Preparing a budget is tough enough; sticking to it is even harder. And then, to make things worse, the price of groceries has risen like a soufflé. Do you feel like someone just stuck their foot out into the aisle to deliberately trip you up? Here are some suggestions to keep you on track.
If you haven’t already mastered the basics, start with these.
- Look at the grocery store circulars for bargains.
- Plan a week’s worth of menus based on the best deals you see advertised.
- Use the menus to develop your grocery list.
- Don’t be too loyal to a single grocery store or brand. Store brands are almost always cheaper than name brands, and sometimes they’re the same product in different packaging.
- Always shop with a list and stick to it.
- Never shop hungry.
If you’ve mastered the basics but still can’t stay within your budget, don’t be too hard on yourself. Grocery prices have increased significantly over the last two years. Below are some examples from the March 2008 Department of Labor Consumer Price Index, along with some suggestions to help you save. Bread: up 29.8%
If your bread maker hasn’t been offloaded at a garage sale yet, dig it out and start using it again. This time around, don’t buy the prepared mixes; bake your bread from scratch. Flour: increased 48.5%
Save the good stuff for special recipes; use standard all purpose flour for regular baking. Conventional wisdom says buy more to save more, but be careful. If you’re throwing away unused flour you’re not saving a cent. Make it last longer by storing it in the freezer. Tomatoes: up 11.5%
Grow your own. Store bought tomatoes rarely taste as good as you wish they did anyhow, so saving money here brings a bonus in flavor. Even if your backyard is measured in square feet instead of acres, you can put a couple of cherry tomato plants in pots on the patio or balcony. Another option is the local farmers market; the quality is sure to be better, and without high transportation costs, the price may be lower as well. Coffee: up 18.4%
Check for a lower price on a larger bag. If giving up or cutting back on coffee consumption isn’t an option, brew more at home and fill a travel mug to go. The higher price you see at the supermarket is affecting prices at your local coffee shop, too, so if you haven’t given up your $4 a day latte habit, now’s the time. Milk: up 19.6%
This is a tough one. After scouring the internet, there seem to be only two ways to save on milk: buy powdered milk, or buy skim and freeze it. The powdered milk advocates swear it tastes like regular milk. Even if you can’t bring yourself to drink it, it’s not a bad idea to keep it on hand for cooking and baking. Some caveats about freezing milk: It has to be skim or the milk solids separate and float around. Pour a glass off before freezing to prevent exploding. Eggs: up 69.2%
Eggs will last longer in their insulated carton, and are still good at least a week or two beyond the best by date. If they’re getting close to expiration, you can break them, freeze them and use them later. Or, you can make a quiche, frittata, soufflé or omelet for dinner. Though the cholesterol level in eggs is high, an individual serving of quiche or soufflé contains only half an egg, or 106 mg of cholesterol; the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends limiting cholesterol to 200 mg a day.