How to Make the Most of Your Grocery Dollars

Want to make the most of your food purchasing dollars? With rising grain prices, greater fuel costs and increased global demand for both, food prices have increased and are expected to stay high for the foreseeable future.
But, according to the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), people may find that planning and making minor adjustments to their grocery shopping activities can significantly increase the power of their grocery dollars.
"Simple activities, such as developing a food budget, planning before shopping, changing how you prepare meals and continuously looking at spending habits all are ways to make the most of your shopping dollars," says Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer for NCGA, a business services cooperative representing 109 natural food co-ops nationwide.
You can't change your habits overnight, and implementing these tips do take time. Buy following them, though, you'll accomplish more with your grocery dollars and may even find that you spend more time with your family cooking, dining and conversing.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Grocery Dollars
Courtesy of Liz McMann, Education and Special Projects Manager 
Mississippi Natural Foods Market
Set a budget
• Calculate your current food expenditures
• Decide on your grocery budget
• Stick to your budget by setting up a tracking method, 
               much like your checkbook
Plan ahead
• Clean out expired or unusable food from the pantry 
                and fridge
• Inventory what's in your freezer
• Draw up a list of staple foods you'll need every week
• Create a grocery list you can re-use every week
• Share the list with your family for their input
• Clip coupons, but only for items on your list
• Plan your shopping around sales and specials
Shop wisely
• Stick to your list and avoid impulses
• Change your purchases with what's in season
• Focus on the perimeter of the store, where bulk, produce and
               basics are most available
• Consider special orders of bulk quantities of food
Change your patterns
• Prepare the produce you've purchased
               (i.e., clean and slice strawberries and store in a container in  
               your fridge)
• Organize your cupboard
• Put a message pad or board on your fridge with meal plans
               and snack options
• Don't overstock; plan for leftovers
• Minimize purchasing food at convenience stores
• Slowly add more cooking time into your schedule
• Plant a garden and/or shop from local growers
• Try to eat as a household more often
Re-evaluate your method
• Try your budget and plan for a few months before assessing
• Continually monitor how you're spending your food budget
• Adjust your budget as necessary over time