Your Best Shopping Advice: Groceries

Shop To It is about to celebrate its first birthday and in that time readers have posted lots of suggestions on many different topics, from how to update rooms in our homes to which grocery stores have the best deals. That's exactly what this blog is about. Sharing ideas about what works and what doesn't. So keep posting. You don't even have to include your name, just your wise advice. Here are my favorite reader tips on buying food:

  • Buy in bulk and freeze as much as you can. Cook planned meals and get creative with left-over vegetables and whatever else may be laying around. We tend to lose our creativity when life is easy because we can spend our way out of it. (Sharon's husband)

  • Use online grocery shopping to prevent impulse purchases. (sylviaburkina)

  • SuperFresh is one of the best stores for doubling of coupons since they double up to 99 cents and sometimes they triple. This seems to happen during the last or first week of the month. (Tina) Harris Teeter is a good store for doubling and tripling of coupons. (Germantown mom)

  • Impulse control is a fabulous way to save money. It has worked for me many times in the past. (Chris)

  • You can often get whole chickens for 99 cents per pound. You can sometimes get pork shoulders for the same price. Chop some of it off for use in stirfries, then cook the rest on the bone for barbecue or put it in a pressure cooker. (Anonymous)

  • Buy dry goods in bulk. It's cheaper and, because it doesn't spoil, lasts. (Andrew)

  • Buy generic. A lot of the generic brands work just as well as the name brands. (Anonymous)

  • Cook and bake from scratch at home and food costs will be dramatically lower with the food tasting much better. (Anonymous)

  • Start a spreadsheet of prices to comparison shop. (wdc)

  • Use cloth napkins and towels versus paper ones. Re-using your worn-out clothes as rags to wipe up or clean versus buying cleaning wipes. (Mom)

  • The cheap meats cook slower and get more flavor. (Anonymous)

  • Visit the ATM once every two weeks for the cash I'm allowed to spend during that pay period. And then only pay for something if I have the cash in my wallet. This includes dry cleaning, eating out with friends and groceries. This makes me much more mindful when shopping for groceries. Shop the weekly specials with my Safeway, Giant and Harris Teeter cards. You can get some great deals and are usually assured a varied diet from week to week. I have also learned that if you have one of the store cards, you don't have to buy the two chickens in order to get the sale price. (ArlVA)

  • Ethnic grocery stores are the ticket to savings on produce and meats, but definitely not on dry goods. (Anonymous)

  • I never buy chicken pieces because generally they're more expensive per pound and they don't stretch for as many meals. (esleigh)

  • Shopping private labels from stores such as A&P and SuperFresh can save you a lot of money. Try America's Choice at A&P and SuperFresh. Living smart within your means is living well. (Cheeri-AID)

    So readers, have any more money-saving tips? These comments focus on groceries but how do you save money on furniture, clothes, household services, gifts and vacations? Post a comment below.

    By Tania Anderson |  August 28, 2008; 3:00 AM ET Grocery Deals
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    Comments

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    *If you have the freezer space, stock up on meat when it is on sale. If boneless chicken breasts are $2.99 per pound instead of the usual $4.99 per pound, buy several pacakges and immediately freeze the ones you won't use right away. Same goes for ground beef/turkey and pork chops. And if you buy one of those huge packages of pork chops, take the time to make smaller packages before you freeze it. A giant tray of 12 chops can be broken into 3-4 meals worth. Be sure to wrap them in foil or saran wrap first and then put in a Ziploc-type freezer bag. Don't forget to label the bag with the number of chops and the date!

    *When Safeway has it's 10-for-$10 sale, stock up! That sale really means each item is $1, so buy a few of whatever item it is and throw it in the pantry. Things like Barilla Pasta, Rice-A-Roni, or Spaghetti-Os will last for months in your pantry and if you know you use them all the time, you might as well buy when they are $.50 cheaper than normal.

    *Cereal is so expensive these days, so stock up on that too if you have the room. If your family always eats the same 2 kinds of cereal, buy several boxes when they are on sale. Look for coupons for cereal in the paper too. Sometimes with the sale and coupons, you can get 2 huge boxes of Cheerios for under $4. Not too bad considering normally 1 box is $3-$4.

    *If you use paper plates (we use them for quick lunches), buy the store brand that looks just like Dixie. They are cheaper, just as sturdy, and just as pretty! Same goes for napkins. I like the white Vanity Fair style napkins. The Safeway brand ones are almost identical and cost less money.

    Posted by: LBH219 | August 28, 2008 8:46 AM

    On the comment about ethnic grocers not being cheap for dry goods I disagree. I have found that good quality teas, spices, basmati rice, and flours are much cheaper at local Indian and Middle Eastern markets. Since I am gluten intolerant I use rice and chickpea flours alot, and the prices at ethnic markets are roughly 1/2-1/3 what they are at places like Whole Foods. I buy bulk Persian tea or 100 ct containers of Chai Masala tea for less than a small box of gormet tea on sale at Safeway (and I'm picky about my tea ;).

    Posted by: vegmom | August 28, 2008 10:52 AM

    If you use coupons, please stay the hell out of the express lane.

    And stop with the damned checkbooks. My grandmother even uses a credit card at the grocery store.

    Posted by: Mike | August 29, 2008 12:15 AM

    Grow as much produce as you can even if you live in an apartment. I used to freeze and can as needed what I couldn't grown in a garden box on my balcony. But I was able to grow herbs, tomatoes, garlic, spinach, broccoli, snow peas, kohlrabi, etc with very little room.

    Healthier for me and more economical.

    Posted by: Jessiesdaughter | August 29, 2008 12:36 AM

    BJs lets you add a friend onto your card for free, so I split the cost of a card with a friend ($35 total).

    While the price of many things isn't better than what you can get on sale elsewhere, the house brand is really good for things like shampoo, many staples are lower--nuts for snacks at work, flour, sugar, tea, dairy. Some of the frozen entrees or appetizers are really a good deal, especially when you consider the price of ordering out for the same item (e.g., potstickers).

    Posted by: Philly1 | August 29, 2008 2:39 AM

    Center your meals around legumes and rice as opposed to meat and your bill will be significantly lower. Meat can be included as a bit player. Bonus, it's a healthier way of eating as well.

    Mike, please don't shop at my grocery store. I do not go through life at warp speed. Stop and smell the roses, fella.

    Posted by: COBK | August 29, 2008 7:24 AM

    Remember that some things in the more "expensive" stores turn out cheaper than in the value stores. Milk (the kind without the frankenstein growth hormones) and cereal is a tad bit cheaper at Trader Joe's than in Safeway.

    Also, remember to consider your diet when buying these "bargains". Ten boxes of something super high in sodium isn't worth the money if you're doing a number on your blood pressure and kidneys. I use vegetables to stretch spaghetti sauce, soups, sandwiches, almost everything.

    I will use a coupon anywhere they will take them. Express, regular checkout, self checkout. If I can save a bit of money, sorry, you'll just have to get to the checkout before me. Really, it only takes them 5 seconds to beep the coupons.

    Posted by: Kay | August 29, 2008 7:34 AM

    instead of meat start using more eggs in the evening and and lunchtime instead of just for breakfast......., omelettes, deviled eggs, egg sandwiches, quiches, all are high in protein and much more economical than meat.

