Saturday, February 2, 2008

Tips to Cut Rising Food Costs

Bill Walsh, Executive Editor of the Fauquier Times-Democrat Weekender, wrote a column in the Friday, February 1, 2008 issue about the escalating cost of groceries. His column is called Food for Thought.

Here's some tips to help you get your food dollar under control.

1. Weight the cost of home made vs. convenience foods.
Convenience costs money. The closer you stay to basic, from scratch ingredients, the better.

2. Shop less and you'll spend less.
If you normally shop once a week for food and spend $100 each time, shop every 10 days - 2 weeks instead.

You won't spend $200. More likely, you'll spend $150-175. The reason is you'll buy less impulse and snack foods. Plus you'll save on gas and the drudgery of grocery shopping.

3. Shop on Tuesdays.
Tuesday is the day that grocery stores are the least likely to be crowded. You'll have the whole place to yourself and the check out lines will be short.

When you're not stressed, there's less pressure and you'll make better choices.

4. Shop the top and bottom of the shelves.
Eye and thigh level is premium space in grocery stores. Eye level tempts you. Thigh level tempts your children.

Manufacturers pay grocery stores to display their products at eye and thigh levels.

In general, above eye level (on the higher shelves) you'll usually find smaller and local start up company products. Below thigh level, you'll find bulk and store brands.

5. Buy what's on sale.
Be flexible. Don't plan to serve salmon when chicken is on sale. Take advantage of price reductions.

6. Make the high mark up foods from scratch.
Soups, salad dressings, stews, cakes, cookies and deli salads are all high profit foods for the manufacturers. This means that the cost of the ingredients is a fraction of what they can charge.

With a little practice and a good cook book, you can make these better, cheaper and healthier.

When you have these foods under control, invest in a bread machine and make your own bread. Paying $5.00 for a loaf of bread - especially when you family eats 2, 3 or more loaves of bread a week is a real budget buster!

7. Never waste food.
Limp veggies go into soup. Left over stew goes into the freezer for a day when there's no time to cook. The bones from Sunday's roast chicken becomes stock. Dried bread becomes crumbs.

8. Don't buy soda.
Soda is a treat - a dessert, actually. Soda is NEVER a beverage. Soda is an empty calorie "food" that cost a fortune. Serve soda only on special occassions.

9. Concentrate on good health.
Buy good quality, fresh foods from local sources (whenever possible). It will taste better and feed you body the nutrients it needs. You'll have better health and will spend less on medical care.

10. Skip the junk.
Chips, dips, lunch meats, hot dogs, smoked sausage, white flour products, packaged cereals, prepared frozen meals.... I could go on and on.

All these foods may be fun to eat but they're horribly expensive when you consider the amount of food value they contain. Plus they are full of preservatives, nitrates, sugar and fillers.

Read lables carefully. Compare foods. Stick with fresh and local whenever possible.

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