Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Time&Money: Secrets of the Super Shoppers

By Lori Hall Steele

When it comes to saving on groceries, we all know the drill—scan the weekly flyers for deals, stockpile bargains and clip coupons. We know! And we're doing it! (Okay, some of it.) But the grocery bill keeps nudging up, up and up.

What to do? How can we outsmart rising grocery costs? Well, the nation's super shoppers (mothers of many and frugality queens, among them) have ways to beat the system and lower their grocery bills by anywhere from $100 to $500 per month. Think that's impossible? Then meet Tawra Kellam, who scores gallons of milk for 90 cents and saves herself about $5,200 a year on groceries, compared to other similar-sized families. And this Kansas mother of three doesn't bother with coupons. "They're too much hassle," says Kellam, editor of, a thrift site. "It's not how much you save; it's how much you spend."

Kellam and other super-shoppers have some simple practices that help you spend as little as possible (and we do mean simple—as easy as changing which day you shop). We’ll share those tips with you in upcoming weeks and months.

Today’s tip comes from Kellam:

Stalk The Markdowns— Kellam regularly buys meat for 99 cents a pound. The secret? Ask your grocer when they do markdowns on meat, dairy, bread and produce—most likely it's a set schedule—and do your shopping then.

Stores often slash prices as items near expiration dates or to make way for incoming stock. (Meat remains good for five days after its expiration date, or it can be frozen.) Some stores do daily markdowns at a set time. At Kellam's local grocery store, vegetables and meat are marked down early every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So she shops then. "I got bagged lettuce for 99 cents—regularly it's $3.29. How can you beat that?" asked Kellam.

Markdowns often ring up at 50 percent off the original price, so it's possible to save $5 to $20 a week on meat alone using this strategy (That adds up $270 to $1,040 a year—or more.)

Check for markdowns at farmer’s markets around closing time, when farmers are trying to eliminate fresh and often organic produce so they don’t have to lug it home. Kellam once nabbed 50 green peppers for $1. She diced and froze them, then grabbed a handful as needed.

From a story that originally appeared in Woman's Day. Lori Hall Steele, founder of Youn&Me Kid, is an award-winning journalist who writes for national publications.

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