    Posted by: DC22 | August 29, 2008 7:37 AM

    Be sure to compare the per-ounce costs of the bigger sizes to the smaller ones...often, two or more of a smaller size on sale will be much less expensive than the huge "economy size" package of the same product.

    Posted by: Apostrophe | August 29, 2008 7:40 AM

    COBK...I'm afraid, though not as forcefully, that I have to agree with Mike....with the limited amount of free time available after working all week long....and especially here in Southwest Virginia where the local Walmart does not have self-check lanes...please, please use a debit/credit card...and do stay out of the express lane with coupons (or food stamps)! If you want to "smell the roses", do it while you shop throughout the store...not in the checkout line..:)

    Posted by: Jen from Virginny | August 29, 2008 7:41 AM

    I speak for all midwesterners when I say that if there's not meat, it's not a meal.

    :-)

    Posted by: musicnsob | August 29, 2008 7:53 AM

    Somewhat off the path of this discussion: I learned about Angel Food Ministries recently and I believe it is a program any of us can value these days. Based in Atlanta with outlets across the eastern half of the US, a church-based group buys food in huge quantities at bulk rates and sells it for about half its retail cost.

    There are no income restrictions or volunteer requirements, anyone may participate. Everyone I've found who has used this service says the food is comparable in quality to that in any grocery store or restaurant.

    The downside is that the contents of each month's offering is set and it does need to be supplemented. It requires some creativity in meal composition and won't work for a house full of picky eaters.

    September's basic box, for $30, contains the following:
    1.5 lb. Top Sirloin Strip Steaks
    2 lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
    3 lb. Breaded Chicken Chunks
    1.5 lb. Boneless Pork Filet
    20 oz. Supreme Pizza
    1 lb. Ground Turkey
    1 lb. Cheddar Cheese Bratwurst Sausage
    1 lb. Green Beans
    1 lb. Stir Fry Vegetables (Broccoli & Bell Peppers)
    35 oz. Crinkle-cut Fries
    32 oz. Borden 2% Reduced Fat Shelf Stable Milk
    7.5 oz Macaroni & Cheese
    15 oz. Pork & Beans
    7 oz. Chicken-Flavored Rice & Vermicelli
    1 lb. Pinto Beans
    One Dozen Eggs
    One Dessert Item

    There are 3 distribution centers in northern Virginia. For more information, see www.angelfoodministries.com.

    Posted by: NoVa | August 29, 2008 8:14 AM

    Why is the price of pork, chicken and eggs so expensive? It is quite simple... chicken feed is made of corn. Tortillas are 3X more expensive now.

    Pelosi, Reid and Obama increased the farm subsidies for ethanol by beau coup billions. They take corn and turn it into fuel. Even margaritas are going up, because the Mexican farmers are growing corn instead of agave.

    Before Pelosi, Reid and Obama raised the corn subsidies, the United Nations warned that ethanol production is warming the globe and reducing vital food supplies (a.k.a. a “crime against humanity“). In less fortunate countries people are starving to death due to this travesty and you are getting hosed at both the grocery store and the gas station.

    Posted by: alance | August 29, 2008 8:31 AM

    Buy a whole roasted chicken. You can make three large meals from this chicken. With the dark meat you can make a great soup say chicken and rice. The breast meat can be used to make chicken salad. If you are really being frugal cook the carcass and make another soup. Or the dark meat can be used in a pasta and chicken type dish.

    Posted by: Patricia | August 29, 2008 8:42 AM

    Farmers markets! Buy all fresh produce there, much cheaper than the store. USDA has one that runs until Oct, I believe, and you get excellent deals. Beware the organic, botique farms which jack up prices.

    Posted by: Elsie | August 29, 2008 9:29 AM

    I must partially agree with the other posters about writing checks in stores. To many times I've been behind someone who waits until every item is rung up before reaching for their checkbook and digging for a pen, then to look puzzled when the cashier asks for ID, which they of course have to fish around for in disorganized wallets.

    Checks clear as fast (or as I've discovered-faster) as a debit care/check card. Swipe card, sign, stuff reciept in checkbook, and you're done.

    If you are going to write a check at least get your checkbook and ID ready while waiting in line. Places like Wal-Mart can actually print everyting but the signature on your check for you in mere seconds.

    Coupons- no complaints. Us coupon users are notorious for pulling them out as we shop and having them at the ready when we checkout. What does it take - like 5 secs to scan them all?

    Posted by: vegmom | August 29, 2008 9:31 AM

    Sheesh wats withh all myy typeos today? Need more cofeee :)

    Posted by: vegmom | August 29, 2008 9:33 AM

    I have gone back to baking. If you make cakes, cupcakes, muffins, etc. it is so less expensive even if you use a mix. Also makes the house smell good.

    If you have the room, a nice garden really helps. If not, try the farmer's market. The produce is so much cheaper and always fresh.

    Posted by: Judy in Rockville | August 29, 2008 9:33 AM

    Adding on to the comment re: BJ's. They are the only club to take outside coupons as well

    Posted by: Anonymous | August 29, 2008 9:51 AM

    I usually buy many lemons and I squeeze them and freeze in containers of ice.later I pake them in plastic bags and every time I need a lemon I have a fresh one.
    beatriz.from Caracas,Venezuela, South AMERICA.

    Posted by: Anonymous | August 29, 2008 9:52 AM

    I can't reiterate enough...just because a grocery store is offering a "10 for $10" deal, that does NOT mean you have to buy ten of that item to get it for $1 each! As long as you have that store's member card, you can buy seven of that item and you will get it for $7.

    Posted by: cbr | August 29, 2008 9:56 AM

    While I love the fresh veggies at Farmers Markets, I do not find them cheaper than Costco veggies. And no matter how well I chose a melon-- it's tasteless or hard. I do not know how Costco manages to have delicious melons all the time. BTW-- you use wash with soap and water all the melons, etc before peeling.

    Posted by: redhatter | August 29, 2008 10:05 AM

    Hey alance, don't try to turn this shopping advice column into another forum to smear the Democrats with lies. You're wrong, wrong, wrong. So the Democrats, who have been out of power for 8 years, are suddenly magically responsible for high food prices? That doesn't sound right to anyone with the tiniest bit of common sense -- and it's a lie. Bush and a bunch of parochial farm-state politicians have been pushing ethanol despite all the research showing that's it's bad for the environment and financially a dumb idea. And another reason food prices are so high? Because fuel prices are up, and of course you know who's responsible for that -- Bush's oil company buddies, who are making record profits.

    Posted by: Arlingtonian | August 29, 2008 10:07 AM

    Best thing I ever did for my wallet was learn how to plan my week's meals. Sounds so simple, but it did not come naturally to me. Simply writing it all out and making a grocery list, and then sticking to that plan, has cut down my overall bills by reducing impulse buying and decreasing the amount of food that goes to waste.

    Posted by: DC Cubefarm | August 29, 2008 10:08 AM

    My best tip is to get a foodsaver and a deep freezer. I spent a total of 250 for both and they have paid themselves off in a matter of months. I buy in bulk, seperate everything into meal size portions and don't have to grocery shop for three months. It has saved me countless hours of time. Also, agree with the online grocery shopping. If you order the things you know you always buy (frozen veggies, pasta, cereal,.etc)online it saves you an entire Saturday to actually do what you like, because you can order anytime you want and get it delivered anytime you like, plus you can track your spending, see what you have purchased previously and countless other tools for tracking your food habits all from the comfort of your bed.

