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Around the Home: Shopping tips can help you save when money’s tight

POSTED: February 29, 2012 1:00 a.m.

The recent rise in the cost of gasoline is squeezing every family budget item, and experts say that this is only the beginning. I don't know about you, but there's no wiggle room in my budget as it is.

It's possible to save money shopping for groceries without cooking everything from scratch, packing your purse with coupons or only purchasing foods in season. Here are eight easy tips that can add up to big savings. I'll have eight more in my next article March 21.

An example is given for each with the potential savings from either spending less or avoiding losing money through tossing uneaten foods. The possible grand total saved is given at the end of this article. A dollar saved is even better than a dollar earned; you don't have to pay taxes on it! Prices are rounded to the nearest 25 cents and may vary by store and region.

• Keep a grocery list. I've said it before and am saying it again; "Don't go food shopping without a list." Gas for an extra trip to the store easily can add a dollar or more to your grocery bill. And the less you shop, the less likely you'll make an impulse purchase.

Keep the list where it's easily accessible, such as on the fridge, and remember to take it with you to the grocery store. Stick to your list for added savings, but do stay flexible if you encounter a sale.

Examples:

1. Gas to drive four miles for an extra trip to the store: $1 (or more).

2. Impulse purchase of snack crackers at the store: An additional $2.50.

• Garbage check. We lose money whenever we toss food because it spoiled before we got around to eating it. If leftovers get the "heave ho" because they're left too long, we're throwing money in the garbage can. Make planning to avoid tossing foods a priority. Plan to use those perishable foods early in the week and freeze foods that can be frozen when you bring them home from the supermarket.

Example: Tossing a half bag of "tired" lettuce: $1.

• Avoid shopping when hungry. Everything looks good on an empty stomach. It's all too easy to buy something to tide us over in the car until we make it home. Eating before shopping not only helps forestall impulse buys, it may save calories. If you're shopping with your kids, feed them, too.

Example: Buying an energy bar at the grocery store to tide you over until you get home: $1.50.

• Brown bag it. If you normally eat out at noon, consider brown bagging it at least once a week. The typical fast food meal easily can cost $5 or more. Take leftovers from the evening meal to work the next day. Or a peanut butter sandwich and a piece of whole fruit are quick to pack.

Examples:

1. Eating a sack lunch once a week: Save $2.50.

2. Eating a sack lunch five days a week: Save $12.50.

• Coupon common sense. Use coupons only for foods you normally would eat, rather than for "extras." Don't miss out on potential sources of valuable coupons. Check your grocery receipt - sometimes there are great coupons on the back that help save money.

Also, if you have access to a computer, check online for coupons. For starters, check the website of the store where you shop or of products you use. Often the web address for many foods is given on the product label. If possible, shop on double or triple coupon days when a store increases the value of coupons. Grocery store loyalty cards may be another source of savings, offering in-store discounts to cardholders.

Examples:

1. Using two 50-cent coupons for items you use: Save $1.

2. Not buying that new dessert mix: Save $2.

• Check expiration dates. Avoid buying a food that is past its prime. If it's on sale and near its expiration date, use it soon.

Example: Avoid dumping a half gallon of old, soured milk down the drain: Save $2.50.

• Small scale experiments. Before trying a new food, buy the smallest size of package. If your family doesn't like the food, you're not stuck with a big box.

Example: Buying a small container of a new spice that you later discover your family won't eat: Save $1.50.

• Costly convenience foods. How much time do you really save when buying a convenience food? It takes just a few seconds to mix your own sugar and cinnamon rather than buying it pre-mixed. Microwaving a bowl of regular oatmeal rather than pouring hot water over a pre-measured package adds only a few minutes. You're likely to save by cutting fruits and veggies yourself. Plus, the precut ones won't keep as long.

Example: Buying a carton of old-fashioned or quick oatmeal that provides 30 servings vs. buying three boxes instant oatmeal that contain 10 packets each: Save $5.50.

• Grand total: The more of these tips you use, the more you can save. If you used each of the preceding examples in one shopping trip a week, you could save as much as $25.50 a week. Multiply that by 52 weeks and the savings would be over $1,350 yearly.

Adapted from article by Alice Henneman, MS, RD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

Time to test for radon

Don't wait; test your home for radon today. Radon is a Class-A carcinogen that usually causes no symptoms until lung cancer has already developed. More than 800 Georgians die each year from radon-induced lung cancer. Don't be one of them. Test your home today and fix it if your test reveals elevated radon.

Ginger Bennett is a Program Specialist II-Radon Educator with the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. Contact: 770-535-8290, www.hallcounty.org/extension.



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