by Maureen Bennie
Budget grocery shoppers know the tricks to save money at the grocery store: buy in bulk, look for sales in flyers and newspapers, use coupons, and buy generic brands. But the best ways to save is through a savvy grocery list. Getting to know what to put on your shopping list and which things to avoid can lead to grocery savings.
Bake Don't Buy
Buying prepackaged baked goods or fresh bakery items are more costly than making them yourself. Too scared to bake? Follow simple recipes to build your confidence. Read the instructions first, gather the ingredients, and then measure them. With muffins and quick breads, the rule is to mix dry and wet ingredients separately then combine them with very little stirring. Flour, sugar, oats, bran, nuts, chocolate chips and raisins can be purchased in bulk and used to make all kinds of things such as cookies, squares, muffins, and loaves. Double recipes where you can and freeze portions for later.
Make Salad Dressings, Dips, and Salsas
There is nothing to making your own salad dressing. Have on hand a variety of oils and flavored vinegar, dried herbs, and garlic. Mix them together, and presto, you have a salad dressing. Dressings are simple to make from recipe books and can double as marinades for meat and vegetables. If you own a food processor, dips and salsas take just minutes to prepare. Making these yourself will save you big dollars over buying them off the shelf or at the deli counter and there will be no additives or preservatives.
Forget about Fresh
We are a society that is convinced that day old food is no good. Day old bread is generally half price at a minimum. If you don't mind toasting it, you can save in a big way. Take a second look at fruits and veggies past their prime and use them for baking or in soups and stews.
Only Buy In-Season Produce
Sticking with in-season produce throughout the year can add up to significant savings. It's fine to treat yourself to an out of season craving, but it's crazy to buy asparagus or strawberries regularly during winter. You can still enjoy out of season produce by buying either frozen or canned. Think about stocking up on your favorite fruits and vegetables when they are in-season and freeze or can them to enjoy all year long.
Look High and Low
Grocery stores display items that sell the least on the higher and lower shelves. These items are cheaper because the consumer does not pay for their advertising budget. Discontinued items are often in this area as well. Crouching or standing on tiptoes could lead to big savings.
There is a wonderful lady named Linda Cobb who has written three books about cleaning. She has been on the Oprah show peddling her ideas on how to clean things without using pricey cleaners. She uses vinegar, baking soda, WD-40, lemon juice, tea, and club soda. Her book Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean: Second Edition is full of great cleaning and caring hints for your household items for pennies. Commercial cleaners are not only expensive but are hard on humans and the environment.
Having two meatless meals a week saves money. If you think meatless means tasteless foods or weird ingredients, think again. Black beans, chickpeas, or kidney beans along with an assortment of vegetables make good soups, chili, taco fillings, or fajitas. Eggs can be used for omelets stuffed with cheese and veggies, quiche, or tortilla which is baked eggs and fillings. Add tofu for protein in a vegetarian stir-fry. Make pesto sauce from fresh basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and pine nuts and toss with your favorite pasta. Pick up a good vegetarian cookbook such as The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen to find tasty vegetarian recipes. Substituting meat twice a week will also cut saturated fat intake.
Get your children used to drinking diluted fruit juices. They don't need all that sugar. If you buy drink mixes, add more water than suggested in small amounts. The taste does not suffer. The cheapest way to buy juice is frozen concentrate and mix it yourself. A cheap way to make iced tea is to let sunshine do the work. Fill a clear pitcher with 6 cups of cold water, add 4 to 6 tea bags and place the pitcher in a sunny place for several hours. Add ice cubes and fresh squeezed lemon juice for taste.
Next time before heading to the grocery store, make a list of what to look for. Comb different recipe books for the ideas mentioned above and include the ingredients on your list. With this new grocery shopping mind-set, you'll be on your way to big savings.
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