EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 11, 2013

Some hints on how to save at the grocery stores

Rosanne DiStefano
Elder Q&A

---- — Q: I live in an apartment complex where most of my neighbors are retired. We are all in a similar situation living on a fixed income and struggling to stay within our monthly budgets. Do you have any suggestions for how we can lower the amount of money we spend on groceries?

A: Anyone who has been paying attention has probably noticed they are spending more at the supermarket recently. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has predicted overall grocery prices will gradually increase between 3 to 4 percent during 2013. Beef products may actually experience a higher purchase rate of 4 to 5 percent due to the severe 2012 drought in this nation. Consumers have no ability to control the costs but there are ways to deal with the higher expenses. The following suggestions can be applied to individuals and families as they think about making up their weekly grocery lists others may be particularly applicable to you and your neighbors.

Check the weekly sales ad fliers at your local stores, these are often delivered through the mail and available near the front entrance of every grocery store. Peruse newspapers for coupons in addition to going on-line for printable coupons. Be smart and combine strategies such as using double coupons and looking for promotional “buy one, get one free” items. Pay attention to unit prices and compare to other items, the featured sale may not always be the best buy. Canned and boxed products in the generic form may save you money and be a comparable quality but name brands may make more sense when it comes to perishable items (diary, meat).

Limit your shopping to only a few stores, driving all over town to get the best deals may cancel out any savings when factoring in the cost of gas (current prices at the pump are also on the rise). Don’t necessarily target only your standard grocery stores, it might surprise you to find bargains at dollar stores, drug stores and chain super stores. Familiarize yourself with the policies of stores you frequent to determine if they accept competitors coupons. Most important do your homework before going shopping, check your pantry for missing items and make a detailed list before leaving the house.

Warehouse stores can often be a source for significant savings but only if you have space to store bulk items. Consider buying a club membership and turning this into a cooperative opportunity with your neighbors. Form a group, decide who will do the actual shopping (card would be issued under that person’s name) and who will help split up the purchases. Get together at the beginning of every month to find out what items other members are in need of and what makes sense to buy during the next scheduled shopping trip. It most likely wouldn’t make sense to buy an entire case of toilet paper for two people but if 4-6 are interested in would be a wise purchase. Members would agree to split the nominal cost of the membership plus the cost of gas for the primary driver.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc.