Buying Food on a BudgetHere are two tips that we use to keep costs in control for us fixed income foodies.
1. This may seem obvious, but if your supermarket builds its business around loss leaders (as opposed to the growing "everyday low prices" philosophy), plan your weekly menu around them. When fresh salmon is $4.99 a pound, we have salmon that week. Eventually most things you're interested in cycle through the sales.
2. Buy in bulk non-perishables that you know your family really likes. You don't have to be Warren Buffet to invest profitably in the futures market. When canned tuna is 3 for $1, buy a case. Your savings over the course of six months (less the time value of money) is probably better than you're getting in your mutual fund, and--guess what!--it's tax-free.
3. If you have a farmers' market in your area, take the time to go on a weekly basis (but keep those supermarket sale prices in the back of your mind). When romaine is running $1.68 a head at the supermarket, we buy it two for $1 at the farmers' market.
4. Try an ethnic store for special ingredients that you can buy and store in bulk. We use a lot of extra virgin olive and buy it by the gallon at the Italian food stores for $15 to $18 (dang--that rising Euro!) and re-bottle it in wine bottles. Kalamata olives, which cost $5.99 a pound in the olive bar at our megamart are $2.99 a pound at the Greek or Italian market.
5. Look for a restaurant supply house open to the public or a store that caters to LDS church members for things like spices, flours (other than simple all-purpose), nuts, grains, etc., but be careful to buy only what you can use.
6. If you have a low-priced, limited-selection supermarket, like Aldi's, around, keep a separate shopping list for stuff you can buy there at much lower prices.
7. Check for a day old bakery store in your area if you buy those kinds of products. Half-price is usually the rule.
At first glance this kind of shopping sounds like it will run you into the ground (and drain your gas tank). But you don't have to visit each place every week if you organize your shopping lists and find your own rhythm.
And don't forget to treat yourself and your family. This maybe a shopping lifestyle, but it should not dictate your life.