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Dave Daniels writes about smart shopping and tips for frugal living especially when it comes to costs in the kitchen.
Do you know how much you spend on food each month? If not, break out your latest credit card statement and check your purchase categories. You might be surprised.
Whether it's $300 or $1,000, food expenses are going to take a big chunk out of your budget. While you can't do much about rising prices (they're predicted to increase by as much as 3.5%, according to the Department of Agriculture) there are several moves you can make to cut your food costs. Here are five of them.
1. Use Coupons
It's the oldest trick in the book, but it still works. Even if you don't read the Sunday paper, pick up a copy or two and start clipping. Then, put your smartphone to work. There are tons of grocery saving apps at your disposal—Favado is one of the best. Get deals and discounts from over 65,000 stores nationwide and customize your user experience to receive alerts when your preferred foods go on sale.
2. Buy Produce at a Farmers Market
For your fruit and vegetable purchases, check out a local farmers market. You're likely to find a wider variety of produce, usually at prices around 20% lower than your traditional grocer, and they should be fresher and of higher quality. Even if you have to drive a few extra miles to find one, if your family eats a lot of fruits and veggies, the potential savings can make the trip well worth your while.
3. Reduce Restaurant Trips
We love to eat at restaurants, and there's no reason we shouldn't. Instead of cutting them entirely out of your entertainment budget, start by staying home one extra night per month.
To calm any family uproar, make it a fun cook-in evening. Buy all the ingredients for a lasagna, then divide the family up into specific responsibilities: One person cooks the pasta sheets, someone cuts the veggies or browns the beef, and the kids put it all together (obviously, the most fun part of the experience). Believe me, it makes for better bonding than sitting down at a restaurant booth.
4. Brown Bag It to Work
Let's say you spend $5 per day eating out on your lunch break. Over the course of a year, that adds up to $1,250. Instead, pack up last night's leftovers in some Tupperware or throw some sandwiches and healthy snacks together. This can also have a positive effect on your gas costs and reduce wear and tear on your automobile.
5. Create a Grocery Shopping List
When you head to the grocery store, don't forget your list. Take five minutes to run through the fridge and pantry and take note of what you do and don't need, and stick to it once you get to the store. Don't go down aisles that don't contain items on your list, and once you hit the checkout line, put an imaginary cover over your cart. Those candies, magazines, and other items are only there to bait you into spending more.
Let's say you eliminate one trip to your favorite restaurant each month, saving yourself $100, and you pare your grocery purchases back by the same amount using the above tips. Instead of letting that $200 monthly surplus sit in your checking account, develop a plan to direct it to wherever it can best benefit your finances.
You could knock down your credit card balances, beef up your emergency fund, or even get caught up on your retirement investments. Saving money on food and grocery purchases is great, but truly taking advantage of those savings is the ultimate goal.
What other ways can you think of to save on grocery and food purchases?