Heather Barnett reports:
"There's a practical reason not to waste your time clipping coupons. These days, most store brands are far cheaper than even the coupon price of the brand names (unless, perhaps, your grocery store has a double or triple coupon day). It's just a giant waste of time unless you're a serious couponer. Besides, if you just spend a little extra time and thought putting your shopping list together, you'll lower your bill without lowering your quality of living...Before you go shopping or even start to write your list, check the sales at your grocery store of choice...Make a mental note of the sale prices on foods you may use. For nonfood items, keep an eye out for products you use frequently. Even if you're not out of toilet paper, you could save a few bucks by picking it up early...You'll throw away less food if you carefully plan your [weekly] menu. On a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet program, write out your menu items for the week in a horizontal row (you can list the ingredients you need for each dish under that, making it easy to compare the ingredients later). Consider what you'll have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks each day. As you're writing your menu, think carefully about the ingredients in each meal. Remember the sale items in that circular? Is there a way to use sale items more efficiently in your menu? For example, if you plan to have a brisket, but notice chuck roast is on sale, perhaps you could substitute that instead. Try to have meals with several ingredients in common. This will help you reduce food waste by using all of the foods you buy and lets you take real advantage of sales...If the average cost per meal is $4 (some will be more, some will be less), and you're able to cut out buying the ingredients for just one extra meal each week by using foods you're already buying, you could save about $100 a year...Now that you've written a menu using as many lower-cost sale items as possible, ingredients you'll already have on hand from making another dish and decided to buy nonfood items that are on sale which you may need later, it's time to clean up the list even more. Look through the list and decide what you could substitute for something cheaper (or something you already have or will already have)...Also, carefully reconsider any high-ticket items like steaks and other high-end red meats...If you're a brand-name queen, it's probably because you remember how gross those generic versions were when you were a kid. But they've stepped up their game, so it's time to give them another shot. If you're nervous, start slowly by buying the midrange generic or store brand. If you're comfortable with those, try going lower...These days, online stores like Amazon offer great deals on the products we use most. Sometimes it may mean buying in bulk, but if it's something you're going to use anyway, consider the yearly savings versus the inconvenience of storage. Go through your list and look up the price of the staples online and write them down (with the quantity that amount purchases) next to the item on your list so you can double[-]check it in the store. But don't go overboard. Having three years of toilet paper in your closet doesn't help you pay the water bill."
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