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Grocery Shopping on a Budget

If your lifestyle has been negatively affected by the current tight economy, you may dread going to the grocery store these days, shocked by the high price of items that were once very affordable, including staple items like milk, bread, produce, and other things your family members consume on a regular basis. It’s tough to stick to a reasonable budget and it may seem as if your grocery bill grows with each subsequent visit to the local supermarket. Furthermore, if you’re determined to buy healthy foods for your family, the prices seem even higher for those items, causing you to compromise when it comes to selecting nutritious food for your loved ones.

But it is indeed possible to stay within your budget if you follow a few steadfast rules when it’s time to go shopping. These guidelines will serve to reduce your grocery bills and allow you enough funds to buy food and other items your family needs and will enjoy.

o Plan your meals – If you know what you’re going to make during the coming week, you can buy the specific items that you’ll require for those dishes. While planning, browse the circulars for your favorite store (or for other stores in your area) to determine what’s on sale (especially meat) and try to devise recipes that include those foods.

o Plan to shop weekly – Shopping weekly rather than monthly saves money because there is less chance that food will spoil before you use it or that you’ll forget you’ve purchased it once it’s buried in the back of your pantry.

o Make a list and stick to it – Lists are a good idea for a lot of reasons. First of all, making a list means you won’t forget those important ingredients for your weekly recipes. Also, if you stick to buying only what’s on the list, it also means that you won’t be buying a lot of unnecessary items, therefore, keeping your grocery bill down. It doesn’t mean you can’t splurge on a few things you see on the supermarket shelves, but it will keep over-buying down to a minimum. Also, if you shop at a time when you don’t have to bring the kids, you’ll be less likely to buy extras as they won’t be there to beg you for their favorite treats!

o Bring a calculator – If you’re on a really tight budget, don’t hesitate to calculate costs as you go…and not just in your head. It may take a little more time to do this, so be sure to shop when you have the luxury of an extra 30 minutes or so.

o Avoid expensive pre-packaged foods – While you may have a lifestyle that demands some meals in a hurry, you’re going to pay top dollar for those pre-packaged frozen meals or even the fresh prepared foods you find in many supermarkets nowadays. So, if you know there are nights when you’ll have to eat dinner on-the-run, make extras the night before and package them for easy heating and eating the second time around.

o Look for seasonal items – When you’re shopping for produce items, opt for the stuff that’s in season, especially locally grown items. Chances are that the seasonal fruits and vegetables will be cheaper than the items that are out of season or have to be imported from elsewhere. If, for example, apples are inexpensive at a certain time of year, buy lots of them and use them in a variety of recipes, like applesauce, apple-stuffed pork tenderloin, or even apple pie! If there’s a fruit you really need for a recipe and it’s expensive, consider the frozen variety, if available. The quality of frozen fruits is usually quite good and they will most likely be cheaper than the fresh ones during off seasons.