Easy Ways to Save Money on Food Purchases

By William J. Thomas

The Feds have a neat way of playing with the statistics to try and convince us that the cost of goods is going up a little bit instead of a lot when they release their Consumer Price Index figures WITHOUT the cost of food and energy! Huh? For all of us living in the real world, we know just how much prices are going up, and unlike the government, we can't just exclude food and energy from our budgets. Since we can't eliminate food costs simply by moving it to another column, it is imperative to try and save money on this necessary expense, and this article looks at several easy ways to help reduce our food costs.

One of the easiest ways to save money on food is by simply being organized. When making up a list of items to be purchased, I always go through the ads to see who has what on sale, and when. You'll be amazed at how much you can save just by spending a little time looking at the Sunday ads, and seeing who has the best prices on items that you need. After making your list of stores to visit, set up a route and hit all of the stores in an orderly fashion purchasing the items on sale at each store. Don't just look at the food stores either, but look at places like drug stores who often discount many food items as 'loss leaders' to draw people into their store. After a while, you'll get a good feel for which stores have great deals on certain items, and when the items tend to go on sale. Another benefit of hitting several stores at a time is that you'll spend less time running to the stores, and use less gas in the process, saving you more money.

Another easy way to save lots of money is by belonging to one of the Wholesale clubs like Costco or B.J.'s. Don't let the idea of a membership fee keep you from belonging to at least one of these places because you'll more than make up for it in savings. The problem many people have with these type of stores is the fact that you have to buy everything in such large quantities. While this may be an issue for items like meat and other perishable foods, you can definitely save lots of money by buying non-perishables like canned goods, paper items, and many other things that have a long shelf life. If you do a co-op with a family member or friend, you can even split the purchases and the cost.

Like many people, I used to have an aversion to clipping coupons. However, my attitude about coupon clipping changed one day when I watched a woman in front of me purchase a cart full of groceries for about $17. She was an expert at using coupons to save money. If you really want to get serious about saving money with coupons, you have to be organized and only clip coupons that you're going to use. With the advent of the Internet, you can even print a lot of coupons online. A couple of sites that allow you to do this are coolsavings.com and coupons.com. Many stores also match manufacturers coupons, saving you twice as much on an item. While using coupons can save you a great deal of money, be aware of the prices of the items you're purchasing and compare them with the other brands. Although large name brand manufacturers offer coupon discounts more often than local brands, the name brand prices can be much higher, negating much of your savings. Be smart and compare.

There are some other things you can do to save money while in the store. First, avoid impulse buying. Stores place certain higher profit items at strategic places in the store, increasing the likelihood of your purchasing them. Be aware of this, and keep your hands in your pockets. Also, leaving the kids at home while shopping for food will likely decrease your impulse purchases since few parents can long resist the screaming of children wanting everything they see. Also you'll save a good bit of money by avoiding the junk or processed foods. These foods offer the most profit for stores and therefore are pushed at advertised overloaded consumers. Avoid the aisles that offer all of these 'goodies' and you'll save lots of money and your waistline.

While there are few absolutes in life, the need for food and the likelihood of this commodity continuing to increase are about as certain as death and taxes. Since none of us live in the make believe world of government statistics, it's a good idea to try and save a bit of money on this necessity whenever possible. Try implementing some of the tips mentioned here, and use your imagination to come up with some of your own.