10 Do's and Don'ts for Cost Effective Grocery Shopping

The Basics: 

When you go to the grocery store you can spend alot more money than you want to or need to.  Buying groceries when you're hungry is a sure fire way to buy more than you should and to also buy things that are prepackaged and "easy to cook".  The following tips will help you avoid some of the traps of grocery shopping that tend to balloon your grocery budget.

1. Stay out of any section that says something like "Meals for 1".  Any meal that is packaged for 1 person may be a good deal for an individual, but if you're shopping for 2 or more people you will not be getting a good deal.  You are paying extra for the convenience of pre-packaging, pre-cooking, and the ability to microwave your meal. 

2. Frozen family dinners are a budget killer.  Those frozen pre-cooked meals for 4 or more (think "box of lasagna") are very expensive (if you find one under $5 its a miracle).  You are paying extra for convenience.  Buying the ingredients and cooking the meal youself will usually be half the price.

3. Don't buy vegetable and rice combo meals.  Rice is one of the cheapest thing you can buy, and Instant rice is foolproof to cook and takes 5 minutes.  Insead buy the frozen vegetables, make your own rice and then combine them.  You will get more food and pay half the price for it.

4. Never buy "snack sizes".  Most of the cost is in the individual packaging.  Instead of buying individual sizes, buy a bigger bag or package and divide it up yourself a home.

5. Don't buy pre-sliced items.  This is one of the silliest way you overpay at the grocery store.  A package of 1apple sliced up will cost you as much as 5 whole apples.  Just buy the apples and cut them up yourself.  This applies to almost any fresh fruit or vegetable (mushrooms, lettuce, etc.).

vs. Slice your own apples!

6. Watch out for the frozen chicken strips.  Many of the large packages of pre-cooked meats in the frozen foods section (think frozen chicken strips) can cost 2 to 3 times as much per pound as the raw meats.  It may be convenient to buy the bag but if you're trying to meet a budget this is a big waste of your funds.

7. Buy the store brand when possible.  In general the store brand (think "Safeway Select" in Safeway) will be 10% to 50% cheaper than the nationla brand (think "Kraft") for the same item.

8. Buy instant coffee instead of ground.  Instead of making a pot of coffee each morning, consider insant coffee.  You can control the portion (you can make 1 cup or a half cup at a time) which will control the waste of coffee.  Consider how often you dump a cup of coffee or more from the coffee pot before you dismiss this item.

9. Avoid single-serving items.  Single-serving items (think can of soda) are always more expensive than their counterpart (think 2 liter of soda).  Remember, this is a budget article, not a convenience article.

10. Think basic before pre-processed.  When you pick up a processed item (think Pop Tarts) think about how you could eat a similar more natural thing (think toast and grape jelly).  Most of the time you can come up with a cheaper alternative to the packaged food that tastes just as good (and your kids will also like). 

The items above are just a few of the many ways you can be a more effective grocery shopper.  What we really want to convey in this article is that changing your mindset and attitude when you go grocery shopping is the best way to start saving more money.  Teach your kids not to worship the cartoons on the cereal boxes, and as an adult don't fall in love with the pre-packaged 5 minute meal.  Natural and simple food is usually the healthiest, cheapest and fastest cooking.  Food corporations know this and try to entice you to spend more with the fancy logos and packaging.  Don't be fooled - shop smart.

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