Making the most of your grocery purchases


Grocery shopping and saving money go hand in hand--if you take the time to educate yourself on grocery store tactics.  There are a few ways you can get the most of your purchase and get the most out of what you purchase.

It has taken me a while to understand their language and how they display our groceries in the stores.  For instance, a BOGO means "Buy One and Get One" of same or equal value.  Some stores say "BOGO" when they really mean "Buy One Get One- Half Off".  The first one is regular price but the second one is not free, but one half the original price.  (BOGOHO)  I cannot tell you how many times I have loaded up  my carts with what I thought was a BOGO and found at the check out I had to pay half for the second one.  Read your ads thoroughly and look for asterisks, denoting a disclaimer is located at the bottom of the page. Make sure there are no restrictions on the amount of items purchased as a BOGO. 

First Rule:  Never go to the grocery store hungry.  Everything will look great and you will extremely over buy.

Watch for sale items that appear on the ends of isles.  Be mindful of the regular price.  These are usually smaller sizes of the product.

Canning factories make a variety of store brands as well as name brands.  The same can of tuna could be a store brand and labeled as a name brand.  Just make sure that the item is packaged in the USA.  Foreign countries have a completely different FDA rules. 

Take your coupons.  Check the Sunday paper for coupons for foods you use.  Read the coupon for the quantity needed for the coupon. Make sure you can use three of them.

Bring a calculator with you to figure out the best price per ounce for an item.  The biggest box may not be the best price.

Check your pantry and refrigerator/freezer before you leave for the store.  Make your list for what you need.  This will keep you from stopping for single items a few days later, wasting time and gasoline.

Plan you list for your meals that week.  A larger roast can be the main meat for a meal, and later that week, be sliced with gravy and noodles.  Or be the meat for a casserole, or freeze the leftover meat for another meal in the future. 

Don't put items in your cart that are not on our list.  Only exception is when the main meat for a meal is not available.

Buy the cheapest bottled water.  Make sure it says "purified" on the label.

Plan your meals around stores flyers.

Get your hands on a basic cookbook.  I have one from 1939 that was my grandma's.  It will tell you how to cut up a whole chicken, how to fillet a fish, the different cuts of meats and cooking times.

Cook a little more of a meal than you usually cook.  Leftovers can be the next days lunch.  Tastes much better than a cold cut sandwich.

Utilize your crockpot for dinners.  There are many recipes for meals that do not cost much.  You can use cheaper cuts of meats because a crockpot will make the meat more tender simmering in juices for 8 hours.

Figure out a budget and stick to it.  Savings from coupons and sales can afford you that better cut of meat for a special dinner.

Keep a list of your grocery needs on  your refrigerator.  Keep a pencil handy and write on the list items you see that you need while cooking.  This list is easy to grab on the way out of the door.  Paperclip your coupons to the list.

Keep a stash of quick meals on hand.  Violi meals from Birds Eye are good quick skillet meals.  Velveeta shells and cheese are quick.  Spaghetti is an old favorite.  Some pasta and a jar of sauce and you are set.  Steak-Ums from the freezer make a great Philly steak and cheese sandwich.  Hormel makes a beef tip and gravy that can be put over noodles or rice, ready in 4 minutes in the microwave for a quick meal.

Buy in bulk whenever you can.  When pork chops are on sale and in a family pack, simply repackage in a ziplock bag for a meals worth.  Freeze with a piece of waxed paper between chops.  Other meats can be done just the same.

When you running low on something, add it to your grocery list on the refrigerator.  You will never run completely out of something in the middle of preparing dinner.

Try store brands.  They are held to a standard backed by the store.  If you don't like them, they are returnable to the store.  Store brands run about 20% cheaper than name brands.

Shop during slow times at your store.  Late at night is good.  Avoid pay days, near major holidays and right after 5:00.  Early morning (say 7:00) is good for 24-hour stores.  They have re-stocked their shelves during the night.  Wednesday night is a good night to shop.  After about 8:00, markdowns are made.  New sales usually start on Wednesday.  You can get the new sale products and sometimes, last weeks sales.  Legally you straddle both sales !

Fresh fruits and veggies are cheaper in season.  Consider road side stands and farmer markets.  Find out when your store stocks their fresh produce.  Mine stocks Tuesday morning.

Avoid trips to corner stores or Quickie stores or even gas stations. Most often their merchandise is old and over priced.  Pay attention to the list on your fridge.

Invest in a good freezer. (Even one second hand can be useful)  You can stock up on meat, frozen veggies on sale and similar staples.  Make a big batch of chili and freeze a quart for a future meal.  Slice off a few pieces of that roast to freeze for another meal later on.  I keep a list of what I freeze and when, because foods get "lost" in the bottom or back of a freezer.

Don't waste leftovers.  Even a half cup of veggies put in a ziplock baggie can be used in a casserole or in a batch of soup.

When shopping for a sale item, the store may run out.  Go to Customer Service and get a rain check.  When the item is restocked in the store, you will get the sale price.  Watch dates on these rain checks so you do not lose out.

Clear out your refrigerator regularly.  If you have not put foods into the freezer (some foods you think you will eat in a few days), have a picnic on Friday with the foods left.  One week, I had the leftover roast and my hubby had the leftover spaghetti.

Take the time to get a store savings card.  They usually require a drivers license number, address and a phots ID of some sorts.  You can get additional savings from this card, and can get checks cashed there easier.

