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How can I save money at the grocery store?

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According to the National Food Check-Out Week Proclamation issued by U.S. Dept. of Ag Secretary Mike Johanns, living in the United States requires the average American citizen to work through mid-April every year to earn enough to pay annual income taxes.

Another cost of living fact is that we have the safest, most reliable food supply of any nation in the world, and less than 10 percent of our annual income is spent on food. That means we work just 35 days each year to eat three meals per day.

This fact is one worth celebrating, and Secretary Johanns has designated the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 4 as National Food Check-Out Week. The week marks how long we must work into the year to pay for 365 days of food.

Even though our food supply remains inexpensive when compared to other countries, there is legislation in the works to make it even more inexpensive by eliminating the tax on un-prepared food items. The actual dollar savings to a family have not yet been published, but it can be surmised that the spending power of families will increase — especially for those willing to take the time to prepare meals “from scratch.” This is good news for families who want to provide low-cost, nutritious meals at home. Additionally, cooking from scratch is usually the best way to maximize the nutritional value of food.

To further reduce the amount of income spent on groceries, consider these tips, adapted from the “Pioneer Thinking” Web site.

Plan meals in advance, and cook only as much food as your family will consume in one meal. Or, cook a double recipe and freeze part for later. Serve smaller portions. Eat less to stay slimmer and healthier. Eliminate fancy, fattening, expensive desserts. Become a “brown bagger” by taking lunch to work instead of eating out. Utilizing leftovers from home or bringing a homemade sandwich and fruit for lunch can save on the cost of meals each week if you traditionally eat out. Become a comparison shopper and buy sale items. Take advantage of case lot sales for items you use on a regular basis. To reduce waste, clip, save and use coupons only for products you normally use. Use unit shopping to select the brand that is the least expensive. Although economy sizes can be less expensive per ounce or per serving, check prices to be sure.

Stock up on genuine bargains. Keep in mind that because something is on sale, you don’t have to buy it. If your family doesn’t normally use or eat the item, it may go to waste. Become a gardener and grow your own produce. This not only saves you dollars at the grocery store, it increases the overall health of your family by providing freshly harvested produce. Your local USU Extension office also offers many published resources as well as nutrition education classes that include suggestions for shopping, food preparation tips, menu planning and budgeting. Contact the Extension office nearest you for more information or to enroll in classes.

Posted on 3 Feb 2006

Kathy Riggs
Family and Consumer Science and 4-H/Youth Agent, Iron County

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