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Top tip: Shop the sales

Published March 03. 2010 05:00PM

Around the time that we started this column, I overheard a fun conversation at the grocery store:

"Wow, there's a lot of people shopping today. They must be stocking up for the big storm."

"That must be it. It's not like anything is on sale this week!"

They obviously didn't pick up a store flyer that week.

The number one secret to Frugal Foodie success: There are always items on sale at the grocery store!

When I opened the TIMES NEWS on Saturday, there were six grocery store flyers inside. That's great news for our readers, because it means that we have lots of choices when it comes to shopping for food. I tend to stick with two main stores near my home but you can use sale flyers from nearly any store to save money and plan healthy, affordable meals.

Plan around sales

Saturday morning is my favorite time of the week and not just because I have the day off. I look forward to opening our paper and searching through store flyers, looking for great deals and planning next week's menu.

If I see a good sale on lean ground beef, I write it down. When it's time to outline what we'll eat for the next week, I look back at my grocery list. If I'm buying ground beef, I might plan to make meatloaf, tacos, or a quick meal of hamburgers. It takes just a few minutes each weekend.

What if the only good sale is ground beef? Does that mean I should eat just beef this week? Of course not! Plan ahead by buying sale items to freeze. If you normally buy four chicken breasts for one meal, buy a sale pack with eight breasts and freeze half. I like to wrap our foods in plastic wrap and seal them in a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.

Once you've been shopping sales for several weeks, you'll find that it's easier and less time-consuming to plan meals. Now you can choose from this week's sale items or "shop your freezer" for last week's sale items. Either way, dinner will taste better knowing that it won't break your budget.

No flyer?No problem!

It's easy to plan your next grocery trip if you've got a sale flyer. But is there a way to save at smaller, family-owned stores that might not advertise weekly sales?

If you prefer to shop at farmers' markets or a local butcher shop, look for sale and clearance prices in the store, or ask about bulk pricing. These shops often offer better prices for higher quality food items. These stores are also run by knowledgeable owners and employees so if you see a different cut of meat or a new vegetable at a great price, ask for tips on preparing it.

I asked you to track your food spending last week. If you did this, were you surprised by the amount of money that you spent? Did you expect the amount to be lower or higher?

If you were unhappy with this number, what would your ideal budget be? Keep this number in mind as you go grocery shopping over the next few weeks. You'll find yourself spending less money over time as you become more conscious of your buying habits.

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