Buying smart is key to achieving our goal of making our food dollars go further. The Family Nutrition Program of Mississippi State University Extension Service Publication 2377 has guidelines for food groups "good buys"and using coupons wisely. Click here for a pdf version of publication 2377 or stop by any Extension Service Office for a free copy.
When you make your shopping list, be sure to include foods from all of the food groups in the USDA Food Guidance System. Use this list as a guide:
Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group
Rolled oats are highly nutritious and economical.
Day-old bread is a good buy - you can use it quickly or freeze it.
Vegetable Group/Fruit Group
Buy vegetables and fruits in season to save money. However, sometimes canned or frozen version are cheaper, especially if they are on sale.
Buy plain frozen vegetables rather than those with special sauces.
Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, and Other Calcium Sources Group
Non-fat dry milk often is cheaper than fluid milk, and it is just as good for you.
Dried milk has a long shelf life.
Adding ice cubes to milk mixed from dry milk improves the taste.
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group
Luncheon meats, or cold cuts, usually are an expensive form of meat.
Cold cuts usually are higher in fat than hamburger and regular cuts, such as roasts and chops.
Economical sources of protein to include in your meal plan are dried beans and peas, eggs, peanut butter, and canned tuna.
The expiration date. A few stores will let you use coupons even if the coupon has expired. Also, try to hold the coupon until the item is on sale for additional savings.
The brand. You often can save more money by switching brands instead of using coupons.
Key Words. Watch for size, variety, or number to buy. For example, "Save 40¢ on 2."
The UPC number for the scanner. The scanner "knows" when the product has not been purchased or the restrictions on the coupon have not been met.
Details, like if you can use the coupon in combination with other coupons.
Writing a Shopping List
Write down all the foods you will need to fix the meals and snacks you have planned.
Go back over your list and cross out any foods you already have on hand and plan to use.
Remember to list any staple foods (such as sugar, flour, meal, vegetable oil, and seasonings) that you need to buy.
If you need a certain size package for a recipe, write the size on your list by the item.
If an item is advertised at a special price, write the price next to the item on your list.
Remember to look for grocery store marketing strategies. The more we are aware of these strategies and understand them, the less power they have over us.
Compare products to get the best buy. Be sure to read the labels to get the best nutritional value.