients at hand. This is particularly useful with items that don’t freeze well fresh. Once cooked they can be frozen, and you have a readymade meal that can be quickly zapped in the microwave or heated up in the oven.

5. Finally, don’t ignore the old tradition of clipping coupons. Many stores double your coupon savings at times, which can mean big savings. Just remember to use coupons only for those items you need and normally use. Your Sunday paper usually has inserts with coupons, and you can even get them online. Here are a few online sites:

Published: Jul 17,2008 13:57
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