    Posted by: Marrio | August 29, 2008 10:21 AM

    cbr is correct. A 10 for $10 or a 2-for-1 deal does not mean you need to buy the specified number of items. You can buy 1 (or any number) of those items and still get the per-unit sale price.

    Have to agree with the comments about writing checks in the check out line. Use your debit card. An additional advantage, if you're looking to watch your spending, is that you can use quicken or mint.com to easily track debit card purchases. It's easier than trying to track checks, and better than trying to track cash purchases (using cash these days is like throwing money into a black hole from a money management standpoint).

    Posted by: MD Shopper | August 29, 2008 10:23 AM

    Mike wrote:

    "If you use coupons, please stay the hell out of the express lane.

    And stop with the damned checkbooks. My grandmother even uses a credit card at the grocery store.

    Posted by: Mike | August 29, 2008 12:15 AM"

    Ask your grandmother to teach you about patience. processing 15 coupons in the express lane won't take 15 seconds, and writing a check doesn't take much longer.
    Take a deep breath and slow down a bit. You won't regret it.

    Posted by: Brenda | August 29, 2008 10:31 AM

    Yes, yes, yes, I agree 100% with both Arlingtonian and CubeFarm. This forum needs a "me too" button to click!

    Posted by: Annapolis | August 29, 2008 10:49 AM

    Buy from bulk foods when you can! I go to Whole Foods and buy dried beans, grains, fruits, and even mixes in small amounts that I know I will use. It's definitely cheaper than buying pre-made or boxed, and I get only the amount of what I want. As a single person, it's important that I don't overbuy (and have to toss food).

    Posted by: Shia | August 29, 2008 10:55 AM

    I agree with buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts in multi packs when on sale. A chest freezer is a great investment.

    For single folks, to make the most of this, either cut each breast in half and/or place each breast in an individual baggie and freeze. You can easily defrost one at a time for a single meal.

    When stuff is on sale, buy in bulk and freeze. I bought pounds and pounds of grapes when they were .99 a pound and blueberries when they were cheap. Quickly rinsed and put in baggies and froze, so I can pull out individual portions all winter when fruit is out of the stratosphere.

    Posted by: smart shopper | August 29, 2008 11:20 AM

    Any good recommendations for chest freezers that will make it down steep basement steps? Has to be frost free! Thank you. Love the tips

    Posted by: Help | August 29, 2008 11:53 AM

    Like other posters, I buy meat in large packages when it's on sale. I will also often buy bone-in chicken breasts and butcher them at home before freezing. Then I'm left with the bones that I use to make my own chicken broth, which I also freeze. That saves a lot, especially since a can of broth is about 75 cents to a dollar. And, you can freeze it in different size increments so you don't waste a whole can for a tablespoon of broth, etc.

    I also like to buy my spices in the bulk section (if your supermarket doesn't have this, find one that does!) I save a lot of money by buying only a little bit of various expensive spices. That way I buy only what I need. Who needs to spend $9 on a jar of cardamom if you're only going to use 1/4 teaspoon and probably never use the rest?

    We bake our own bread using a simple no-knead recipe that takes almost no time. We started doing this when we realized we were spending $3/loaf on bread when we could make it for under a dollar.

    Posted by: lizzy | August 29, 2008 11:59 AM

    This comment section was supposed to be about saving money on food.

    Do any comment areas exist that don't have at least one troll?

    You can freeze eggs in an ice cube tray and use them for baking.

    The trouble with coupons is that I don't eat processed food and there are rarely in the paper that I can use. :-(

    One more thought, there are thousands of political sites where one can spew all the venom that they want to....please take it there next time. Okay, KIDS?

    Posted by: PatA | August 29, 2008 12:03 PM

    This comment section was supposed to be about saving money on food.

    Do any comment areas exist that don't have at least one troll?

    You can freeze eggs in an ice cube tray and use them for baking.

    The trouble with coupons is that I don't eat processed food and there are rarely in the paper that I can use. :-(

    One more thought, there are thousands of political sites where one can spew all the venom that they want to....please take it there next time. Okay, KIDS?

    Posted by: PatA | August 29, 2008 12:09 PM

    Thank you, Mike, for giving me just the impetus I need to finally take action!

    Ever since I first saw Visa's series of "use your debit card or get the h-ll out of everyone's way" commercials, I've been thinking about printing a T-shirt that says, "F---k you. I'm paying cash" across the back.

    I think I will stop at the sporting goods store on my way home tonight, only I will have them insert "(comma) Mike" after "you" while I'm at it.


    Posted by: Audentes | August 29, 2008 12:45 PM

    Definitely sit down and plan six to seven days worth of meals before going shopping. Keep a shopping list by your side as you check the freezer/fridge/pantry for the ingredients you need for the meals. Jot down on the list whatever you don't have on hand and need to buy.

    Bonus points if you can plan most meals with stuff you already have on hand (things like canned tuna, frozen vegetables, cheese, eggs, and canned and dried beans are good staples to keep around and make cheaper entrees)!

    This might sound lame, but it's fun to use your creativity to try to plan meals without buying much new stuff. There are two websites that will help with this, though I have to admit I haven't tried either of them:

    cookingbynumbers.com

    AND

    supercook.com

    Posted by: Annapolis, MD | August 29, 2008 12:49 PM

    broke college students agree: eat less meat! It busts your budget and is filled with antibiotics and hormones you don't want to consume. Instead, you can get protein from beans, legumes, eggs and fortified breads and pastas.

    Posted by: pbr | August 29, 2008 12:56 PM

    Here's an idea for a cheap dinner:

    Vegetarian chili

    Get some brown rice cooking (it takes forever). Chop up and saute some onion and garlic in oil. Add a can of black beans and a can of kidney beans. Add some frozen (or canned) corn. Add some frozen (or fresh if you have it and feel up to the washing and chopping) chopped bell pepper. Dump in a couple of cans of chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce. Toss in a small cupped handful of dried cumin and thyme. Add a couple of good slurps of worcestershire sauce.

    When the rice is done, add as much as you like to the pot of chili.

    Cheap, easy, fast--my kind of recipe!

    Posted by: Annapolis, MD | August 29, 2008 12:58 PM

    My kids, husband and I all pack lunches at least half of the time. I try to cut up vegetables and fruit in the evening and stick a bagful(s) in the fridge, and it's easy to put them in lunches. Also, I've found that it's worthwhile to spend a little more to buy sandwich meat that you like and will enjoy eating. A bargain isn't a bargain if you avoid eating it.

    I've tried planning menus and just can't keep it going for more than a couple of weeks. Any suggestions for making it easier?

    Posted by: Angela | August 29, 2008 1:00 PM

    I try to only eat organic foods which means coupon clipping is generally not an option. I also don't eat meat. I go for quality much more than quantity. If it doesn't taste good or is full of pesticides & chemicals, what good is it? Farmers markets are the best. Whole Foods is generally less expensive than Giant & always less than Harris Teeter. Also, Whole Foods has its own brand which is the same quality & a lot less expensive than the name brands. Trader Joe's has an excellent dry food bulk section. Casserole dishes last many means, and I bake my breads & add fruit to them adding nutrition & flavor. It's all about creativity and do-it-yourself.

