If you do the grocery shopping for your household, it's no secret that the price of groceries has been skyrocketing. Food prices increased about five percent last year, and are expected to increase by the same amount this year. Farmers have been planting more corn than wheat to meet the increased demand for ethanol, causing wheat prices to shoot up in price. As a result, the cost of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in the past year.

The last time I increased my grocery budget was two years ago. My sons are still growing boys, and they started to eat adult-sized portions of food (they are teens). I raised my food budget from $125 every two weeks for four people to $200 every two weeks. Now, as a result of the rising costs of food, I have increased our food budget to $250 every two weeks. To me, this is almost conceding defeat. I pride myself on finding the absolute lowest prices on groceries. However, food prices have gone up across the board, even at the so-called discount grocers, like Aldi. I know that $31.25 per person per week for food is still a pretty good result (that's less than $4.50 per person, per day), but I still like to find the bargains. Despite the rising cost of food, there are still bargains to be had.

You Don't Have to Buy Groceries at a Grocery Store - Believe it or not, I do not buy most of my groceries at a grocery store. I buy them at dollar stores, where everything is, you guessed it, one dollar. I also shop for food at stores like Big Lots. You won't find produce, dairy or meats at these stores, but you can really stock up on canned and dry goods, as well as find cheap cleaning products, at these stores. If you haven't checked out the food selection at a dollar store, you should give it a try. There are a lot of store brands there, but there are a lot of name brand items there, too.

Speaking of Store Brands...they are usually just as good as the name brand items. In fact, many store brands are made by the same companies which produce the name brand items. They just slap a different label on the can. I have come across a couple of exceptions (I believe it was a can of clam chowder), but those are few and far between.

The Warehouse Stores Can Save You Money - Warehouse stores like Sam's Club and Costco have gotten a bad rap for being a waste of money. Who needs a five gallon jug of pancake syrup? However, if you shop smart, only stock up on what you can truly use, and avoid the non-food items, you can save a lot of money at a warehouse store. The trick is to check the unit price of the food you are buying. It is usually on the label on the shelf, underneath the total price for the food. The unit price gives you the price you are paying per ounce, per pound, per item, etc. Use your price book to keep track of the lowest prices in your area on the item you are purchasing. If the unit price at the warehouse store is lower than the unit price at your regular grocer, it's a good deal.

Use the "Per Pound" Method - There is a school of thought that you should never spend more than a dollar per pound for your food. I have not personally used this one myself. Where I live, you would be hard-pressed to find dairy or meat items for a dollar or less per pound. However, if you can find it for that price, buy it. It's a good deal.

Become a Coupon Clipper - Personally, I use coupons under certain circumstances. In order for me to clip and use coupons, it has to be:

- For an item I would normally buy anyway
- Used at a store which offers "double coupons"
- Used in conjunction with other sales

For example, I had a coupon for an item which normally costs $1.99. I have a coupon for 50 cents. I use the coupon on "double coupon" day, which saves me $1, and the item is on sale that week for 99 cents. I just got that item for free! Check out the Coupon Mom for additional coupon strategies.

Find the nearest Angel Food seller - On its surface, Angel Food Ministries looks like a food distribution network for low-income households. However, there are no income requirements, and they will sell food to anybody. The food is not free, but you can save about 50 percent on the cost of many food items contained in their food boxes. For about $25, I get a box of food each month which would normally cost me twice that much. Last month, my Angel Food box contained steak, chicken breasts, vegetables, and pasta. Not a bad deal at all.

By doing some pre-planning, checking out the sales circulars of grocery stores before you do your shopping, only buying things you need for your pre-planned menu, and using the strategies listed above, you can keep your food budget in check. I have increased my food budget twice...in six years. There are many times I am able to spend less than my food budget. Think of it as a challenge...with the result being you can take the extra money you save and invest it, knock out debt or put it in your child's college fund. That will give you some extra incentive to find those bargains. They are out there!

Do you have a way of saving money on your food budget not listed above? Share it in our comments section! Thanks!

3 comments

  1. chrissy // March 24, 2008 at 12:55 PM  

    We started the grocery gathering at becentsable.blogspot.com just for this reason. We work with 20 + blogs to help everyone save money on their grocery bill!

  2. Jenn // March 24, 2008 at 5:35 PM  

    I save money another two ways:

    Try to cut/eliminate meat. I make burritos and do mostly beans with some meat. If I used refried beans or black beans, pureed, my fussy daughters don't notice the beans. Substuting meat for beans for some meals can help you save money.

    Cut out prepared foods. This is hard for both working partners. There are some days when both my husband and I worked, the last thing I wanted to do was to make dinner. Now, I work from the home. Mondays are a very busy day and I have started trying to premake meals based on the sales. Cook once for several meals. Check out the book Frozen Assets written by Deborah Taylor-Hough. I made 26 meals last week that should last me the month with a few fill ins.

    Sorry for the long post.

    Jenn in Michigan

  3. SavvyFrugality // March 24, 2008 at 9:53 PM  

    Those are some great ideas, Jenn! My wife does not work, so we do eat a lot of meals made from scratch, which is a lot cheaper than buying prepared convenience foods, although it does take longer. We want to try the "cook for a day, eat for a month" method, but we need to buy a bigger freezer!

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