|Beware the center aisles of the grocery store|
Shopping for food is getting more expensive all the time. I am not happy about setting new records at the till, despite shouting "BINGO" each time I do. To try to prevent this from occurring too often, I have a few strategies for controlling the food budget.
Price Per 100 Grams
One of my favourite strategies is to use price per unit of measurement in order to make direct comparisons. In Canada our produce is still priced per pound - despite adopting the metric system in the 1970's - but most other items show prices per 100 grams.
Showing the price per unit of measurement allows comparison across different package sizes for the best deal. In my store, the price/100g is shown on the shelf along with the total package price. By looking at the standard price, I have often found that larger sizes are not necessarily the best deal. Sometimes smaller packages cost less per 100g. And don't get sucked in by bulk.
Bulk Not Always Best
I used to think that the bulk section always provided the best deals. I was wrong. Armed with my price/100g, I can compare the price of bulk items to packaged ones on the shelf. Sometimes bulk items cost less, but sometimes they are much more expensive.
This can make a huge difference when it comes to expensive foods such as walnuts or almonds. Prices change frequently, so I take the time to check bulk prices versus packaged prices every time. The savings can amount to several dollars per kilo (2.2 lbs).
30% to 50% OFF
By far the most fun are the heavily discounted grocery items - anywhere from 30% to 50% off. The produce section of our store usually has a shelf of these half priced items. Often there is absolutely nothing wrong with the food, and a lot of it just has minor blemishes, or has been sitting for a while.
I have purchased giant bags of half price mushrooms, then processed them at home to make soup and pasta sauce which I freeze in jars. I love half price bananas. Ripe bananas can be peeled, put into baggies, and frozen whole. Take one or two out at a time to add to an orange to make an icy, yummy smoothie. Or thaw a few and make a banana bread.
Other grocery items are also frequently discounted 50% for reasons that don't affect the food inside. Why pay full price for breakfast cereal when the discount bin has identical boxes with a little cut in the cardboard (not in the inner package) for half the cost?
Sales Specials - Pantry Packers
Another way to save on food is to take advantage of sales. Many stores have a 3 month rotation schedule on sales so if, for example, peanut butter is on sale, I will buy enough for 3 months. This can lead to a well-stocked pantry, which is a beautiful thing at any time, but is especially precious during an emergency.
Not Buying Any Crappy Food
Often the best way is to save 100% on items by just not buying them. There are many items in a grocery store that barely pass for real food and should be avoided altogether. Your body does not need cookies, or chips, or pop, or candy, or...
The oft-spoken advice to "stick to the outside of the store" gives us a clue as to what aisles we should be avoiding. By shopping the perimeter of the store you will find whole foods and skip all the packaged, overpriced items found in the center aisles. You'll save money, and eat healthier too!
Leave a comment and tell us your favourite strategies for saving money on groceries. Until we get our gardens and local food production going, we are going to need them.