    Posted by: ms1234 | August 29, 2008 1:07 PM

    Angela, here is what I do: whenever I come across a recipe or a dish that seems economical and not too painful or time consuming to make, I jot it down on a piece of paper and keep it inside a favorite cookbook. After a while, you will have several aces in the hole, so to speak, to choose from when you go to make up your weekly menu and shopping list.

    Some of mine are cheats, such as frozen pizza and bag salad, some are vegetarian recipes that are a bit of trouble from my Moosewood cookbook, and some are just spaghetti, roast or barbequed chicken, hamburgers, that sort of thing.

    Posted by: Annapolis, MD | August 29, 2008 1:08 PM

    IMO eating a little bit less is the way to go. Really we do not need to eat to our stomach's full. That way we can save and also trim the waistline. Think about it. Cut bills, do not starve, eat less and trim waistline, stay healthy. All in one stroke.

    Posted by: anonymous | August 29, 2008 1:38 PM

    Angela, if you already have a few weeks' worth of menus that you've been cooking, write them down. Then recycle! My husband and I have about 10 weeks' worth of menus that we like the best, and we choose from those -- depending on what we have in the apartment, what's in season and what's on sale. Every once in a while, we'll cook something we've never made before or try a new food or ingredient. If we like it, it goes into the mix. If not, well, it's less complicated, isn't it? Also, with our favorite menus, we don't need many recipes because we know them well. So we don't collect piles of recipes or many cookbooks. Lean and mean!

    Posted by: Van Ness, D.C. | August 29, 2008 1:54 PM

    Some good comments here.

    On the flip side, I really wish people with whole carts-full would stay out of the self checkout lines. Go to the cashiers and let them bag stuff for you. Otherwise, you take forever.

    Posted by: Sparky | August 29, 2008 1:55 PM

    I cook once a week - and use whatever meat is on sale as the meat ingredient. then i cook 4-6 meals using that meat - one for that evening, one to put in the refrigerator and rest to freeze and pull out in the next couple of weeks. if hamburger/ground turkey is on sale it will be meatballs/meatloaf/spagetti sauce and maybe hamburgers on the cooking night. Chicken breasts or thighs (1.99 lb) curry, teriaki chicken, chicken parmasian,or whole chicken (.79 lb) - oven fried chicken, tandori chicken, chicken catatori, chicken rice etc.

    pasta is always bought on sale in bulk, same with beans and rice. vegies and fruit in season, supplemented with backyard garden and fruit trees.

    using this method i can put a healthy home-cooked meal on the table within 30 minutes of walking in the door. my weekly cooks now take about 2 hours of prep and cook.

    if the freezer gets too full, we just skip a week or two.

    Posted by: julsonline | August 29, 2008 1:56 PM

    As a single person, I will make trays of vegetable lasagana, pots of salmon and lentils, rice and veggies with shrimp or tofu, etc. I'll eat it for one night, then take the leftovers to work for lunch. I get bored with leftovers, so I try adding new ingredients or changing the texture to make additional, different meals from the original one. For example, with the leftover lentils, I added some chicken stock, spices and a few more veggies (carrots, celery, leeks), simmered it for about 1/2 an hour, then poured it into a blender and voila! A lovely creamy soup filled with fiber, proteins and vitamins that I freezed in plastic bags. I grab one from the freezer for lunch and heat it up in the microwave. The rice leftover from stirfries can be used to make burritos (if you have a can of black beans on hand). The lasagna can be cut up into small pieces and frozen as well and then packed into your lunch to be reheated in the microwave.

    Since I don't use sliced bread all that often, I'll buy a loaf and put it in the freezer. Then whenever I want a few slices for a sandwich or toast, you nuke it for a few seconds and use it.

    I appreciated the idea of freezing fruits that are in season now to use later in the fall/winter, however, this obviously doesn't work for all fruits. Lately I've been buying some bags of frozen fruit which can be used in smoothies for breakfast or layered in a yogurt parfait. They won't expire for a long time, so I know that I won't be throwing out rotten fruit along with my cash in the trash.

    Instead of buying pre-cut fruits and veggies, buy them whole with all the stems and leaves. Wash and cut them up immediately when returning from the grocery store and put them into plastic containers in the refrigerator or freezer so that they are easily accessible. Not only will this save you money because you are not paying for the labor of having the fruits and veggies peeled, washed and cut for you, but you will also tend to eat them more and use them in more recipes when they are readily available. I never end up throwing out rotten food when I employ this method.

    Other than that, I find that cutting back on meat consumption does save a significant amount of money at the supermarket. I find that I end up eating many more vegetarian meals rather than meat-based ones simply because of the cost. I'm glad though that it's better for me health-wise!

    Posted by: Parisluvr | August 29, 2008 2:01 PM

    I get online and check out the weekly fliers for the 4 stores closest to me and pick the one with the best deals--because one store almost always has boneless/skinless chicken breasts for $1.99. Then I make my shopping list/meal plan for the week--tailored to the cheapest items..

    Posted by: anonymous | August 29, 2008 2:09 PM

    musicnsob...you don't speak for me at all, and I live right in the heart of America, in Nebraska, the Beef State. Meat is NOT a necessary part of a meal, if you get creative. Potatoes, tofu, eggs, beans, with the right combination of grains and spices, can be a wonderful, healthy delicious meal. And it uses fewer resources.

    Posted by: midwesterner | August 29, 2008 2:19 PM

    Eat more legumes, just change the spices, one time can be Latin American, another Moroccan, Indian, or Italian. Use legumes whole, pureed in soups, and in veg. patties. Eat lots of grains, rice, couscous, quinoa, amaranth and pasta. Eat lots of leafy greens, like spinach and kale. Buy a cookbook that will give you tons of ideas on how to use these vegetables, or go to the internet. Buy fruits in season to eat immediately otherwise buy frozen.
    Drink carbonated water with a little lime instead of sodas. Take a little bag of nuts to munch when shopping for food, to avoid shopping hungry.

    Posted by: Silver Spring Mom | August 29, 2008 2:46 PM

    don't east as much you pigs

    Posted by: TheMan | August 29, 2008 4:16 PM

    The SHARE program is the way to go. For $19 dollars, one can purchase the value package (4 types each of meats, starches, vegetables as well as other items) and/or the $19 meat package specials (turkey/honey baked ham dinner packages for the holidays, steaks, seafood etc.) You can buy as many as you want. SHARE is offered by many churches in DC, MD and VA. There is even a maket day where one can buy even more. Food stamps, checks or cash can be used.

    Posted by: Jacki | August 29, 2008 4:43 PM

    Many stores have a clearance/damage section where the furniture maybe a slight defect (not enough screws), scratch or dent in the furniture. If the damage is not noticable it can be a great by. There are websites that offer used furniture for free. Check the clearance racks in department stores at the end of a season and let's not forget flea markets and thrift stores for furniture and other items as well.

    Posted by: Jacki | August 29, 2008 4:49 PM

    I agree with the poster who said that its far healthier and much more economical to make eggs, beans, grains or rice dishes the centerpiece of your meal and to use meat, in a sense, as a garnish. I went for 2/3 of my life as a vegetarian and am considering returning to it now. Quite bluntly, the meat industry (and even fish farming) use so many chemicals these days that the act of eating meat is increasingly risky because toxins tend to concentrate higher in the food chain. Fish is also increasingly problematic, especially things like tuna sashimi which is often loaded with dangerous levels of mercury. Sure, they use pesticides, etc. on farmed vegetables, grains and fruits too, but you don't consume as many of them when you eat less meat. Buying organic would be a solution, except that organic food isn't as widely available as one would wish, and in many stores, its often too expensive for many people. If you simply eat less meat, and fewer prepackaged foods, you will be slimmer, healthier, and will probably live longer.

