Recently, as gas and food prices have started escalating yet again, I started to think about ways I could save some money at the store. Forget about coupons: I have never mastered the art, and besides, most of the food products I buy never have coupons attached.
But I do have some shopping rules:
1. I NEVER set foot in a market is when I am hungry. When I do, somehow the worst things wind up in my basket. A few times recently I have had no choice but to shop hungry, and that’s when my emergency car stash came in handy. I always have an apple in the car. Usually, there is some celery as well. Both items hold up well to a few days without refrigeration, and besides, I usually eat them way before either would start to turn. Usually that works. Recently, it just wasn’t enough. So I made sure to pick up a bunch of bananas, and as soon as I hit the car, I ate a banana. That did it for me. What you pick is your choice.
2. Each weekend I plan our meals for the week, make a shopping list, and stick to it. I shop once a week, which keeps me out of the market during the week, out of the way of temptation.
3. I love my husband, but I find him distracting in the market. I spend a lot of time in the produce section, and Jack gets antsy. So unless it is a necessity, I shop alone. The worst place to shop with him: Costco. I really can get lost in that big box. Jack can get through the warehouse in seconds flat. I need time to stop and see what’s offered.
4. I always have my Weight Watchers PointsPlus calculator with me, so if a new food looks inviting, I figure out the PPs to see if it’s worth the splurge. It’s amazing how two similar products really are nothing alike. Take popcorn, my go-to snack when I am hungry in the middle of the day. Like my morning chia seeds, popcorn expands in my stomach and fills me up. Jolly Time’s Healthy Pop – a full size bag – is my favorite because for 3 PPs, it offers double the amount of popcorn than the mini bags, at the same PPs value. What a bargain.
5. I have my list, but if turkey breast cutlets are on sale when I get to the market, I easily substitute them for chicken breasts. Same with fish. I shop the deals, because at the register, a deal here and a deal there starts adding up to big savings.
6. I buy lots of fruits and vegetables, but I always buy them whole. I don’t mind cutting up veggie sticks or cutting up a pineapple. It takes minutes and saves cash.
7. I tend to stay out of the aisles, shopping the perimeter of the market, a trick I learned 20 years ago on a nutritionist-led tour of a supermarket. Of course, items such as oatmeal, beans, teas and seltzer are in the aisles, but it’s here you find the bad stuff as well, the processed, over-sugared foods I try to avoid. If I am tempted, I whip out my PP calculator and within seconds my temptation usually disappears.
8. Twice a week we eat vegetarian. It might be something as simple as baked potatoes with toppings or a frittata, but these lighter meals are doing wonders for our budget. We eat fish two or three times a week, which leaves two meals for beef, pork or chicken.