Wise food purchasing

“Every little bit helps” is an adage that really applies to using our money wisely during difficult economic times. As prices rise on many necessities, smart shopping becomes more and more important.

Using your food money wisely means more than cutting your food bill. It also means making sure you get good nutrition and eating pleasure for the money you spend on food. Wise use of food dollars is a challenge, requiring advance planning and the use of basic tools to make sound cost comparisons. Here are some tips to help you sharpen your food money management skills.

Plan meals first and then make a shopping list. Use your list to save trips to the supermarket and help you avoid buying items you don’t really need.

Choose a store that gives you the best price and quality for products you typically buy. Make sure the cost savings from shopping at several stores justifies the extra time and transportation cost.

Try to avoid shopping when you’re tired, hungry or rushed.

Compare unit prices to find best buys. Large packages, store brands and sale items are often, but not always, cheaper than other brands or container sizes.

Use itemized receipts to help track food costs. This is especially helpful when prices aren’t marked on products.

Make substitutions for items on your shopping list if you can save money or get a higher quality product, AND if the item will fit into your meal plans.

Use coupons ONLY for products you usually buy.

Stock up on store specials in reasonable amounts.

Buy store brands and generic items when their taste and quality suit your needs.

Buy bulk foods (when available) for high quality, a lower price, and the exact amount you want.

Make sure convenience foods are worthwhile buys. Some (packaged mixes, canned vegetables, frozen juice concentrates) can be good buys, while others (frozen dinners) cost much more than home-prepared versions.

Avoid overbuying (particularly perishables) to minimize food waste.

Adapted from: TIPS USDA Food and Nutrition Service