It seems we have come to a point similar to the situation in the early 1970’s when food and fuel prices were rising rapidly. At that time, some women with families to feed made intensive study of the grocery business and learned some money saving methods that should work today.
Save money by shopping in more than one store
Suppose a grocery company wanted to offer the lowest prices in town on every item in its store. Sadly, it could not do so and stay in business. Groceries cannot be sold for cost because of the need to cover overhead expenses, spoilage, waste, taxes, and profit for the investors in the store. So a markup is necessary, and it is always possible for a competing store to forgo the markup on selected items and beat the would-be low priced store on those items. The moral of the story is that a store with a low overall markup still cannot match every price advertised by competitors.
Learn to recognize a bargain
To get the best deals, a shopper needs to know prices of groceries well enough to recognize a real bargain when it appears in the ads. Then he or she needs to be willing to go to that store, even if its prices for most things are higher than the consumer is willing to pay. Thrifty shoppers sometimes combine efforts with friends or co-workers – one person knows Store A’s prices, another knows Store B’s prices, and they are reading the ads. After a little discussion, everyone in the group knows which advertised items are really outstanding buys.
Stock up on advertised specials and seasonal specials
People used to store food at harvest time to last all year. Now we tend to go to the store often, almost daily in some cases. The more visits to the store, the greater the opportunity to buy expensive junk foods and in general to grab an item here or there without thinking whether the price is reasonable. It is better to build up a supply of bargain-priced canned and frozen foods week by week as finances and storage space permit. With a well stocked pantry, there is little need to run constantly to the store. The ultimate in grocery savings comes when a person can live off their stored food and buy more only when the price is as low as possible. This may sound quite unrealistic to folks who are reeling from high gas and food prices, but it has been done by people on very tight budgets. To get started, when a really good bargain appears on something that is used often, try buying two packages, one for eating now and one to save.
Experiment with different brands
National brand food products are very reliable in taste and consistency, but often cost considerably more than other brands because of advertising expense. If the food budget is tight, try store brands. The higher grade store brands can match national brands in terms of quality. Sometimes the taste is different because the nationalbrand is prepared using patented processes or trade secrets that are not available to the processor who makes the store brand. In other cases, the national brand products and store brands are made under contract by the same manufacturer to the same quality specifications and are identical except for the label. Whether the brand is famous or cheap and unheard-of, all processed foods are supposed to meet Food and Drug Administration rules for cleanliness and wholesomeness. In some stores, there is more than one quality level of store brand. Nature produces many fruits and vegetables that are outside the standard size range, or have blemishes that do not affect the food value. Typically these find their way into the lowest priced products. These may taste fine and can be used anywhere appearance is not important, such as casseroles and stews.
Plan menus using grocery ads and your pantry
Try to build menus around the meats, poultry, and seafood that are on sale in a given week. Then round out the menu by checking your pantry for foods you bought at sale prices. Buying bargain foods and squirreling them away saves no money if you forget to use them.
Serve fewer deluxe meals
One dish meals are often considerably less expensive to prepare than meals of meat + potatoes + vegetables. One dish meals usually use less meat per serving. An electric slow cooker can help the food budget by making less expensive chuck, round, and flank steak into tender and flavorful meals. Slow cookers also do a good job with old fashioned, but nutritious, whole grain cereals and dry beans. If your family members eat a complete meal at lunch, consider serving breakfast foods at dinner occasionally. Not every meal has to be an economy meal, but less expensive dinners a few nights a week could lower the grocery budget a lot.
Avoid panic buying
Thanks to increased demand for grain from eastern countries and use of grains to make motor fuel, among other reasons, food shortages have been in the news. Prices will stabilize more quickly if consumers do not rush to hoard foods that are temporarily in short supply. Our bodies are able to utilize many different foods without falling ill from malnutrition. Think if there is something that can take the place of a food that has jumped in price. Chances are good that in a few months the shortage and high prices will be over. A food shopping veteran of the 1970s inflation offers this thought:
You must think of grocery shopping as a business. If you will give it the thought, concern, and organization you give your other businesses or careers, you’ll find the routineness wears off and ingenuity settles in.
Barbara Salsbury

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