ICFE eNEWS #08-07 - May 13th 2008
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Spending Smarter for Grocery and Household Items
How to lessen the impact of rapidly rising food prices

San Diego, CA - In 2008, now nearly 37 cents out of every income dollar is spent by American families goes for groceries and household items. A few years back is was about 30 cents. Food prices have spiked dramatically these past few months for a variety of reasons. There isn't much consumers can do about the rapidly rising costs except to begin shopping smarter for household and grocery items.

There are millions of consumers in America who are overspending at the food markets because they are paying too much for things. This is result of a careless, almost automatic spending routine much forethought and without looking at the in-store sale flyers and engaging in some comparison shopping. People are spending more money today than they should on grocery items, because they fail to compare, shop smart and get the best values.

The average American consumer makes two trips a-week to the grocery store and one or more stops at a drug or discount store. All the stores are cleverly set-up and well merchandised. Manufacturers and food producers fight for eye level space on the retailer's shelves to be able to set up elaborate, eye catching displays. All of this is designed to one end; motivate shoppers to spend. There also companies that place merchandise at the checkout counters in the stores specifically to induce impulse spending.

Consumers aren't defenseless!

There are several steps consumers can take to spend smarter, reduce the number of trips to the stores and overall spend less money on household and grocery items. Many shopping techniques are habitual. For instance, going to the same stores, on the same days, buying the same products, not looking over the store's sale flyers, and not using a list, or not taking the time for comparison shopping.

Economizing on grocery and household items may take some imagination and might also require some financial self-discipline. IT may also take some practice and a little time to develop new grocery shopping habits. If you have a family, require full participation. Having one spouse a saver and the other a spender equals no progress. It is also important for children to learn and understand the importance of spending smarter, comparing quality, price and value in addition to saving-up to buy the bigger items without borrowing.

Here are twelve handy tips for improving grocery and household shopping:

1. Create a list to take shopping.

Put anything you want on the list, but don't add to the list once you get to the store. Using a list will help plan for your needs in advance, so take advantage of sale prices and avoid impulse purchases. "Go alone after a meal". If you go shopping hungry or with another, you're shopping for more than one appetite and the result is always increased spending.

2. Watch for coupons in your mail box and flyers distributed at the stores, watch for store ads in the newspapers and coupons on Sundays.

Check for sale prices on the items you regularly purchase. Compare prices with other stores, especially those you don't normally visit. Pay special attention to the days of the week the sale prices are in effect. For example some stores have no sale prices in effect on Mondays, traditionally a busy shopping day. Carefully plan purchases, noting on the list which items are sale priced and items where a coupon can be used.

3. Spend cash.

Take time to get cash before going to the store. Nothing impacts our mind like taking cash from our wallet or purse. Many people who use credit cards rarely know how much was actually spent - until the statement comes. Many people who write checks simply do not take the time to calculate the balance and have no idea what is left over. Paying cash causes us to think ahead.

4. Take advantage of coupons and rebates, they do add up.

Shop at stores that double coupons and take the time to watch the papers for grocery coupons. Look for items on the shelf which also have coupons included inside the packages, called a double play by couponers.

5. Always shop by the unit price at the stores.

In most states it's the law that retailers post the unit cost on the shelves. It used to be the larger the pack the better the price, but not always so these days. For example a 50 cent coupon, doubled on any size of soap detergent could make the smallest size the most economical in terms of least cash spent.

6. Avoid buying plastic bags for food storage or garbage disposal.

The stores give plastic bags away free and there are plastic bags available in the produce and meat sections. Separately bag each item and save them for reuse. When asked if you want either a paper or plastic bags, ask for paper inside of a plastic bag and you will then have an ample supply of ready-made garbage bags.

7. Cleaning aids, cleansers etc. are very costly and prices vary greatly with the brands.

Some companies market a cleanser (and now specialty wipes - what a waste) for virtually every type of household project. The best cleanser in the kitchen, aside from powder is ammonia. No need to buy a brand name, ammonia is ammonia, if you want it soapy, then add some detergent. Another valueless item is dish soap promoted to be more gentle to hands or cuts grease better. If your hands are that sensitive, use the longer lasting rubber gloves and save money on detergent by using generic brands. Hot water and any detergent will cut grease.


8. Plan meals in advance.

Keep in mind wise use of leftovers or freezing for later use when purchasing meats, etc. and making pasta dishes for example. Consider buying meat items you use regularly in bigger quantity, freezing for later use the portions not needed the week you buy them. This can save you up to 20 percent.

9. Avoid prepackaged items.

Cereals, breads, desserts, juices, beverages etc., mixed and prepared at home are always a better value than prepackaged items. The same is true for pet foods and many experts agree dry pet food mixed with water is better than canned food.

10. Be cautious about adding non-food items to the grocery list.

These include health and beauty items, paper and plastics, utensils, brooms, brushes, film, etc. These items have the highest profit margin for most grocers, which is exactly why they are prominently displayed in the stores. Usually a better value can be obtained at discount drug stores.

11. When shopping stick to the list and plan in advance all purchases to take full advantage of sale items and 2 for 1 deals (if the price isn't inflated to compensate).

When possible shop the outside walls and stay out of the aisles. Most food stores situate the four basics (produce, meats, dairy and breads) on the walls. They most often place all the cookies, cereals, beverages, canned goods and the nice-to-haves on the aisles.

12. Finally, check the checker.

Note the prices as you select items and then make sure the same price is posted at the check-out. Check the register tape again after leaving the store, often unintentional mistakes are uncovered, especially with large purchases. Many times a sale price is listed in the store, but not reflected at the check-out. Also, the shorter the time spent in the store, the less money spent.

About the ICFE:

The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation).  The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely. 
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.

The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org).  CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed.  In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.

The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much.  ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.

Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org.  Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G,  a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.

 
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