Like a crock of good sauerkraut or a jar of homemade sourdough starter, thoughts about how to save money on food have been bubbling away in the back of my brain for some months now. With four-buck gas and milk both in the rear view mirror, many of us are tightening our belts, some for the first time.
In a series of posts over the next few weeks, I'll share many hard-hitting, direct "do this" tips about how to save money on groceries. Please know that I know:
- Some tips will fit some circumstances, others won't.
- Some tips will be immediately obvious, some may require contemplation.
- Some tips will be easy, some may be difficult to (ahem) swallow, harder still to make happen.
Please know: I do not intend to tell someone how to live her life, nor do I pretend to understand the challenges and circumstances that guide each person's decisions. Even so, some of my ideas that follow, even to me, sound a little more than 'preachy'. I use stark "do this" language in order to challenge the conventional wisdom, to get us all to think, me included. My own practices are far from perfect, I have much to learn.
Please know: I think the modern food distribution system is a marvel, one that delivers fresh, safe food 99.999% of the time, mitigates the risk of regional food shortages, and provides consumers with many food choices. In many of the money-saving tips that follow, supermarkets sound like the 'enemy'. They're not. But as consumers, we must vote with our dollars and our feet -- and yes, as here, with our voices -- what we want from our stores. Grocers are good marketers, they'll adjust.
Please know: There are many reasons to shop/not to shop at certain stores and certain kinds of stores. I'm concentrating on just three: cost, value and nutrition for the individual household. I recognize that others may well build in other factors: proximity; ownership; selection; labor practices; fair trade; environment; etc. I applaud these personal choices! Still, know that for the purposes of this post, I've elected to not pass judgment on such trade-offs.
Please know: All that aside, if we really want to save money on food, we've got to change our habits. It's that whole rat-in-a-maze business: when the rat follows the same path, it ends up blocked in the same corner, again and again. But when it tries new routes -- hey, jumps the maze entirely -- it finds the cheese. Not that I'm calling any of us 'rats' ;-) ...
Okay, here we go. Take a deep breath and let's settle in for some hard talk about how to save money on groceries. I'm breaking the tips up into several posts over a few weeks.
HOW to SAVE MONEY on GROCERIESThe Introduction (you're here)
Part One - Frugal Eating Starts in Our Heads
Part Two - Frugal Food Shopping Requires a Plan
Part Three - Finally, How to Shop Wisely for Groceries
Part Four - Investing in the Future (coming soon)
Part Five - Reader Tips & More Resources (coming soon)
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As the daughter of a woman who grew up poor and remained thrifty to her core even when finances were comfortable, I've spent my life watching food prices. In my 20s, I calculated that a sack of groceries cost about $10. In my 30s, I realized that my morning coffee 'n' bagel ritual was a $1000 a year habit. In my 40s, I watched in horror as the price of a dozen eggs jumped from $.99 to $2.79 and my favorite cottage cheese from $1.78 to $3.35 even if it goes on sale occasionally for $1.99. This year, for the first time, I'm writing about the direction that my internal shopping compass points week in and week out.