Eating Down Your Inventory How to Save Money on Groceries

One way to lower your bills on groceries and quickly save a little money this month is to eat all the food in your cupboards. Challenge yourself to create meals this week with your existing food inventory in your house. When you do go to the grocery store next week, take the time necessary to comparison shop and get the best deals.

I recently realized that I could be more disciplined with some of my budgeting practices. For instance, I often talk about having to be creative with the food in my pantry and to stretch out the time between trips to the grocery store. I decided this past week that I really needed to curb my spending this month and chose to skip last week's visit to the grocery store. Needless to say, I've eaten some strange food combinations, which I would never serve as a hostess to anyone, but nonetheless I saved about $70 from this exercise. My pantry is substantially lighter, and my waistline benefited as well since I didn't have any quick-fix or tempting foods around.

I've eaten a lot of soup, beans, and frozen meals that have been accumulating in my freezer. I quickly learned that I could pour the dried soup starters into my crock-pot in the morning before work and come home to a fully cooked dinner. I hadn't considered using a crock-pot for making pre-packaged soups. After adding my own vegetables, these meals came out to less than $1.50 per serving. Not a bad deal!

This week, however, it's time to go back to the grocery store once again. I still have about a week's worth of food left in the pantry, but I need to do a fresh fruit and vegetable shopping trip. To do this, I'll just visit my local grocery store. I have decided that visiting the warehouse clubs never really saves me money. The concept of buying in bulk is a good one if you have a large family, but I'm always tempted to buy other things that I didn't intend to purchase before walking in the door. Sticking to a shopping list is what works best for me to stay on track with my budget.

Instead of reading the circulars in the paper, I now go online and look for the weekly loss leaders at each grocery store. (Loss leaders are products that stores discount considerably - far less than the usual retail price and that which other stores are charging.) I then make a list and shop at the store that is offering the best deals that week on the products I use. I do take advantage of the buy 1 get 1 free deals when I know I will eat the food. For example, individual packets of Cream of Wheat, oatmeal, popcorn, and soups are items to take advantage of when on sale.

Like most people, I don't have the time to go to three different stores to save as much as I would like. So, reviewing the store specials and making a shopping list is the best I can do. The following websites offer weekly sales, email alerts, and some even have interactive shopping lists that you can print to take with you to the store:

The best way I know to stay within my budget when grocery shopping is to pay in cash. I will inform the cashier at the beginning of the purchase how much money I intend on paying. It's turned into a bit of a sport for me to guess at the total. If I have money left over and purchased all the items I had in my cart, I win! It's the simple pleasures of life that bring me joy.

What I know from this week's experience is that I won't be buying any cans of tuna for a while; I've had my fill.

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Grocery shopping on a budget can be hard, but you will eventually get the hang of it. Take advantage of sales, coupons, rebates and bulk foods whenever possible, but don't buy more than you can eat before the expiration date arrives. 

Tired of paying retail prices for kitchen products and supplies? If so, it may be time to try a new source: visit a restaurant supply store. These companies make a business of offering restaurateurs top-quality equipment and supplies at wholesale prices. It's a great deal for restaurant owners, and there's no reason it can't be a great deal for you as well.

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