Money-Saving Strategy:

Reduce Food Costs WITHOUT Coupons or Switching Brands

Reprinted with permission from No-Debt Living, copyright 2000 No-Debt Living. Susan M. Shannon Davies is a regular contributor to No-Debt Living, www.nodebtnews.com, which provides financial, consumer and time-management news with a Christian perspective.

By Susan M. Shannon Davies

Todays high oil and transportation prices are driving up the price of all consumer goods, including food. Breakfast cereal costs more per pound than steak. Whole-grain bread cost over $2 a loaf. And, prices are unlikely to go down in the near future.

If you're looking for a way to streamline your grocery prices and ease the strain on your budget, a price list may be just the ticket.

Here's how to set it one up.

SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS

Start by saving all your grocery receipts for several months. Then, make a list of items you buy regularly (I use a computer spreadsheet to make mine). Organize the list by category. For instance, produce, refrigerated/frozen, canned, bulk, and nonfood will describe most items.

Next to each item list the lowest price you have seen for it, plus a standard unit cost. For example, in my area, the lowest price I've found for a 6-ounce can of tuna fish is 48 cents, or 8 cents and ounce.

Then each time you shop, save the receipt and note any "new" low prices on your list. Using a computer makes this process easy, but using whiteout on a photocopy of the list will work as well.

Keep a clean copy of the list hanging somewhere convenient with a pencil or pen to circle items you need. When you are ready to shop, the list will be ready!

HOW TO USE IT

While you are shopping, if you see an item on sale that is not circled, you will know if it is a good enough deal to stock up. For example, if bulk oatmeal goes to 33 cents a pound in my area, I buy several bags of it and keep them in the freezer even if I don't have an immediate need for it.

Likewise, if something is circled but the price is not very good, I have three alternatives. I can buy only the minimum I need. I can do without it. Or, I can find a less expensive alternative while at the store.

The unit price will come in handy when trying to compare different sized containers of similar products. You soon will find that larger-sized containers does not always mean a better price.

You may have to shop at several stores in order to get all the best deals.

I generally shop at one warehouse-type grocery store. They pay me to bring my own bags and I bag my own groceries. I go shopping only once a month. Then I try to hit a few other discount and health food stores during the month.

OTHER BENEFITS

My price list has also saved me money in other ways. Creating and maintaining the list quickly revealed that some prepared food items were so high priced that I couldn't justify buying them regularly anymore.

Certain breakfast cereals come to mind. By learning the price per ounce, I discovered a dramatic difference in brands. I have since switched to only lower-priced, no preservative cereals. In addition, I also try to make hot cereal or muffins each week to lower our breakfast costs. Eventually, I hope to wean us off prepared cereals except for the absolute lowest-priced brands.

By consistently using your price list, you will not only save your family money, but you will feel more in control of your shopping and your family's food consumption.

Susan M. Shannon Davies uses her price list for frugal food shopping in Boise, Idaho. She and her husband have four daughters that keep her going to the store regularly.

For more money-saving ideas visit No-Debt Living, www.nodebtnews.com, where you can view more than 100 valuable articles and resources on financial, consumer and time-management news with a Christian perspective. Copyright 2000 No-Debt Living.