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Creative tips for saving money at the grocery store

June 10, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

Everyone is looking for ways to save money, especially on food.

Saving money on food doesn't mean you have to give up good food and good tastes. Saving money means you need to be a little creative.

Check prices online. Most major grocery store chains will list their weekly sales online. So find the Web site for your favorite stores and log on before you do your menu planning and food shopping. You can tweak your menus and your shopping list based on what you find on sale. You can also compare prices at several different stores before you leave home.

Use fewer ingredients. Find recipes that use five or fewer ingredients. Fewer ingredients doesn't mean tasteless dishes. With five or fewer ingredients (plus spices and other seasonings already in your pantry), you can prepare delicious meals such as meat and potatoes, stews, soups, salads, cheeseburgers or casseroles.

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Buy more store-brand items. Use your savings to purchase quality meats and fresh produce.

Use your slow cooker. One-dish meals prepared in the slow cooker can save time, energy and clean-up. You can start your meal before leaving for work and it will be ready when, at the end of the day, you come home tired. With everything in one pot you can add a fresh salad and fruit and your meal is ready to serve.

Buy in bulk. Buy canned food, pasta, rice, cereals and other foods you use a lot. Store in a cool, dry place for up to two years and still maintain their high quality. Check the food packages for the recommended use-by dates to help guide you in storing foods.

Cook once, eat twice. Look for family-size recipes that you can prepare, serve once and plan to save for leftovers another day.

Try vegetarian. Set aside meat at one or more meals each week. Stock up on your favorite vegetables, cheeses, fruits and pastas, and experiment with different recipes and seasonings.

Make staples from scratch. For foods that you eat every day - like yogurt, granola or a favorite sandwich - make it yourself rather than purchasing pre-packaged foods. These foods will be more nutritious and less expensive.

Stick to your shopping list. If you make small trips to the grocery store to stock up on things like bread and milk between your regular grocery shopping trips, resist the urge to buy more than you need by substituting a basket for a grocery cart. You will be more conscious of your purchases and select fewer impulse items.

-- Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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