Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Last week I watched a fascinating video about how inflation is much worse than the mainstream media would have us believe. According to the government, consumer prices rose 27.5% from 2002 to 2012.
Peter Schiff, an economist who is skeptical about the official CPI, decided to put these numbers to the test. He examined a basket of twenty goods that includes things like bread, butter, coffee, eggs, rent, gasoline, cars, dental services, electricity, tires, etc. According to the data, the average price increase of these things was 44.3% from 2002 to 2012.
In other words, actual prices have risen 61% faster than the official CPI. And a lot of this occurred before the Federal Reserve’s money-printing spree! The point is, prices are going up fast and they’re liable go up even faster. Everyday people need to save money anyway they can if they’re going to get by, so here are 20 ways to save money on food:
1. Check the paper for sales
Sounds obvious, but the vast majority of the people who read this don’t bother.
2. Make a list
After you find out what’s on sale, plan your meals accordingly. Then make a shopping list and stick to it. If it’s not on the list you don’t need it.
3. Go shopping less often
Once a week is more than enough. It’s best to do it on the same day at the same time. If you make it a routine and aren’t so casual about it, you’ll be less likely to stray from the list or make impulse purchases.
4. Don’t shop on an empty stomach
If I go to the store hungry, I come home with all sorts of junk food I don’t need. It’s very hard to resist that stuff when you’re hungry, so plan on going shopping after a good meal.
5. Use coupons
Clip coupons from the weekly ad or you use one of the many great coupon sites. Just make sure they’re coupons for things you would have purchased anyway.
6. Buy generic food
There’s not much difference between the name brand and the generic stuff. Hint: Look at the items on the top and bottom shelves. Stores put the cheap items there because you’re less likely to notice them.
7. Calculate the price per unit
Food is usually cheaper when it comes in a larger container, but you’d be surprised how often it’s cheaper when you buy the small size. To find out, divide the price by the number of ounces to find out what the cost per ounce is, then compare the two. You might want to bring a calculator.
8. Make sure it’s actually a good deal
For example, you might see a sign that says “2 for $10”, but chances are they’re always $5 each. Things like this are just ploys to get you to buy more than you need.
9. Buy in bulk
You can usually save money by buying in bulk, but only if it’s something you would have bought anyway. And make sure it’s something you will eat before it goes bad.
10. Avoid convenience foods
These are things like shredded cheese, pre-cut vegetables such as celery and carrots, or sliced ham. It’s a lot cheaper if you do the shredding and slicing yourself.
11. Avoid ready-made meals
Any meal that you can throw in the microwave or heat up on the stove is bound to be both unhealthy and overpriced. Instead, find a good recipe, buy the ingredients, and do some cooking. It takes longer, but it’s worth it.
12. Don’t buy bottled water
It’s a huge waste of money. This episode of Penn & Teller’s Bull$#!t showed that bottled water isn’t necessarily any safer, purer or tastier.
13. Don’t buy flavored drinks
I hardly drink anything other than water these days. I’ve been doing it for so long that I don’t miss soda, milk or juice at all anymore, and I’ve saved a lot of money.
14. Find cheap substitutes
I don’t mean buy generic. I’m talking about trading one type of food for another. For example, as much as you might like steak, it’s a lot cheaper to settle for hamburger meat.
15. Buy frozen fruits and veggies
Fresh produce is delicious, but it’s usually cheaper to get frozen veggies. This is one instance where it’s convenient and cheaper.
16. Get the store’s discount card
Not all stores do this, but if your store does and you don’t have the card, you’re throwing money away. I usually save $15-$20 per shopping trip by using the store card.
17. Compare prices
Even with the discount card, you might find a better deal at another grocery store. If you have a smartphone, check out these price comparison apps.
18. Use the produce scale
Sometimes you’ll see a sign like “$1.29/lb.” and pick up what looks like one pound without realizing you’ve actually picked up several pounds. Use the scale in the store to make sure.
19. Buy cold cuts in the deli
Not only is it cheaper than prepackaged meats, it’s a lot healthier.
20. Watch the cash register like a hawk
Even the best cashiers make mistakes. It’s not uncommon for a cashier to accidentally scan an item twice and not notice. Watch the register and look over your receipt before you leave the store.