If you think it’s hot now, wait until this summer’s drought scorches your wallet with higher food prices next year.
The federal government is already predicting price hikes of up to 5% for beef and slightly lower increases for eggs, dairy and pork products.
“It is one extra kick in the stomach” for low-income families, Chris G. Christopher, senior principal economist at IHS, a consulting firm, told the New York Times. “There’s a lot of people in this country living paycheck to paycheck. This is not a good thing for them.”
Even those of us on tight budgets will be hard-pressed to shoulder more expenses and will be looking for even more ways to save.
With a little ingenuity, there are unconventional ways to save on food each week. Some of these ideas will require thinking outside the grocery bag to get the most savings, but all will help you cut costs on food.
Shop for Day Olds
Just because a food item is called a “stale” doesn’t mean that it’s ready to be thrown away.
Groceries have different names for them — including “stales” and “day olds” — but what sets these products apart is their “sell by” date is usually that same day.
Typically these products include all kinds of baked goods like breads, cakes and cookies. The baked goods are still good to eat for up to a week or can be frozen for later use. Occasionally, you’ll also find fruit juices and other items that are approaching their sell-by dates available.
Depending on the market, the stores sell these at steep discounts or donate them to a local church or food pantry to be given away.
Shop the Ding and Dent Stores
Along the same idea as “stales” are stores that specialize in close-out lots and damaged shipments. Don’t worry, the food is still good to eat as long as its container or can hasn’t had its seal broken or punctured.
Other items, including plastics and paper products, can be had at these stores, most of the time at a big discount from the retail price – all because the box might be torn.
A good rule of thumb when shopping these stores is to always look for the expiration date on any food container. If buying nonfood items, try to get the best looking, least damaged box. For example, if you’re buying trash bags, a more damaged box might mean more of the trash bags inside could be ripped and useless.
Join a Food Co-op
If you’re looking to save money while helping to save the environment, then a food co-op could be for you.
These are organized groups that use their combined purchasing power to get deals on food and grow some of their own food as well. To join a co-op, expect that you will pay a membership fee and be required to work in the co-op’s garden.
One that has been running since 1973 is Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op, which requires its members to work a short shift at its store once a month.
The savings through a co-op can be great and co-op member Lia Wiedemann estimated she saves 20% to 40% on groceries by going through Park Slope.
Make Shopping a Team Sport
If committing to join a food co-op isn’t for you, try teaming up with neighbors, family or friends and buy in bulk a warehouse stores or specialty shops.
Especially if you don’t have a lot of storage or freezer space, shopping at the discount warehouse stores like Costco can be daunting. But if you go to these stores with the idea of splitting the purchases up, suddenly that 50-roll box of toilet paper seems more manageable.
Same goes for specialty shops like butchers. Team up with a group of people to purchase beef and other meats. Many butchers offer a variety of package deals that include different cuts, sausages and other food that can be easily divided among several households.
Do you have more unconventional ways of saving on groceries? Share them in the comments or on our Facebook Page.
Photo Credit: awsheffield