SUPERMARKET SWEEP: Save money with tips from NDSU food specialistShopping trips are becoming more and more expensive because prices of many household items continue to rise. There are strategies to help combat the increase in prices before you go shopping and while you’re at the store.
By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald
Shopping trips are becoming more and more expensive because prices of many household items continue to rise.
The grocery store is no exception as the average price of food has increased by 5.4 percent from last year, according to the Consumer Price Index released by the USDA.
Luckily, there are strategies to help combat the increase in prices before you go shopping and while you’re at the store.
Planning your meals in advance will help shape your grocery list. Only buying items on the list will cut out nonessential purchases.
Julie Garden-Robinson, a NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist, recommends using sales ads when making a list. Clipping coupons for items you need also is a good idea, but be sure the coupons are for items you will use.
Organizing meals in advance also provides other benefits.
“Planning meals cuts down on impulse trips to restaurants where food is more expensive,” Garden-Robinson said.
Don’t feel like cooking after you come home from work? Avoid the cost of going out for food by investing in a slow cooker. You can place ingredients in the cooker before work, and a meal will be waiting for you when you get home.
Before you go to the store, take an inventory of what is in the fridge and cupboards. Also be sure to rotate your food stock, placing the oldest food in the front and newest food behind it, said Garden-Robinson. This will help keep food from going bad before you have an opportunity to eat it.
“A lot of people lose track of what they have and don’t find it until it’s spoiled,” Garden-Robinson said.
Freezer items should be included in the rotation process as well. Over time, food items such as meat will begin to dehydrate in the freezer, leading to “freezer burn.” Food that has suffered freezer burn is still safe to eat, but its quality has been reduced. As long as food remains solidly frozen during storage it should be safe to eat once thawed or cooked, Garden-Robinson said.
Garden-Robinson also says people should not shop when hungry or tired. Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to overspending. Drowsy shopping can lead to you place more convenience food in your shopping cart, which tends to be more expensive and is often less nutritious, Garden-Robinson said.
Once you arrive at the store, avoid samples. Studies have indicated that 50 percent to 75 percent of shoppers purchase food they sample, Garden-Robinson said.
“It’s a marketing strategy that works very well,” she added.
Knowing the layout of the store will also save you some change. Staple food items like bread, meat, milk and produce are usually located on the outer edge of the store. If you need to visit the center aisles, go down only the ones that include items on your list to avoid impulse purchases.
Remember that store brands are often lower in price than name brands, but are similar in quality.
Also compare unit prices. Most stores list these on price tags. Sometimes, bulk items may be cheaper per unit than regular-sized items. But you should consider all your options. If you buy the bigger size you may be paying less per unit, but will you use all the product?
“They (bulk items) may appear as a bigger bargain than they really are,” Garden-Robinson said.
Looking up and down shelves will also help save you money. Higher-priced items may be placed at eye-level in an attempt to get customers to grab them.
Finally, before you leave the store, be sure to check your receipt. Mistakes happen, and the cost of improperly rung up items or sales and coupons that were not applied can add up.
Click here for more tips about saving money and buying, storing and preparing food.
Reach Jewett at (701) 787-6736; (800) 477-6572, ext. 2736; or send email to email@example.com.