Think you're saving as much as you can? A few clever shopping strategies can put even more money back in your wallet
- Coffee: Save $8.68. To get high-quality taste for less, buy generic coffee at around $4.43 per pound and mix it—part for part—with the pricier stuff, which can go for as much as $16 per pound. That cuts the cost by as much as $5.79 per pound. If two adults in your household drink the average 1½ pounds of coffee each month, you'll see a savings of $8.68.
- Milk: Save $7.30. Marked-down milk often has a close expiration date—but don't let that sour you on potential savings. It's safe to consume after being frozen for up to three months, and it retains essential nutrients (although the texture changes, so you might prefer using thawed milk for baking rather than drinking). The key is to jump on a great deal: Reduced store-brand cartons go for at least 50 percent off, which is up to $1 a gallon cheaper than brand-name dairy. If your family goes through the average 7.3 gallons of milk per month, stocking up and freezing will save you $7.30 or more.
- Iced tea: Save $8.64. Jugs of regular or lemon-flavored tea can cost as much as $1.10 per quart. Tea bags cost from 1 to 5 cents apiece—which translates to as little as 2 cents per quart (assuming you use eight bags to make 1 gallon of iced tea). If you go through 2 gallons of tea each month, that's a savings of $8.64 per month.
- Vegetables: Save $1.29. It's rarely a sound financial idea to buy canned veggies unless there's a great sale—or you like paying for water. We recently weighed the contents of a $1.39 15¼-ounce brand-name can of corn and found out it had only 8 ounces of actual veggies. Instead, buy a 1-pound bag of frozen corn for $1.49, and save $1.29 per pound of vegetables.
- Oatmeal: Save $2.40. Instead of grabbing that $1.69 box of store-brand oats (which contains 13 servings), load up on the 99-cent-per-pound oatmeal (about 12 servings) from the bulk-food section—and save 5 cents per serving. If your family eats oatmeal three days a week, that's 48 servings per month and a savings of $2.40.
- Popcorn: Save $5.28. Bypass microwave popcorn, which can cost as much as 37 cents per serving. Instead, opt for a bag of kernels and cook it on the stove or in a popcorn popper. Doing so will set you back only 4 cents per serving. If your family eats popcorn every Friday night while watching a movie, you'll save $5.28 per month.
- Spices and herbs: Save $9.86. These items from bins can be 300 percent less expensive than those in the baking aisle. For example, ground ginger costs $3.33 a pound in the bulk section and $13.19 per pound in the baking aisle. Buying 16 ounces? The bulk department can save you $9.86.
- Bread: Save $3.92. Maintain your price book, and whenever your store puts $2 stickers on that $2.98 multigrain loaf—the average price last year—buy four (and freeze three). You'll save $3.92 per month on the sandwich staple.
- Pickles: Save $3.38. Almost out of dills? Instead of paying for another jar (at $2.69), buy an English cucumber for between $1 and $1.50, slice it up and drop it into the jar of juice you already have. Within a few days you will have more pickles and will pocket as much as $1.69. Assuming you go through two jars per month, you could see $3.38 worth of savings with that one move.
- Meat: Save $24.20. You don't need to go meatless to save a lot of money. Ground beef costs between $3.59 and $4.49 per pound on average, but you can ask the meat department manager to grind a cheaper roast into hamburger meat for you. When roasts go on sale for $1.99 to $2.99 per pound, your costs could drop by as much as $2.50 per pound. If you and your spouse eat the average 58.1 pounds of beef per year each, your monthly savings will add up to an impressive $24.20.
- Cottage cheese: Save $1.11. Did you know you could make your own cottage cheese? It's as simple as heating a gallon of milk, adding ¾ cup lemon juice or cider vinegar and letting the mixture strain through cheesecloth or a flour-sack dish towel. Cottage cheese made at home with milk marked down for quick sale costs $1.48 per pound versus the store-bought $2.59, a savings of $1.11.
- Gelatin snacks SAVE $8.96. No surprise here: Gelatin cups aren't a bargain. A 4-ounce serving costs about 76 cents; the same amount made from a mix is 20 cents. Assuming you put gelatin into two lunch boxes twice a week, you'll save $8.96 a month.
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jupiterimages