    Posted by: Chris | August 29, 2008 5:02 PM

    A couple of months ago I cut my intake - less alcohol, smaller portions generally, fewer snacks, cutting way back on certain foods (butter and sweets, for example).

    My main reason was to lose a bit of weight (and I have lost about 10 pounds and my weight's where I want it to be now) but it's certainly a money-saver too. Since so many Americans including kids are reportedly overweight these days, give it a try! You get two for one.

    Posted by: threeoaksgone | August 29, 2008 5:11 PM

    Food that is good for you is not expensive. Skip all the prepared and processed foods -- they´re high-fat, high-sodium, low-fiber, vitamin-deficient entertainment, not proper food.

    Rice, beans, milk, spinach, broccoli, and some other produce for variety: that´s all you need. It won´t cost you more than a couple dollars a day, and you´ll be a heck of a lot healthier than the folks whining about the high price of meat.

    Posted by: Gus Grantham | August 29, 2008 5:32 PM

    If anybody is looking for a program to manage their recipes or find new ones, check the free "Grecipe" program out.. It can run on Linux, Windows or (perhaps, if you have the technical knowhow to install it in your own machine's Python environment?) OSX

    http://grecipe-manager.sourceforge.net

    "Gourmet Recipe Manager

    Gourmet Recipe Manager is a simple but powerful recipe-managing application. Gourmet is intended for the GNOME desktop environment (the free Linux especially), but works on any platform that gtk supports, including windows.

    Gourmet allows you to collect, search and organize your recipes, and to automatically generate shopping lists from your collection. The latest version also allows you to calculate nutritional information for your recipes using the USDA food database (or entering custom information by hand). Take a look at the screenshots for a sense of how this works. You can download the Gourmet Recipe Manager from the sourceforge project page. That page also will allow you to sign up to learn about updates, to file bug reports and to make feature requests, or to sign up for the mailing list.

    Gourmet's features include:

    * Simple searching and sorting
    * Clear, Attractive display of recipes and nutritional information
    * Easy recipe editing
    * Import and export from various formats (MealMaster and MasterCook and websites)
    * A shopping list creator and organizer

    Gourmet Recipe Manager is free software. If you want to contribute to the project and you're a python programmer, please take a look at the source code and start hacking! If you would like to use Gourmet in a language other than English, you can help translate gourmet using the rosetta web-based tool here (this requires no programming knowledge!).

    If you want to contribute money, I encourage you to donate to Gourmet, donate to sourceforge, which hosts this project, or donate to the free software foundation."

    Posted by: Chris | August 29, 2008 5:32 PM

    Thank you to everyone for such useful input and information, especially to NoVA who posted the Angelfood Ministries program and also to Annapolis for the Cookingbynumbers.com site.

    (raises fist against a dark, stormy sky and proclaims "So Help me God I shall never waste money on food again!")

    LeeBird
    Falls Church

    Posted by: Lee | August 29, 2008 8:44 PM

    I have to cook for three children who break out as follows: one awesome eater, one little miss picky, one autistic child who eats a total of 25 different foods and nothing else. Now: try shopping for THAT on a budget. I cook three meals a day for that crowd, plus the spouse. At least he mostly knows better than to complain. ;)

    But what I have found works is meat stretchers and meat substitutes. As far as menu planning goes, be careful to plan for leftovers. For example, one night a week is baked (whole) chicken night at our house. We eat a baked chicken meal that night, then there will be chicken enchiladas, or chicken pot pie. That will go at least two meals. Sometimes I will boil a whole chicken - just pull the skin off as much as you can to cut down on the fat, and make soup. The broth will be awesome, the white meat can be chicken salad, the dark meat casserole (or soup made with some of the broth). Always condense the broth by boiling down to about 1/2 volume for best flavor. Then freeze in sizes you are likely to use - I find "one cup" a useful one. That also can become soup for my lunch sandwich on a moment's notice with the addition of a handful of frozen mixed veggies and a little microwave time. People I know also freeze broth in ice trays - then put the resulting blocks in a baggie for later use. That results in about a tablespoon or two of broth - perfect for some sauces or just a little flavor.

    I also like the value of a ham on the bone. Two days worth of baked ham, then there are sandwiches. I then cut the remaining ham off the bone and freeze in bite-size chunks for breakfasts, casseroles, etc. As for the bone, with a generous residue of meat, that goes into a big pot of beans. That feeds us for another two days. Accordingly, though a ham isn't a cheap thing, just that one ham is going to provide around 10 meals for a family of 5. Once you break that down - you have roughly $3 per meal for the meat portion, tops. But it is kind of a commitment to get full value out of a whole ham or a whole chicken.

    When I plan menus, I always figure we will tire of the bargain meat before I run out of it. If the family won't be interested in chicken again by night three, I just freeze and use it later. Spaghetti sauce is made on a use half/freeze half basis, too. Also, while fresh veggies are nice, I hardly ever buy them. I am all about frozen. They last forever and they taste great - fresh goes bad too quickly if my plans change (and it can be hard for me to plan). That gives me some flexibility on what is available for those nights when you look in the fridge and you got nothin!

    Posted by: Ugh - another meal? | August 29, 2008 8:46 PM

    I make my meals economical by shopping the sales. I check all the ads when they come out and then decide if it makes sense to go to more than one grocery store.

    Magruders usually has meat and produce for on sale less than any other store. Last week I bought beef tenderloin for $5.99 a pound when it was on sale there. Then I cut one of the whole roasts into filet mignon steaks and froze them. While $6 a pound seems high for meat, if you compare that to the $17 to $20 a pound that filet usually cost, than it is a real bargain. And if you compare that to the same steak and potato at a restaurant, which would cost $30, it is an incredible bargain. Add to that the melons for a dollar each and peaches for $.89 a pound and my budget went pretty far on some high quality items.

    The other thing that helps me stretch my budget is freezing already prepared main dishes. If I find london broil on sale, I buy four of them. I cook one that night and then freeze the other three, in their marinade. Then when I defrost them not only are they ready to grill, they taste incredible. I do that with most other meals. If I am making a chicken dish, I make four, when I find the boneless breasts on sale. We eat one that night and I put three more in the freezer. Freezing meals ahead means that I buy less carry out and take advantage of the sale prices.

    The other thing that we do is keep a running shopping list of items we keep in the house at all times. Items like tuna, syrup, ketchup, stuffing mix are all in my pantry. When I get down to the last one or two of something like that, it goes on my list. Then when I see that item in sale, I stock up again.

    By the way, I also agree that Trader Joe's is great for some items. We find that special things like goat cheese and dried fruit and nuts and coffees are incredibly less expensive there.

    Posted by: Diane | August 29, 2008 9:30 PM

    If farmers are getting subsidies this year, mine got lost in the mail! Know your facts before you blog.

    Posted by: Farmer | August 29, 2008 10:05 PM

    Spend a couple hundred dollars and buy a deep freezer (preferably an upright; the energy usage is slightly higher but it's much easier to inventory at a glance than a chest freezer where things tend to get buried).

