I can't stress this enough. The bottom line, in providing good, wholesome meals for your family is to know when the price on an item is a good price and when it's a great price and you should stock up.
A carton of eggs, is a carton of eggs, you can easily tell if a dozen eggs is on sale at a good price. (I find them for 99 cents on sale.) But what about cheese? What about a jar of peanut butter? What is a great price on those items?
My first piece of advice is take a calculator with you shopping. You can find them on sale for a dollar at Target when they have the school supplies on sale. It's the best dollar investment you'll make. You need to know the per item price...per ounce, per pound, per serving. And for that you need a calculator.
See, most manufacturers know that most folks are grabbed by the overall price of the item....hey, rice on sale for $1.99 a package, what a great deal! But it may not be a great deal. What is the total weight of the package and what is the per ounce price? You may find that you are paying more to buy that "sale item" than if you bought another brand at regular price. But you can't know unless you can compare per ounce prices, and for that you need a calculator.
One of the tricks that many manufacturers have been using since the recession started, is to make packages smaller, but leave the price the same, thus driving up the per ounce price. Most people won't notice that the "new and improved" packaging also comes with 4 ounces less orange juice than it did before.
Have you noticed this? Sugar used to be sold in 5 lb packages, but now, almost all the packages are 4lb packages. So, even if the price remained the same for a package of sugar, you are paying more, per ounce.
Really, really pay attention to the staple items your family uses on a regular basis. We all don't eat the same things, so the price of a bottle of hot sauce may not be important to me, but if you use it on almost all your food, it's important to you. Really get to know the prices on the foods that your family uses most.
Look at the per pound price for meat, chicken and fish. Try using a cheaper cut of meat and cooking it differently to save money. I'll be posting some recipes in the future that can be used to make "cheap meat" taste great.
Lastly, be open to what are called "Manager Specials". These are items in the store that are on sale but not advertised. They can be produce, milk, meat and chicken, frozen foods or bakery items. There is usually one place in the store that has each of these items on "Manager's Special". Get to know your store and find this place.
These are often:
Meat: Meat that has an expiration date that is one or 2 days away. It's still perfectly fine. It's often anywhere from 30% to 50% off. Buy it. Freeze it. You can use it to make a meal and save money.
Dairy: This might be overstock or again, things with quick expiration dates. Know your family and if you can use it before the date. Milk will stay good, if kept refridgerated, for at least 7 days from the "sell by" date. If you have kids like mine, you won't have to worry about the milk going bad, it'll be gone in a couple of days.
Freezer: These are often products that the store may no longer be selling or that will soon change packaging. So, if a manufacturer is going to roll out a new look, they'll put the remaining stock of the old look on sale, often up to 50% off. I don't often use frozen meals, but it is a good way to have a couple of super quick, no cook meals around.
There is usually one area (sometimes 2) that have seasonal items that are on sale because they are past the season (like Easter items or Christmas items) as well as other canned or boxed items on sale. Check this area out, every time you shop. You never know what you might find and if it's a good price, buy it.
An example of this: Last week, I found about 40 different spices on sale 50% off. This was an unadvertised manager special. I use spices in my cooking and bought 4 spices at a great price! It also gave me the chance to try a spice I've been wanting to mix into my cooking but just couldn't bring myself to buy...garam masala. But at 50% off, it was worth it to buy it and try it in a couple of new recipes.
One note on the manager specials......Is this really something you will use? Really? If so, buy it. If not, well, you are just spending money you don't need to spend. Use that as your guide.
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