My friend Amy moved out of the city just as food prices jumped. Even though she visits the city often, between two small children and working at home she found it more convenient to shop locally. She called me because realized her food bill has gotten out of hand. She wasn’t fully aware of how much she was paying for her food, and needed ideas.
Here are my suggestions:
- Start a price book. A price book can be a simple notebook with a page for each category: Dairy, canned goods, produce, paper goods, and so on. Keep your receipts and write down how much you paid for the items you normally buy, with a column for each store. Keep track of brand and package size, as manufacturers can shrink packages without warning.
Some people think they are good at remembering prices. That may be true for things bought regularly, but you have to have a phenomenal memory to remember the price of the four-liter bottle of cleaner you bought last year. A price book alerts you to a bargain so you can stock up, and warns you when a store raises prices.
- Rotate stores. You don’t need to go to every store every week. Let’s say that Store A has inexpensive pasta but expensive tomato sauce, while Store B has the opposite. Buy a few weeks, or months, worth of pasta when you are in the neighborhood. You can do the same for tomato sauce at Store B. If you’re low on pasta just buy enough at Store B to last until you can get to the first store. Or better yet, check if rice is cheaper and skip the pasta. Save gas by stretching out store visits.
- Keep an eye on your pantry. Take note when you are down to a couple of bags of pasta. Running to the store costs money and time. If you know you will need the pasta in the next couple of weeks you can combine your trip to Store A (see above) with other errands. And if a neighbor offers to pick up something, you can quickly make a list.
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