    Find a local farmer who is raising cattle on grass. Buy a half steer a few times a year. Not only does the meat taste better, but it's better for you since the animal ate what it's biologically supposed to (grass!), you get exactly the mix of cuts you and your family prefer, and it's much cheaper per pound. I pay about $5/lb, which is slightly high for ground beef (though not for grass-fed ground beef) and outrageously cheap for say, grass-fed porterhouse steaks, which were recently $22/lb at Whole Foods! I laughed myself silly as I thought about the bounty at home in my freezer.

    You'll almost certainly be safe from the giant meat recalls too, caused by huge plants and sloppy safety controls, because smaller family-run butcher shops take great pride and care in what they're doing and process many fewer animals per day. I can ask our cattle farmers for the life history of our steer and get the exact data -- no mad cow, no E. coli, no "downer" cows for us.

    You can buy field-raised pigs and half-pigs this way too, and the same butchers will often have great prices on free-range turkeys and chickens, all locally raised. If you buy a half or whole pig, make sure you order some of it smoked so you have hams and bacon, not just pork roasts and ribs.

    Sign up for milk delivery. The prices are about the same as the grocery store for milk, cheese, eggs, and yogurt (plus whatever else they carry) but you'll avoid that trip to the grocery store for a gallon of milk that ends up costing $40 because other things looked and smelled good. In our area, the local dairy grazes their cows on non-chemically-treated grass year round and it travels less than 20 miles from the farm to my door, so we often get the milk the day after it's produced, much fresher than what you get in the store, and four dollars a gallon cheaper than certified organic milk. Organic milk is actually inferior to grass-fed milk anyway; cows are supposed to eat GRASS, not GRAIN, but organic is second-best.

    Be careful shopping at Costco and other warehouse stores. Make sure the unit price is better than the best sale at your normal store, and that you really will use up forty packets of instant mashed potatoes (or whatever else!) before the expiration date on the package, especially if it's something that requires a lot of storage space, and double-check for allergenic ingredients even if it's a brand you often buy since the differing packaging sometimes means different ingredients too.

    Finally, make the time to shop your weekly farmers' market. You'll get to know your local farmers, you'll keep your dollars in your community, and you'll get gorgeous fruit and veggies that were usually picked the morning of the market. Delicious!! If you're really gung-ho, you can learn how to can some of the market bounty and then you'll have summer sunshine in a jar in the dead weeks of February when nothing looks fresh and yummy. Anyone can freeze some berries when they're at their best in the summer for mixing into wintertime smoothies and pancakes, where they are a real taste treat (and cheap too, if you bought them when they were ripe and common).

    Get your kids involved in as much of your food procurement as possible. My kids are way more stoked about non-spray peaches, red and purple carrots, and fresh kettle corn now thanks to the farmers market than they are about Twinkies or anything else in a brightly-colored plastic package. They help pick and freeze berries, and like to go to the farm 80 miles away to meet "our" steer and "our" chickens.

    Posted by: JuliaZ | August 30, 2008 1:46 AM

    Check out Centsible for online grocery sites. You can view your grocery store's weekly flyers online (helpful in meal planning), load coupons onto your club card (at some stores), print store coupons (stack these with manufacturer's coupons for maximum savings). I also shop at ethnic stores for their specialties (e.g. soy sauce, yams, cilantro, limes, coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, peppers, etc...) - it always works out cheaper. Shopping online from a list is the easiest way to avoid impulses: try that out if its available.

    http://www.centsible.net/groceries.shtml

    Posted by: Donna | August 30, 2008 3:10 AM

    Check out Centsible for online grocery sites. You can view your grocery store's weekly flyers online (helpful in meal planning), load coupons onto your club card (at some stores), print store coupons (stack these with manufacturer's coupons for maximum savings). I also shop at ethnic stores for their specialties (e.g. soy sauce, yams, cilantro, limes, coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, peppers, etc...) - it always works out cheaper. Shopping online from a list is the easiest way to avoid impulses: try that out if its available.

    http://www.centsible.net/groceries.shtml

    Posted by: Donna | August 30, 2008 3:10 AM

    listen to grandma and grandpa usually they know how to save

    Posted by: lg | August 30, 2008 11:19 AM

    Why not cook a delicious pot of black, pinto, red beans rather than buying those 10 for $10 cans full of sodium and generally tasteless beans.
    I agree that going to an 'ethnic' grocery I find better deals on bulk items and spices.
    Don't forget the supermarkets that have natural food and organic products, where you can find some great bargins.
    Having a vegetarian family, I'm glad I don't have to worry about meat as my focus. There are so many websites these days that show one how to cook delicious, inexpensive vegetarian meals.
    For me it's all in the herbs and seasoning...I also don't cook my corn. We eat it raw without all that butter and fat.
    Think of ways to cook with nuts as well. I sprinkle pinon nuts on my salads and include them in my greens pot as well.
    Farmer's markets are fantastic and if you hit it right you can find a bargain or two at Whole Foods. But for my money, Trader Joe's is the best and the cheapest, more so than many of my neighborhood supermarkets.
    We learned a long time ago, the savings of cloth napkins and old rags. I don't like to eat on a paper plate nor drink out of paper cups. I realize you have to wash all of these products, but in the long run the cost is cheaper.
    It's all about being in sync with our bodies and listening to what it needs versus what it wants...same with the planet.
    vcj

    Posted by: vcj | August 30, 2008 11:50 AM

    One of my gifts and challenges is that I'm very organized and can put away things so neatly that my stuffed closet doesn't appeared stuffed.
    It was a surprise to me when after years of putting aways things and finally cleaning my space out how many brand new gifts and items I had stashed away.
    Being retired I can't buy as much, so the experience was not only 'a shopping trip' for me, it was a chance to put aside some of these things for future gifts.
    I also decided to have a free yard 'sale' and let people who came by just get what they wanted. It was a joy to give and I didn't have a thing left.
    By the way our church has a circulation day each year, where the community is invited to come and get anything there of interest that they can cart off. Members of our church and surrounding churches have a space where we store items in preparation for the event.

    Posted by: Stephani | August 30, 2008 12:03 PM

    For gift giving, I've been buying vintage and antique jewelery. I like feeling like I'm recycling something beautiful. My friends and family love the gifts. Usually, they were made in the USA, before we offshored everything manufactured. Sometimes, I even find a one of a kind piece that was handmade. It's also fun to learn about the different periods, like Deco and Art Nouveau, etc... The internet is full of websites selling items and there's always e-bay, where I have found some lovely things.

    Posted by: Anonymous | August 30, 2008 1:28 PM

    Both Giant and Safeway have really good deals on "last day of sale" meat. It's at least 30% off the lowest price. It's not unusual for my wife and me to eat $17/lb filet mignon of $11/lb NY strip steaks for $2-3 per person. I've also found that the Chinese store H-Mart in Wheaton sells boneless skinless chicken breasts for $2.59/lb, less than half the price of the Perdue chicken at Giant and Safeway.

    Posted by: BethesdaBuyer | August 30, 2008 2:10 PM

    Saving on gas or elec. Bake your beans. It's much easier & faster. You don't have to stand & stir. Set your oven on 400 for 30m then down to 300 in 30m check for water. 30m more turn your oven off & let them sit in oven for 15 0r 20m. Also save all left over juices from boiling vegetables, just pour them in a container & freeze it. Then use it to make beef or vegetable stew or soup. Those juices are full of vitamins.

