Stretch Your Food Budget

July 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Food prices have hit the highest annual increase in almost 20 years last year and they're expected to rise even higher this year. Even staples like butter and flour seem to cost a small fortune these days.A supermarket flier can be a good starting point for bargains, but Tod Marks of Consumer Reports says you have to know how to spot the sale items. "Supermarket fliers are powerful selling tools. The items featured prominently on the front page are almost always on sale, but you've got to be really careful about the prices of goods on the interior pages. That's because manufacturers sometimes simply pay for the privilege of advertising, and there's no sale price involved."

Here's how to navigate to save. Don't assume items at the end of aisles are always on sale. They're put there to get shoppers to buy more of them. And while single-serving packages are usually more expensive, keep in mind that buying bigger quantities isn't always cheaper.

"In fact, a study showed that 25 percent of the time, the smaller size actually cost less. Let's take this example of tuna fish. The larger size cost five-dollars and five-cents a pound, but the smaller size actually cost only four dollars and 25 cents a pound," says Marks.

And depending on where you find an item, it can cost more or less. For example, cheese at the deli counter might be pricier than cheese in the dairy case one week, then less expensive the next.

Other things to consider, "You'll almost always pay more for convenience. Let's look at the watermelon here. This chunk variety of watermelon cost 99-cents a pound compared to the cut up variety, $2.99 a pound," says Marks.

You can also save money by going online to coolsavings.com and smartsource.com for a high-tech twist on old-fashioned coupon clipping. But first double check your grocery store accepts these coupons

And use preferred-shopper store cards in order to get discounts automatically ? No coupons needed. With the cost of food going up and up and up, a little extra effort could take your food dollars a lot further.


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