Recycle meals.  In the same week,  Monday's casserole and Tuesday's roast can be Wednesday's stew. 

Use your noodle a little at grocery stores.  A 99 cent can of beans compared to an 89 cent bag of dried beans.  The bag of dried beans can yield you 8 cups of cooked beans and the can of 99 cent beans is only 1 1/2 cup of beans.

Consider getting your paper products, cleaning products and laundry detergent from a dollar store.  You can get the same brands for less.

Use everything possible.  Leftover ingredients make great skillet meals. Got half an onion, some pasta, some fresh tomatoes that are really ripe and some leftover corn from last night?  Combine these with some salt and pepper and garlic powder for a skillet meal.  Use your imagination and you can make one of a kind meals that are really tasty, and use us all of your leftovers.

Don't hesitate taking a product or item back to the store.  If it is spoiled, soured, rotted or fizz-less, take it back.  Stores offer refunds, store credits or replacements.  All you have to do is ask.

Buy your cold cuts from the deli. You can get exactly the amount you need.  Pre-packaged cold cuts have more preservatives than deli meats and have more effect on the land fill situation.  Buy a pound of ham and have it sliced or by it in a chunk and use it as you want.  No waste.

Watch the little cash register window while your items are being scanned.  Some sale items are not scanned with the sale price and you are charged the regular price.  Not the cashiers fault, but pay attention.  it can be corrected while you are still in line, and saves a trip to Customer Service and their long line. 

Stock up on frozen turkeys right after Thanksgiving or Christmas.  They are usually much cheaper per pound.  Having company in March, why not have a turkey dinner?

Know the rules!  Popular items like milk are usually at the back of the store for a reason.  You have to pass by all the good "sale" items to get there.  Cheaper items are usually on lower shelves, the expensive ones are eye level.  Be aware of "lost leaders"  There are super cheap items to lure you into the store, hoping you will see something you "need" for regular price.  Go and get the super cheap item and leave!  Do not be fooled by sprinklers in the produce isle making you think the produce is super fresh.

Avoid items sold at the check out.  They are usually over priced and are meant to lure you while you are waiting in line to check out.

Check out the back of canned goods for free recipes that feature their product.

Put a sugar cube in the Ziploc bag that stores your cheese,  it will keep better and let you use all of it.

Put onions in the freezer for 15 minutes before cutting, this will cut down on the tears.

Put a few slices of apple in your cookie jar to keep soft cookies soft.

After opening ice cream, put a piece of plastic wrap over the ice cream before you close the container. This keeps freezer burn away.

Cauliflower can by cooked and puréed to thicken soups instead of potatoes.  Less calories and more vitamins.

To stop cauliflower sulfur smell, cook quickly, blanch and sauté (boil and fry) and to save nutrients.

Empty cereal bags are good for storing bread and can be used to freeze items.

Place sliced bread in freezer.  Take out when you need, it takes seconds to thaw.

Remember cheaper cuts of meat contain the same nutritious value as more expensive cuts.  Use spices and crock pot cooking to make tender and tasty.

Coffee grounds can be re-used.  Dry them on a cookie sheet in a moderate oven (355 degrees) when your are baking something else.  Rinse coffee filters in hot water for a few second, will take out the paper taste and make your coffee taste much better. 

Egg whites can be used as glue for paper crafts.

Put olive oil in a pepper shaker for pizza and salads.  Applies just the right amount.

Petroleum jelly can help a jack-o-lantern last longer.  Smear jelly on the cut area after patting it dry with a paper towel. 

Walk-Mart will match:

-BOGO for a specific product

-competitors ads for a specific product.

-fresh produce and meals when the price is offered in same unit price.

-items must be identical.

Light tuna contains less mercury than white albacore tuna.

Use apple sauce in baking for a substitute for oil.  Use the exact same amount in recipe.  Can cut calories further by using unsweetened apple sauce.

When making mashed potatoes, rinse the cut potatoes under running water to remove excess starch.  Potatoes will mash much smoother.

Keep celery fresh by wrapping it in aluminum foil to last longer.

Keeping tomatoes in refrigerator will not keep them as long as putting them on kitchen window sill.  Will ripen at room temperature.  If get too ripe, freeze.

Carrots last longer if you take off all of the green and store in a zip lock bag-not sealed.  If want to store cut up carrots, submerge in a container with water and seal.  Change water often.

Bananas.  Break up the bunch.  Wrap each stem with plastic wrap.  When banana reaches desired ripeness, put in refrigerator to stop ripening.

Freeze fresh caught fish in water in a zip lock bag.  Will keep them fresh for years.  They are frozen in their natural place.

Tomato paste:  Use can opener on both ends.  Open the top, place on saucer, cut the bottom off.  Life up,  take the top off, and just push the bottom thru to remove the sauce.  If you need to measure what a can of water is, approximately a half cup to dilute.

Use an ice cream scoop to fill muffin tins.  The release will put the batter in the cup neatly and uniformly.

A piece of uncooked spaghetti can be used to start a file in fireplace or camp fire.

Peel garlic cloves using a glass jar.  Break two or three cloves off of the clump.  Put them in the glass jar and shake.  The friction will take the papery outside off.  Just pour the contents on a paper towel and pick the garlic from the rest.  Your hands will not smell of garlic.

Copywriter: Karen B. Cardwell 2012.   Email me at: cradwell.kc@Gmail.Com 

 Tweet me at: Karen Cardwell@blairie12.

 Original Artwork Images by Tom Wilson.