Most parents oversee 1,095 meals per year, not including snacks. That's a lot of food shopping, even for a small family. So for busy moms and dads, a few smart strategies can save time and also significantly reduce food bills.
For faster service and fresher food, shop for groceries on Tuesday, says Steve Conover, senior group manager at Frito-Lay. "There are fewer shoppers that day so lines are usually shorter, and shelves are restocked with fresh items by 10 on Tuesday mornings," Conover says. "Stores are busiest on weekends."
Here are more time- and money-saving tips:
• Create a grocery-shopping routine at a certain time each week. Shop once a month at a wholesale club or discount store if you have storage space for extras. Smart bulk buys include paper products, toiletries, cleaning supplies, pet food, school supplies, batteries and light bulbs.
• Don't shop when you're hungry or tired. It's harder to make wise decisions.
• Keep an ongoing grocery list in a central location so family members can record requests. When you open the last bottle or package of any item, add it to the list.
• Running from store to store to buy advertised specials can actually cost you more time and money. Buy specials at the store where you plan to shop anyway and, when possible, use manufacturer's coupons.
• If the store offers a choice, choose a smaller cart. You'll fill it faster and be more aware of putting in items you can really do without.
• Stay on task. Many items you buy regularlymilk, eggs, cheese, meatare at the back of the store. Eye-catching impulse items are strategically placed on aisles en route.
• Check top and bottom shelves. More expensive brands are often placed at eye level, and many stores stock unhealthy children's cereals and candy at their eye level.
• Avoid buying health and beauty items at the grocery store. They're usually cheaper at discount or drug stores.
• Don't assume the larger size of something is cheaper. Compare cost per unit.
• Watch out for companion foods displayed with on-sale items. Chips may be discounted, but the salsa premium priced.
• Check "sell by" and "use by" dates on products; allow plenty of time to use before expiration. Make note of the foods you throw out each week. If you always waste a quart of milk or a certain kind of fruit, buy less.
• Be careful how you toss things into your cart. If a package gets damaged, the food is vulnerable to contamination. Never buy a package that's dented, rusty or torn.
• Homemade is not always cheaper. Sometimes cake, brownie and muffin mixes can be cheaper than homemade.
• Try no-frills and store brands; they're often the same quality as name brands. Compare ingredients to determine similarity of products.
• If a store runs out of an advertised special, ask for a rain check and pay the reduced price when they get another shipmenteven if the sale is over.
• Buy fruit and vegetables bagged instead of loose and save about $1 a pound. No two bags weigh exactly the same, so use the produce scale to weigh a few bags before choosing one. You could get a few apples for free.
• When buying meat, a more expensive lean cut may be more economical than one that requires you to throw away excess bone, gristle or fat.
• Instead of buying precut filets, purchase a beef or pork tenderloin and cut it into filets yourself. You'll save more than 30 percent.
• Save grocery receipts for a month. You may need to return an unsatisfactory product.
Visit www.familymanager.com to learn more.