Money-Savin’ Mama: Establish thresholds to keep grocery store spending in check

Here’s today’s Money-Savin’ Mama column from the SheSays section of The Forum.

As my husband flipped through the grocery store circular, he asked what a good price is for Lunchables. One dollar, I told him without hesitating.

That’s what the meat-cheese-cracker snack pack was on sale for that week. And so we knew to buy a couple as a treat for our daughter, Eve.

Maybe it’s because I grew up watching “The Price is Right” every summer, but somewhere along the line I came up with a pretty good sense of how much groceries are supposed to cost.

And so I have all sorts of price guidelines for food products stored in my head. They’re thresholds that help keep our grocery bill reasonable without having to clip coupons or scout sales.

I won’t pay more than $3 for a 12-pack of pop or $2.75 for a bag of Oreos. I know I can get an 8-ounce bag of shredded cheese for $2 and a pound of strawberries for $2.50. A gallon of milk shouldn’t cost more than $3.50. An inexpensive pound of meat will ring in around $1.80. A bag of frozen vegetables can be had for $1, and 50 cents for canned.

If a store is charging more than that, I know I can get it for less somewhere else or at a later date, as grocery store prices follow a pretty regular cycle. If the price is much lower that week I might stock up, especially if it’s something I can keep in the deep freeze like the shredded cheese.

I’m not saying these are the cheapest prices or greatest deals. They’re just the maximum prices I’m willing to pay. Every family will have different price limits depending on their priorities and preferences. Perhaps you wouldn’t pay that much for soda or maybe you’d pay more for strawberries. But knowing your threshold helps keep your grocery bill lean. Adding a coupon when you know the price is especially low helps cut expenses even more.

The other big trick I use for saving money on groceries is per-ounce comparison shopping. That helps make sure you’re picking the best value on the shelf. To figure out the per-ounce price, divide the price by the number of ounces. Carry a calculator with you, or use the one on your cell phone.

Once you know what each product costs per ounce, you can compare apples to apples – or fruit snacks to fruit snacks – and choose the least expensive one.

Generally, the bigger the packaging, the better price it is per ounce. Generic products are usually cheaper than name-brand. But these aren’t set-in-stone rules. Special sales or adding a coupon can make the smaller bottle or well-known product the better buy.

If the large package of food would spoil before you use it all, you’re better off buying the smaller option.

Many stores now list a per-ounce price on the shelf price tag, but this can be confusing when comparing different sizes and products. One may be listed per ounce while another is per pound or per item. And sometimes the store’s math is wrong.

Being watchful of prices and doing your own math will ensure the price is right for your food budget.

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  1. Pingback: Challenging myself to spend a little less for an entire month | Forum Mom

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