    Posted by: Pam Cox | August 30, 2008 2:14 PM

    Re clothes - the obvious answer is thrift shops + flea markets + persistence. Personally I dress like a tomboy, but my little sister is the queen of flea markets. When she was doing a journalism intership she looked every bit the professional reporter and colleagues would ask if our family was rich.

    A less obvious answer is the Internet. You can find good deals on new and used clothes on eBay, you just have to read the description carefully. If the size isn't clear, don't be afraid to ask the seller questions.

    Posted by: Xenbiologista | August 30, 2008 2:50 PM

    Re food - if you're a vegetarian or not vegetarian but trying to cut down on meat (I'm trying to do one small serving per day), Whole Foods's Veggie Burger Mix in the bulk dry foods section is FAR cheaper than that stupid Boca and Morningstar Farms stuff in the frozen section. It's cheap, easy to make, and tastes great.

    It's the only thing I really buy a lot of from WF. I'm strongly against expensive branded "organic" and "green" foods because it perpetuates the idea that environmentalism is some pretentious elitist value. Some people sneered when Wal-Mart and other mainstream chain groceries started selling organic veg but hey, that's where most people buy their food.

    Posted by: Xenobiologista | August 30, 2008 2:56 PM

    RE: check writing in express lane (I actually don't write checks)...but you guys should stop bashing each other. If you want the slow folks out of the express lane then complain to your store and make them change the rules (ie. no checks, 10 seconds minimum while in line)..otherwise, they are entitled to stand there with their checkbooks in or out of their bags for as long as they like.

    Posted by: mom of two | August 30, 2008 3:06 PM

    Buy meat with bones - it's much cheaper and bones make fantastic base for delicious broth! You can find recipes in every decent cookbook or online. All it takes is simmering the bones with some salt and spices for an hour (chicken) or two (beef, pork) - and your homemade broth is ready! Yet another saving if you like soups.

    Posted by: Anonymous | August 30, 2008 4:02 PM

    If you are free on Monday mornings, check the meat department of your supermarket. Usually much of the meat is marked way down. If you can't use it immediately, freeze your purchases. Great savings!

    Posted by: Smart Shopper | August 30, 2008 4:21 PM

    "Why is the price of pork, chicken and eggs so expensive? "
    You're kidding right?

    We have the cheapest food in history!

    Posted by: Granny Miller | August 30, 2008 7:24 PM

    I find the general rules of thumb to be the most helpful:

    The less steps there are from farm to table, the better for you and less costly your food will be; thus:

    In season, locally-grown fruits and vegetables (and locally-raised animal products) are generally less expensive.

    But the freshest, tastiest, and least expensive produce is the kind you grow yourself in a garden or allotment.

    Buy and cook in bulk, freezing or canning the excess for later use.

    In general, eat less meat. But when purchasing meat, buy the least processed kind available from your butcher, e.g. whole chickens instead of boneless breasts or goujouns. Don't forget to use carcasses (and vegetable peelings) to make soups and stocks.

    Most importantly, however, find ways to make cooking enjoyable and fun! All one needs is a little planning and creativity.

    Posted by: Mateo | August 30, 2008 8:35 PM

    Yes, check writers are "entitled" to selfishly waste other peoples' time, that however does not make it remotely polite or considerate. Especially as so many indeed wait and watch the cashier finish her work before bothering to open their purse.

    About the coupons, I expect that Mike meant the ones who--once again--wait until the process is complete before opening their pocketbook to retrieve their envelope full of coupons, then start fishing through them for the right one(s).

    Should they be prohibited, or just shot?

    Posted by: Misha | August 30, 2008 9:41 PM

    Virtually every form of meat is not only unhealthy and risky, but predicated on the lifelong torture of animals in our mechanized, mass-produced agribusiness culture. There's nothing remotely civilized about it, and it only persists because most people don't care to look. If they did, they'd stop eating meat instantly, and even agitate for change.

    Posted by: Carole | August 30, 2008 9:43 PM

    I got the idea from another commenter to a Washington Post blog somewhere, to use a pressure cooker to cook dried beans instead of buying canned. It's really fast and easy, you don't even have to plan ahead and soak the dried beans.

    It means you can cook up the equivalent of four or so cans of beans (I've never measured exactly) for the cost of one bag of dried (around a dollar, sometimes less). I just freeze what looks like approximately one can's worth of beans in large yogurt or cottage cheese containers. You don't need to worry about defrosting them, just dump them into whatever pot you are cooking and they defrost quickly.

    I still buy canned beans to have on hand for last minute suppers in case I haven't pressure-cooked and froze any, because doing so is still cheaper than ordering a carry out pizza.

    I also used the pressure cooker once to cook up the roasted carcass of a whole chicken after we'd eaten all the meat off it. Gosh, that was the best broth ever, brown and so flavorful. I froze it into two containers, microwaved it for a few minutes when I was ready to use it, and dumped the semi-melted broth into the pot (I was making pureed zucchini soup), where it finished melting quickly.

    I've heard that the pressure cooker was "the original microwave".

    Posted by: Annapolis, MD | August 30, 2008 11:04 PM

    Follow a few common sense rules:
    1. Shop for the pantry. If it's on sale, stock up.
    2. Use coupons. They are worth the effort.
    3. Always prepare a shopping list before entering the store and stick to it.
    4. Plan meals in advance and in coordination with what is on sale.
    5. Cook from scratch.
    6. You're the best cook in town. Why go out to eat?

    Posted by: David J | August 30, 2008 11:36 PM

    I go to the latin market, boneless skinless chicken breasts are always $1.99/lb and at that price they are worth getting over bone in or whole chicken because my time is not worth nothing (at least not to me). I get 1 package it is about 1.5 to 2 pounds. I'll also pick up an onion, a cilantro bunch, and a package of tortillas. Then I'll eat either chicken tacos or chicken with rice and beans that I already have big ol bags of at home. I drink iced tea or water and have oatmeal and bananas for breakfast. I can eat for about 20 dollars a week this way.

    Posted by: Silver Spring Guy | August 31, 2008 1:08 AM

    Make a pitcher of iced tea or coffee and stick it in the fridge. You can heat it up a cup at a time or drink it cold. It will save you time when you're running late, not to mention the money it will save you compared to starbucks.

    If you're prone to dashing out the door, you could even mix it to your liking the night before and put it in your to-go cup.

    Speaking of to-go cups, you can find them for less than $5 each if you look. You don't need to buy the expensive ones unless you need to keep your drink hot for hours.

    Posted by: Sarah25 | August 31, 2008 2:11 AM

    Checks are OK but be sure you've got your card right there.
    I have one credit card I buy food - when I get the bill I have a good idea how I"m doing with regard to my intended budget.

    For those on tight budgets I think cash is probably a good way to reduce impulse purchases.

    Posted by: RoseG | August 31, 2008 6:43 AM

    Thanks for the "meat = torture" newsflash, Carole. Instead of the negativity, tease out your "virtually every form of meat" comment and please tell us more about the kind of change you're agitating for and what humane options there are out there for those who might like to remain carnivores. For example, there are several local farms in the Shenandoah Valley that are grass based and quite respectful of the animals' welfare and health. One can either buy direct or participate in a buying club.

    Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 7:52 AM

    EAT BEFORE GOING TO THE SUPERMARKET.

    Posted by: Pilar | August 31, 2008 8:24 AM

    With the cost of electricity, I wonder how much you really save freezing all those deals in a big home freezer, especially for months at a time?

    Posted by: CN | August 31, 2008 12:36 PM

    A few ideas... Watch those sales and buy in bulk. If pork loins are on sale for 1.89, buy 10 pounds and make your own pork chops and roasts. The same on all meats. Some grocers have specials on things you wouldn't normally think about. We've been paying around 1.50 a gallon for milk! Yes, that milk that expires in 3 days is marked down but, it is supposed to be good for a week after the sell-by date on it. Buy that -- you'll use it before it expires. Watch for meats too. One grocer here often has 90% lean hamburger on sale for 1.89 per pound but it is never advertised. Buy 10 pounds or more and freeze it! It will keep for a very long time in those air-tight rolls. Watch those prices! Sams and Costco are NOT always a good buy. Yes for carrots but no for fruits. If you have a large freezer, you're in real luck! Buy 4 or 5 turkeys in November, 4 corned beef at St. Patricks day, stock up on seasonals and eat them on the off season too. Save those coupons for when things are on sale. The bottom line is that there is no reason to have shocking food bills. We don't. We spend less than 150 dollars a month for the whole house and we're eating as good as ever. We also grow a lot too.

    Posted by: Bob C | August 31, 2008 1:12 PM

    Thanks for all the tips. Comments:
    1. www.angelfoodministries.com - great tip. Big thanks.
    2. www.centsible.net - The usability of site is terrible, but I did find some coupons for Safeway -- none for Bloom or Giant.
    3. Craigslist.org is another great cost-savings.
    4. www.freecycle.org - If there is one in your area, sign up. This recycling of items or giveaways often includes some food items as well as other things.

    Posted by: Mike C | August 31, 2008 1:25 PM

    I buy organic oats in bulk at Vitamin Cottage and make granola every week. Takes about 10 minutes. I also buy organic hi-gluten flour and make bagels every week (costs about a dollar to make dozen bagels and they're quick and easy and better than store-bought). I buy most of my produce at a farmer's market when I can and i buy eggs from the egg-lady down the street. I also buy bulk grains and legumes for lentils soups, red beans and rice, etc. (I use brown rice). No meat necessary. I shop on the outskirts of the store and rarely in the middle. We drink water - no soda or juice. And lots of fresh fruit instead of desserts, eaten out of hand.

    Posted by: Rebecca | August 31, 2008 1:42 PM

    Even if something is 2 for 1, you can still use a coupon. As a single, I often will only get one of the 2 for 1's, tell the checker, and will get charged half price. You will need to remember to tell the checker, otherwise are charged full price.

    Make sure you check the receipt as items are rung up which is very hard if you have to unload your cart. I tell the checker to wait until I unload because many mistakes are made while ringing up. It's a jungle out there.

    Posted by: susan | August 31, 2008 8:22 PM

    "Yes, check writers are "entitled" to selfishly waste other peoples' time, that however does not make it remotely polite or considerate. Especially as so many indeed wait and watch the cashier finish her work before bothering to open their purse.

    About the coupons, I expect that Mike meant the ones who--once again--wait until the process is complete before opening their pocketbook to retrieve their envelope full of coupons, then start fishing through them for the right one(s).

    Should they be prohibited, or just shot?"

    Wow, some of you all are just a little scary in terms of the venom other shoppers inspire in you. I really only feel that kind of anger towards people who molest or kill children. I pay with credit or debit, but I certainly don't care how anyone else pays. Some people wait to pull out their check books because they are paying attention to the cashier to see that they don't get overcharged for anything. And if anyone minds that I use a lot of coupons, tough. I'll save the money at the expense of a minute or two of your time. Lighten up, people! Time is precious, but so is having a sense of perspective in your life.

    Posted by: LauraR | August 31, 2008 10:09 PM

    Best advice in the comments, DavidJ! Basic info that I've used for years. More should take it into consideration

    Posted by: annetteR | August 31, 2008 10:38 PM

    One poster asked, "Why is the price of pork, chicken and eggs so expensive? " and another replied, "You're kidding right? We have the cheapest food in history!"

    Huh? Which planet are you residing on, please?

    Eggs that used to be 69 cents/dozen are now nearly 2 bucks. Milk used to be about a dollar per gallon. The ONLY reason that pork and chicken continue to be relatively cheap in comparison is due to innovation in domestic chicken/swine genetics and massive rearing operations - not just here in the US, in Asia and now in Africa as well. Supplies of these meats are plentiful due to global demand. Therefore, chicken and pork are, in fact, near retail price points that are as low as a decade or more ago.

    Eat less meat and more plant-based protein. Eat as much fresh produce as you can manage, and use the new treated produce-saver bags for fresh fruits and some vegetables, salad greens. Freeze the rest. Label and rotate through frozen, canned and dried goods, rather than just squirreling them away. Resist the urge to shop near daily, as many folks do - learn to plan your meals and shop weekly. Use coupons where possible, and stick to budget.

    Keep a stash of food staples that will serve in emergencies. Have on hand enough to get you through at least 3 weeks without shopping, because even God can't stop an eventual major epidemic that will shut down this country in a flash. We have lost the knack for survival in hard times.

    Best to relearn domestic survival skills. Hard times are coming.

    Posted by: DS | August 31, 2008 10:42 PM

    Forgot to mention: Milk and eggs can be dried to powder, or irradiated to increase shelf life. These processing innovations have permitted longterm storage of excess, keeping retail prices high despite excess supply.

    Posted by: DS | August 31, 2008 10:45 PM

    Thanks for some great tips! I would like to know though about the farmer's market thing-- where do you go for it to be cheaper or even just reasonable? I find the one in Falls Church is very expensive compared to regular grocery prices for the most part. Sometimes I go for the sake of supporting local organic farmers, the nice sights and sounds and smells, but to me it seems a pretty yuppyish fancy-pants market. I mean, 2.79/lb for tomatoes, or $4 for a pint of blueberries -- that is not cheap. And the $5 bunches of zinnias or blackeyed susans kill me!

    For the person having trouble w/ meal planning-- one thing I did a few years back was make word-document grocery list of the things I get the most, according to the aisles of the store I go to most. (So, first produce, then baking, canned stuff, then frozen etc -- obviously not an exact thing, since there are things across the back too.) Then when I want to make my list I print out my shopping list, and sit down and circle what we actually need. Sometimes I'll do this w/ a cookbook or two, and write out the menu as I go, and other times I just go buy the basics of what my family eats.

    One other thing to save money -- sometimes I challenge myself to go 2-3 days past when I "think" I need to go grocery shopping and just see if I can come up with creative meals from my pantry and freezer. I know that doesn't save a huge amount of money in the long run, but it does force me to think creatively about making dinners with what I have, and use up things that tend to get shoved to the back. Plus it's fun to pretend to be Ma from Little House on the Prairie and make something from almost nothing ;-)

    Posted by: fcmom | August 31, 2008 11:02 PM

    Keep a log of everything you spend--just the amount, not what it was spent for. If you just write down the amount of every expenditure, you'll be surprised how it increases your awareness of how much you're spending.

    Posted by: dengel1926 | September 1, 2008 12:11 AM

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