Planning the Meal: Shopping the Stores
A large part of saving money by cooking at home comes from controlling the food costs, and that is largely a function of smart grocery shopping. Walking into the store with a list and good intentions isn't smart shopping.
What is smart food shopping?
- Remembering that the food menu on which you decide drives the shopping choices and not vice-versa. Many families develop a stable of proven recipes, supplemented by the periodic I thought that I'd try something different, so here goes meal. This stable is based upon the food preferences, dietary requirements and ease of preparation. You might think that it's cheaper to purchase only the sales items, but this is more likely to lead to impulse sales and the need for repeated visits to obtain the supplemental items that you might not have when it's time to prepare the meal.
- Knowing that stores aren't created equal and different stores have their own strengths and specialties. One store might be great for meats but have a poor selection of produce. Others are affiliated with a generic store brand that you find superior to other store brands. You have to decide if the trade-off between money saved and shopping time is worth the additional activity.
- Know the various stores' hours and whether their sales cycles run during the same period of time. For example, two of the major local grocery stores run sales from Sunday to Saturday while two other decent stores run their sales from Wednesday to Tuesday. If you really want to maximize the cost savings and are willing to go to different stores, you need to look at all of the sales circulars when they're in effect. In my case, I have to review them when they're all effective, which would be Wednesday. If time is an issue, then you have to decide whether the potential savings are worth the time invested.
- Review the circulars against the coupons that you have available.
- Work from your script. Remember that the product placement in a grocery store is a work of marketing art designed to separate you from your dollar. They will push for the impulse dollar and you have to steel yourself to stick with the shopping list, developed from the family menu.
Much of this finally comes down to preparation, both in planning and in cooking. The savings are out there but they aren't just going to happen.
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