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Saving Cents at the Store

Chipping away at the high price of food.

In a typical family’s budget, the cost of groceries ranks near the top of monthly expenses, usually only outpaced by housing and childcare costs. Food is expensive and prices in this economy continue to rise.

In our family, I find saving money on groceries to be a challenge. On the one hand, I know there is money to be saved by shopping smart. On the other hand, life is busy and time is tight. Do I really want to spend my days clipping coupons and schlepping from store to store trying to score the biggest deal?

I think I’ve found a middle ground. While I certainly will never be on an episode of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing,” I have narrowed the process down to a few tips that work well for our family:

1. Shop for non-perishables. Since expanding their grocery section at most of their stores, I’ve found Target is significantly less expensive than standard grocery stores for staples such as cereal, peanut butter and coffee. Plus, picking these items up at Target means I get to browse other sections of the store regularly, such as their great selection of home goods and clothing for kids.

2. Hit the grocery store for everything else. It seems to vary widely where I purchase our perishables. Some weeks I head to while other weeks I shop at . I haven’t noticed a huge difference in prices on produce at either store. I’m not a regular shopper of farmers markets and I’ve never participated in a CSA, which could offer additional savings.

3. I definitely expend the extra brain cells and try to determine what size of a specific product represents the best value. Hint: It’s not always the biggest! Whether it’s diapers or toothpaste or Cheerios, I make sure I’m buying the quantity that, ultimately, is least expensive.

4. I create the basis for my weekly grocery list from store ads. I look up the circular for Target each week online to see what’s on sale. I do the same for the grocery store. The key for us is to only purchase products that our family will use. I never buy something just because it’s a good deal. If it goes to waste, any monetary savings is lost.

5. Lastly, I plan meals for the week based on what’s on sale. Sometimes it’s something extra delicious, like portabella mushroom burgers, while other days it’s rather mundane, such as baked potatoes and a salad. Meal planning ensures we use up the food we’ve purchased on sale.

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