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Here are 15 dos and don'ts that may just help you break a habit or two and save on groceries.
1. Do clip coupons from magazines, newspapers and on websites such as smartcanucks.ca. Also check company websites for your most-purchased products – they'll often have coupons available to download.
2. Do read the weekly special flyers, and then stock up, within reason, on items you already use regularly.
3. Do invest in an energy-efficient freezer to hold your deals. If whole chickens are on special this week, for instance, buy five. Keep one in the fridge for right now, and freeze the rest.
4. Don't buy something you wouldn't normally purchase just because its on special.
5. Do comparison shop, especially for higher-priced items. Manufacturers suggest a retail price range but the retailer sets the price on the shelf. Some stores are more expensive than others, even within the same chain.
6. Don't shop in wealthy neighbourhoods. A jar of brand X peanut butter at Fred's Grocery in Mansionville may be more expensive than that same jar at Fred's in Othersideofthetracksville. Head out of your comfort zone.
7. Do visit farmer's markets. Yes, it's true, some are more like boutique grocers with boutique prices, but others are the real deal, giving you and your wallet direct access to the farmers. Skipping the middleman saves money.
8. Do join a CSA program (do a web search for community-supported agriculture in your area) and buy a "subscription" to the products of a local farm or producer.
9. Do check out the discount racks. Day-old baked goods can be revived in the oven, and while the produce may look a little sad, wrinkly veggies are still fine for cooking and droopy fruit is wonderful in smoothies and baking. Take it home, clean it up and use or freeze immediately.
10. Do purchase in bulk. In harvest time, fresh produce such as tomatoes and apples is cheaper by the bushel; can, freeze or dehydrate to preserve for later. Dry goods are often much more affordable in bulk; compare prices on staples such as rice, flour, sugar, oatmeal and even breakfast cereal.
11. Don't be afraid of discounted fish and meat. Stores are unlikely to sell something that will make you sick. The trick here is timing: Either use a piece of discounted chicken or salmon on the day of purchase, or rinse it in cold water, re-wrap and freeze immediately. When you're ready to cook it, cook it right from frozen.
12. Don't shop when you're hungry. You'll be much more likely to stock up on junk and expensive convenience foods.
13. Don't shop when you're in a rush. To find the deals you need to take your time.
14. Don't waste food. In North America tons of perfectly good food and produce goes to the landfill. Learn to use the food you buy. Don't throw away a chicken carcass; make soup. Save beef bones, mushroom stems and other vegetable scraps in the freezer until you have enough to make stock. Plan meals around what's in the fridge rather than buying for recipes.
15. Buy local and in season. We can't stress that enough. If you live north of Florida, strawberries in January are tasteless and expensive – just not worth the inflated prices.
Saving on food doesn't have to mean deprivation. It's all in planning ahead and keeping that deal radar on. Think of it this way: Everything you save on the day-to-day shopping means you can afford the free-range, organic turkey when the holidays come.