My friends and I do a fair amount of belly aching about the high cost of groceries. For being the rural state that we are, it’s amazing how insufferably high the cost of produce, meat, dairy products and grains have climbed. Much of this is tied into the higher price of gasoline, but without a corresponding increase in salaries, it just gets tougher and tougher to stay on a budget.
Most savvy shoppers already know how to find those savings at the grocery stores. They shop the circulars, take advantage of the grocery sales and redeem coupons when ever possible. Many of us have even switched from convenience types food to buying the basic ingredients and bulk items needed for scratch cooking. However, there is yet another way of saving shopping dollars. This lesser known method is what my mother used to call “Shopping your Pantry.”
Adjusting your shopping habits
There are three types of grocery shoppers in the world. There are the moms or dads who run to the store without a meal concept in mind, and pick out whatever looks fast and cheap. The second type of shopper has a shopping list and plans the type of groceries she or he needs for upcoming meals. The last type of shopper has a carefully calculated grocery list, but isn’t necessary shopping for a specific meal; instead, she is merely replenishing her pantry.
Do any of these shopping styles sound familiar to you?
How you shop and plan your meals really does make a difference at the register, much more than you might think. Let’s compare the three shopping styles and see how much of a difference it makes!
The mom or dad who runs to the grocery store for a last minute meal might choose a roasted deli chicken, which was on sale for $5.99. Combined with a bag of Fresh Express Caesar salad ($2.99) and a box of Rice a Roni ($1.69), this makes a nice meal for a family of 4 at a total cost of $10.69.
The shopper who planned ahead for tonight’s dinner may have decided she had the time to roast a whole fryer ($4.50), served up with a pound of fresh green beans on the side (1.89 ), and a rice pilaf made from scratch (.50 for rice, .80 for chicken broth plus seasonings already at home). This meal is budget priced at $7.69.
And what about that last shopper? She checked her pantry and found a whole fryer she purchased three weeks ago at .69 a pound ($2.76), a canned of green beans (purchased last month at .35 a can) and the ingredients for rice pilaf from scratch (.50 for rice plus broth saved from an earlier meal, and seasonings already at home) for a total cost of $3.61. She has everything needed for tonight’s meal, and is only at the grocery store to purchase an advertised special of oatmeal marked at 10 for $10, at a savings of nearly 66%.
Shopping your pantry merely means that meals are prepared from items already at home, rather than running out and buying special ingredients. This type of meal planning and shopping style allow consumers to take advantage of those incredible savings on grocery items when they happen.
How to build up your pantry
Everything at the grocery store eventually goes on sale, and by watching for those sales, shoppers are able to stock up on the items that their families use the most.
A number of grocery stores have changed the way they offer savings to their customers. They may offer discounts on large quantities of certain types of groceries, in a promotion that promises huge savings if 10 or 20 of a particular brand name is purchased. These promotions are advertised as “buy 10 for $10,” “20 for $10”, or even “$5 in store rebate when you buy 20”. There usually is no limit on the amount of groceries an individual can buy, and is definitely the time to be stocking up on family favorites. Many staples have a fairly long shelf life, and if space is not a problem, buying 3 to 6 months of a product means significant grocery savings over the months ahead.
In addition to this promotions, all grocery stores have some sort of featured product that is an incredible value. Whether you plan on eating the item tonight or not, buy the product and place it in your pantry for a future meal. The end of the grocery aisles, called “end caps” are where shoppers typically find these specials. Be sure to grab a store circular as you walk in the door; some end cap items require a special coupon.
As your pantry begins to fill up with these specials, meal planning should have you looking at what you already have instead of running to the store for something different. For a family on a tight budget, shopping from a personal pantry offers a wide selection of meal fixings at a savings that’s hard to beat.