Saving on Groceries

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  • Today, Mellody Hobson provides tips on how to save at the grocery store.

    The USDA says grocery prices may rise as much as 4% this year. Last year’s drought led to a grass- and corn-feed shortage, resulting in higher prices for beef, poultry and grain-related products. So unless you plan to stick to that New Year’s resolution to eat just salad and carrots, your grocery bill is going to be more.

    What are some basic ways to save?
    First, if you don’t have a list, you’re shopping blind and will end up having to throw away things you don’t need and can’t use. Make a list of two weeks’ worth of groceries and shop from it.

    Next, don’t be impulsive. Just because it’s on sale, that doesn’t mean you have to buy it. That said, don’t overlook the items in the bargain bin. Generally those items can be great deals, but you need to be careful with canned goods. Any canned product that’s compromised in any way can make you sick. That ten cent can of peaches isn’t a bargain if it means a case of botulism!

    How about those big club stores? Are they worth the fee of joining?
    It really depends how big your family is and how much room you have in your home to store things. The deals mean buying in bulk. But either way, don’t go crazy in big club stores. Club shopping is very good for certain kinds of items, including toilet paper, paper towels and detergent, but you can actually waste your hard-earned money if you buy bulk sizes of items that you won’t use.  If you live alone, a five-pound bag of apples for $7 isn’t that great of a deal unless you plan to bake a pie, because odds are you’ll be sick of eating them before they go bad. No one likes a mealy apple.

    Now what about coupons? Have you seen those “extreme couponing” shows where people somehow end up getting paid to shop?
    That’s pretty rare. They call it “extreme” for a reason. The first coupon was issued in 1888 by the Coca-Cola Company, and today coupons remain a popular way to save at the grocery store. The Internet has absolutely revolutionized couponing. Forget inky fingers clutching a pair of scissors while huddled over the Sunday newspaper. It’s all online now.

    In 2011, we redeemed 3.5 billion coupons—saving consumers $4.6 billion—up over 6 percent from 2010. What’s even more stunning is the savings that were left unclipped, so to speak. That same year, 305 billion coupons—valued at $470 billion—were distributed via all mediums.

    My favorite  website for groceries is coupons.com. It usually has the biggest selection, is easy to navigate and has a section just for grocery coupons. When you find the coupon you like, simply print it and take it with you to the store. Another great site is retailmenot.com. It’s the largest online coupon site in the United States and also has a section just for grocery shopping. Both sites have free apps for iPhones and Androids. Once you find the coupon you want, it will be displayed either as a numeric code or a scannable image that can be entered at the store’s register.

    Another surprising coupon source is Facebook. Facebook exclusives and coupons are awarded in exchange for “liking” a particular brand. Keep in mind that brands you “like” may be able to access some of your basic personal information when you opt to download a coupon via an app, but you can remove them from your account as soon as you nab the coupon, preventing retailers from accessing that information in the future.

    How about all the jargon that goes along with couponing?
    If you want to get in the game, the first order of business is to learn the lingo.

    There should be a course! Here’s a quick cheat sheet to the acronyms: OYNO is On Your Next Order, MIR is Mail-in Rebate and BOGO is Buy One Get One (free). Another thing to know is if your coupons are stackable, meaning you can use a manufacturer’s coupon in tandem with a store coupon. Also, find out if stores in your area offer double coupon deals, meaning at certain times you can use a coupon and it will be worth twice its face value.

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