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To cut food costs, be flexible

Cutting the weekly grocery bill by $25 a week translates into monthly savings of about $100 or $1,300 annually. That's my savings target for the family food budget, and over the last month, I've saved $20 to $30 per week with the following strategies. Sharon Harvey Rosenberg, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Go off-price: By tracking store sales, I've created a list of items to avoid at full price. The list includes canned tuna, dish-washing liquid, toilet paper, paper towels, hair conditioner and various personal care products. The featured brand changes from week to week, but certain categories are always promoted. Nearly every week at CVS or Walgreens, for example, at least one brand of dishwashing liquid is on sale for less than $1, compared to the full price of $2.50 to $3.

Drink for less: Orange juice, coffee (beans, ground or instant) and tea are popular sales items at most stores. Using a two-for-one special on Maxwell House coffee, I recently purchased a two-month supply of coffee for $10, roughly 10 cents a cup. Markdowns are considerable for private-label brands of apple, cranberry and grape juice. Different brands of sodas, sports drinks, bottled teas and flavored waters are also sold at marked-down prices at least once or twice a month.

Shed loyalty: I am a fickle coffee drinker. Although I have a favorite brand, Eight O'Clock Coffee, loyalty goes out the window when I find a good sale on competing brands of fresh or ground coffee. I use the same strategy for paper goods, spices and dog food. The savings offered by store-brand products can be considerable. For instance, a 100-count box of "Smart Sense" sandwich bags — the Kmart private label — is $1.50 compared to the promoted sale price of $2.50 for a national brand. And a box of 45 "Smart Sense" trash bags is $5, compared to $7 for a competing national product.

Be open-minded: The Target store in my neighborhood now includes fresh produce and a larger section of food products. During one shopping trip, I purchased a wicker basket for my living room for $8 and bananas priced at 19 cents each. Likewise, Kmart, Walgreens and CVS also carry a variety of food products, including cereal, milk and eggs at low prices. Shopping for food at general merchandise stores works best when I combine several errands in a single trip or if the store is along my daily commuting route.

To cut food costs, be flexible 10/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 5:30am]

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