Family Food Budget
Food takes up a significant chunk of the family budget with the average American consumer unit — defined as 2.5 people by the U.S. Department of Labor — spending 12.99 percent or $6,372 annually on food as of October 2010. Of course, most families consist of two parents and at least two children, therefore these numbers probably don’t represent what you spend on food annually.
We’re not going to argue about statistics, rather to offer you some common sense tips on how to save on groceries and other essentials. These tips are timely because by summer, oil prices are likely to rise further, with some economists predicting $150 per barrel. Imagine the disaster that would bring to the economy — let’s hope they’re wrong!
5 Food Saving Tips
1. Join a Co-op — Food cooperatives are gaining strength and are especially attractive places for people who want fresh, local foods and who still want many of the amenities found at their local supermarket. You must pay a fee to join, but you’ll own a piece of the business and will be able to enjoy its rewards for many years. Food prices may not be much lower than most supermarkets, but can be lower than specialty stores such as Whole Foods. Visit LocalHarvest.org for a directory of co-ops or “coops” as many like to spell it today.
2. Use Groupon — Far be it for us to endorse a particular site, but Groupon is worth a look if you like to eat out from time to time. Some people advocate not eating out in a bid to save money, but why should an important part of the economy be wrecked? Instead, you can save on meals away from home by taking advantage of dining specials, saving you 50 percent off or more at select restaurants.
3. Download Electronic Coupons — You hate to clip coupons, don’t you? Well, then don’t. Instead, use a service such as one offered by ShortCuts.com where you can find coupons and upload them to your store’s savings cards to get the same savings you’d enjoy from clipping. When the cashier scans your card, those “coupons” will deduct your savings, trimming your food bill accordingly.
4. Shop the Loss Leaders — If you’re fond of a certain supermarket, work that fondness to your advantage by snapping up its “loss leaders” each week. To get you into its stores, grocers will offer weekly specials, usually strategically placed on end stands. Pay special attention to these items, snapping up those goods you know that you’ll use even if not all at once. Arrange your cupboard to easily rotate food you’ll store, paying close attention to storage dates and ensuring protection from critters.
5. Change Stores — If you’re loyal to a particular supermarket, is your devotion costing you money? The ultra-competitive food service industry with its razor-thin profit margins makes money by enticing you to buy brand and specialty items, but if you can live without these items, consider a generic food store such as Aldi’s when shopping. Maybe not every week and certainly not for everything you like to eat, but adding staples to your cupboard acquired from a discounter can help balance your food budget.
This year you may even consider starting a garden to offset your spiraling food costs. If so, plan with your neighbors and consider developing a community garden.
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