Stretch Your Food Dollars

When Therese Swinehart browses the aisles at "The Market" in Northwest Fresno, she's much more money conscious: "Oh very much so, I'm looking more closely at the prices and labels."

The Market's general manager Bruce Christensen says if shoppers know where to look, they can find some real deals: "You'll see our ad and I feel very confident that we have the best prices in Fresno. I used to see people literally just buy whatever caught their attention, you're seeing a lot more where they're shopping specials. Christensen suggests looking online too … The Market ( and many others are now using the internet to advertise their specials.

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

And once you get to the store, don't just browse aimlessly. Shop with a focus. Says Christensen: "As a grocer, I like people who don't have a list and they're hungry. That's the best as far as I'm concerned, but if you truly want to stick to a budget, make a list, stick to your list."

And here's how to navigate to save: don't assume items at the end of aisles are always on sale. They're often 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. So take a calculator along. Consumer Reports Tod Marks points out, "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."

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. Chunk variety of watermelon cost 99-cents a pound compared to the cut up variety, $2.99 a pound.

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.

Coupon Mom Stephanie Nelson's Tips for Novice Couponers:

Know how your stores' coupon policies work. Ask if they double coupons.

Wait to use grocery coupons when the item is on sale. You might get the item free!

Buy two to three copies of the Sunday newspaper to load up on grocery coupons.

Print free coupons from coupon Web sites. Also download electronic coupons to your loyalty card from store sites such as

Be brand-flexible. Buy the brand that's on sale with a coupon, or get the store brand if it's less expensive.

Sign up for your store's loyalty card and provide complete mailing information. You'll get special store coupons.

Know the usual prices for your regular items and stock up when they're discounted.

Shop once a week or less to reduce impulse shopping. Plan your week's meals around your store's sale items.

Be flexible about your store choices. Check ads for area stores and shop at the one with the best deals on your items that week.

Use the drugstore savings programs. Combine sale prices, store coupons and automatic rebates to get free merchandise every week.

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