Here’s a memorable government statistic on the state of the American family: The average American family (which consists of 2.5 people, and makes a sum of money each year that’s just short of $65,000) spends nearly $6,500 on food each year – or, $1 out of every $10 they make. This family also walks around with thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and pays $750 a year in interest, penalties and fees. If only there were way for those families to eat as well as they have been doing, but only do it for 10% less, they could cover those credit card overheads with no effort. So here are some ways to save money, tips on supermarket shopping methods that should help you free up that 10% for other kinds of expenses, and complement your couponing prowess.
To begin with, you need to be looking for things to buy that’ll help you cook from scratch. There was a survey a few years ago in the Washington Post that found that people who struggle with very low income levels tend to spend a disproportionately large part of their incomes on ready-made processed supermarket foods. In the section where the article discussed ways they could save money, tips they offered pointed out that they cooking from scratch could help their financial lives immeasurably. Cooking at home is far less expensive, and far healthier. Whatever assistance the processed food aisle provides at meal time, there is a hefty charge for it that they add on – for ready-grated cheese, pre-sliced pickles, diced chicken, bread crumbs, you name it. If for instance, you pass over the regular rice for the boil-in-the-bag, you could pay several times the cost of regular rice. The same goes for the new “microwaveable bags” of frozen vegetables. Save money and carcinogens by buying larger bags of veggies and nuking them on non-reactive glass or ceramic plates and bowls.
If you are thinking about how to visit the supermarket and save money, tips that will really make a difference will almost always mean changing well-entrenched habits. For instance, if it’s a family tradition to go all together to the supermarket to stock up for the week because it’s fun for the kids to ride shopping carts in the aisles, that could easily work against you; lots of people end up picking expensive snacks a lot of the time because their kids are right there, and they insist. Leaving the kids behind can be a difficult habit to start though. How about buying bottled water? To some people, this super-expensive supermarket habit is really all about feeling good about life, feeling pampered; it’s a habit that has to go. Paying two dollars for a couple glasses of water that should be free can quickly add up. If it’s about purity for you, consider investing in an under-sink reverse osmosis filter. It’s what Mr. Wonderful and I have, and it actually does pay for itself over its lifetime (not to mention keeping oodles of bottles out of landfills!). And of course there is the big one, eating less meat. Vegetable protein is much healthier (meaning fewer medical bills); and it’s cheaper to boot.
No save-money tips list would be complete without a creative set of suggestions on changing things around in the kitchen. A lot of waste, for instance, occurs through badly preserved leftovers. Easily spoiled stuff like sour cream needs to be stored in kitchen containers. It’ll keep longer. It’s easy to leave cookies and the like lying about in their store packaging; it takes effort to find a jar to put them in; but they will retain their taste longer this way. If you have half-used semi-hard cheese rolling about in one of the shelves in your fridge door, lightly coat the open end with butter to keep it from going moldy. And sometimes, you could save money altering recipes and substituting expensive stuff for similar tasting cheap stuff – carrots for zucchini for instance. You can also use less cheese in a recipe without changing the way it tastes. Recipes will often round out measures to make it easier on the cook. So you could make changes without changing anything important. The bottom line is that if you wish to save, money tips to do with being more responsible are hard. Changing comfortably entrenched habits can be the difficult; but it could be an investment in your health and your pocketbook that make the effort seem worth it.
P.S. I didn’t want you to think that I had forgotten the Sunday Coupon Inserts…they’re coming soon!
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