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Everyday Cheapskate: Here are some quick tips to slash the food bill

Food prices have increased so dramatically in recent years, a trip to the supermarket is enough to ruin your appetite. With food weighing in as the second biggest monthly expense for many families, we all need to find clever ways to save. I've got some great tips for driving those costs down.


Hire help. Would you fork over $1.25 a week for someone to help you scour the aisles of your supermarket for the week's best sales, figure out which coupons go with those sales, tell you exactly where those coupons are, figure out the net cost, show you how much you'll save and then hand it to you in a tidy list? Then you need to check out The Grocery Game ( game). I've been a big fan of founder Teri Gault since the days she shared her handwritten shopping list with just a few friends. Now Teri's List is available for supermarkets nationwide. Tip: Try a free 4-week trial.

Get more than books: Amazon Grocery offers hundreds of thousands of nonperishable grocery items, with free Super Saver shipping on orders over $35. In exchange for competitive pricing, you'll be buying in larger quantities than at a traditional grocery store. But here's the fun part: Amazon offers plenty of varieties. Where else can you find all 70 Jello-O products and more than 35 different types of mustard? Amazon Grocery also carries diapers, pet supplies and laundry products.


Go cherry picking. A great way to save money is to handpick the "loss leaders" (items priced below the store's costs just to get you through the door in hopes you spend a lot on full-priced items while you're there) from several stores in your area. My Grocery Deals ( is a cherry picker's dream come true. Register at the site, and then select the stores in your neighborhood and watch all the sales pop up. As you select an item, the site creates a shopping list for you, arranged by store, with subtotals for each and a grand total. Print it out and you can see at a glance the regular price, the price you'll pay at checkout and the amount you'll save.


Pay attention. Grocery store scanners are not always reset with current sales prices. Your chances of being charged the full price on a sale item are high. To get the right deal, stay alert and watch the scanner. Speak up if you see a discrepancy. Tip: Some stores will give you the item for free if it scans higher than advertised.

Get a rain check. Advertised sale items can sell out quickly. But don't despair if you get to the store too late. Simply stop at Customer Service and ask for a rain check. That's all you need to get the sale price when the stock is replenished, even if the sale is over.

Here's the thing about cutting food costs: The savings happen right now. If you normally spend $225 a week for food and by using clever cost-saving measure you get the same amount of food for $175, that's $50 in your pocket instantly. You don't have to work overtime, wait for payday or even pay taxes on it. It's the best kind of instant gratification.

You can email Mary at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. Include your first and last name and state.

Mary Hunt is founder of

To find out more about Mary, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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