Whether you're a retiree on a fixed income or a Boomer belt-tightening to save for retirement, shopping at he supermarket can send your budget into a tailspin.
It's not your imagination. You are getting less for your money as food prices continue to rise. Finding ways to trim your bill is a priority.
Here's how to spend less time in line and keep a bit more money in your wallet.
Set a budget
Have a maximum budget in mind. While it might be difficult to set a targeted amount of food spending each week when you could be buying different products and prices fluctuate, you could find yourself saving more money if you set a maximum budget and aim to spend below that maximum every week, says Leslie Tayne, an attorney specializing in financial issues with the Tayne Law Group.
Create a list
You don't want to wing it in the grocery store, you'll wind up buying all sorts of stuff, some of which you probably don't even need. "Make a list and stick to it. If you come to the store knowing what you need to buy, rather than what looks good on the shelf, you'll be more inclined to keep your spending in check,' says Scott Gamm, family finance advisor for H&R Block Dollars & Sense. For extra convenience he says to download the Grocery iQ app on the iPhone, which allows you to create lists directly on the smartphone. Your list can also be determined in part by what's on sale and what coupons you have.
Think big picture
Let the sales circular be your guide. The biggest picture on the front page are usually the "must buy" deals, followed by more pictures throughout. "Ask yourself, is this something I will be running out of in the next 12 weeks?" says Teri Gault of The Grocery Game, www.thegrocerygame.com, where you can access sales, unadvertised sales and where to find coupons to go with them.
Buy the limit. Whenever you see a "limit 4" for example, this is a good indicator of the very best deals, which are often called, "loss leaders". "I know you don't need four jars of peanut butter right now, but when it's 99 cents each, you do!" says Gault.
Stock up on up to five weeks of diary products like yogurt and organic milk which have a 5 week, "sell by" date. So when a 4-pack is on sale for $2, it's time to invest in as much as your family eats in up to 5 weeks, says Gault. Check the sell by date to get the most time. If you use a $1 off coupon on this $2 sale, you can get it for $1.
An online grocery service can be an excellent option. This saves you time, your most valuable resource, and can help you save money, says Elle Kaplan, CEO and founding partner of Lexion Capital Management. Online shopping allows for easy, effective product comparison and you can sort by price to quickly find the best deal. "You're also less likely to make purchases based on hunger cravings and more likely to purchase only what you know you need."
Do your homework
Find out if your supermarket host any special discounts days like for seniors or college students. Pay attention. Maybe your store marks down product on Tuesday nights because they get new shipments Thursday, for example. If so, shop on Tuesday nights or early Wednesday for produce.
Know too where to get what. Is there a farmer's market nearby? That may be the best deal on time for produce. Maybe you can get certain foods and paper goods, like toilet paper, napkins and paper towels at the dollar store, or drugstores may offer great prices for some items. While you don't want to burn up a ton of gas shopping all around, be mindful of what's available on the path you frequently travel anyway.
Watch out for supermarket tricks
Do the math. Those buy 2 get one free type of promotions can be great, but do compare the individual price of the item against the number of "free" items being offered to make sure you're really coming out ahead with the deal, says Tayne.
One sure way to spend less at the grocery store is to never go when you're hungry.