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As Food Prices Rise, Tips for Saving

Posted by Steve Rogers | July 18, 2012 / 11:10am | Local News, Business, Faith & Family
By Andrea Woroch

The latest headlines hint at higher food prices as the nation struggles with a debilitating drought across the Midwest. Corn and soybean wholesale prices are already increasing due to crop losses associated with lack of moisture, and the USDA cut its estimate of fall crop output by 12 percent.

Though it will likely take a few months for these changes to make their way onto grocery store shelves (experts predict price increases by Labor Day), this cautionary news is a good reminder on how important it is to save money on food.

Practice these smart grocery shopping habits now to save money down the road.

1. Buy Organic Selectively
Being choosy about what you put in your body is a good thing, but not all organic produce is created equal. According to WebMD, fruits and veggies with tough, inedible or removable skins are a waste of money when purchased organic, since most of the pesticides can be removed or washed away.

2. Buy in Bulk to Save
You can realize a ton of savings when purchasing items in bulk, but just like organic produce, you must be selective to yield true savings. Cereal, olive oil, frozen food and select toiletries should all make it onto your warehouse club list. Perishable items like produce, bread and some OTC medication should be avoided in bulk since it will likely go bad before you have a chance to use it. However, meat bought in bulk is always cheaper. Just be prepared to freeze that which you don't use for later.

3. Try Before You Buy
There's nothing worse than purchasing a product for the first time, only to realize it's not what you expected. Luckily, manufacturers of newly released products will often offer free samples of the product to get people interested. Check out the food and beverage page on MrFreeStuff.com for the latest offerings on everything from cereal to energy drinks.

4. Don't Overlook Drugstores
You may hit up your local Walgreens for prescriptions and toothpaste, but drugstores are also a good outlet for select foods. In fact, many drugstores are adding fresh food like milk and eggs to create a one-stop shop with prices near 10-percent less than supermarkets. During sale time, you can often pick up name-brand cereal and other edible essentials for great savings. Keep tabs on sales and promotions by signing up for a free loyalty program and earn extra savings or coupons.

5. Dollar Store Suggestions
Many people picture dusty shelves and expired food items when they think of their local 99-cent store. These days, however, dollar store chains have expanded across the country and now offer great savings on national, name-brand products including food. According to ShopSmart Magazine, consumers should consider private-label or store brands at chains like Family Dollar, Dollar General or Dollar Tree to save an average of 29 percent over grocery stores brands. When selecting items at the dollar store, look for expiration dates and review packaging. I prefer buying non-perishable items like condiments, cereal and snacks.

6. Use Coupons
Thanks to the economy, coupon clipping is no longer confined to stay-at-home-moms on a tight budget. According to a study conducted by Valassis, shoppers saved $4.6 billion with coupons in 2011, a 12.2 percent increase over 2010. Perhaps this increase is due to the increased accessibility of coupons due to technology. The Coupon Sherpa mobile app, for example, allows users to load grocery coupons to their supermarket loyalty card, making savings easy.

7. Avoid Prepackaged and Pre-cut
Convenience is key in our busy American lifestyles, but you always pay extra for it. Pre-cut fruits and veggies are marked up 40-percent over their whole-food counterparts and are likely missing some of their beneficial nutrients. Save money by purchasing fresh fruit and salad mixings individually, and carve out some time over the weekend to chop and store for use during the week.

8. Bake Your Own Treats
The bakery is one of the most overpriced sections of any grocery store, with markups topping 300 percent. Baking cookies, cupcakes and birthday cakes from scratch is the cheapest way to go, but even boxed cake and brownie mixes are a less expensive alternative to the bakery.

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.
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