For the week of July 30, 2018

Shop smart

By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau

While food remains a bargain in the United States, the average American household spends more on food each year. What’s even more interesting is the average American may soon spend more on dining out than buying groceries.

In 2016, the average American household spent approximately $600 a month on food, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 44 percent of that was spent in bars and restaurants.

If your budget is tight, eating at home can be a great way to save some extra cash. Buying groceries, instead of eating out can present the average consumer with a lot more flexibility than fixed costs like rent, fuel, electricity, etc.

Almost every shopper has compiled a list of cost-cutting ideas of his or her own. The following list is by no means complete but contains effective ways to save at the supermarket.

Begin saving money by planning meals one week at a time. Shoppers should know what they are buying. With thousands of items in the modern supermarket, product information is essential in selecting the best buy.

Like all learning experiences, this requires some reading, listening and studying. For example, the product label is a source of information on nutrition, menu use, quantity and quality of the food item.

Secondly, cost-conscious shoppers must buy when and where the price is right. There are many times to buy on special, buy store or generic brands or to buy in quantity. They key is keeping abreast of the price practices of our highly competitive supermarkets.

Shopping regularly at two different stores is an informative practice and leads to savings because different stores usually specialize in different items.

Accurate record keeping has become an important part of a smart shopping routine. Money-saving ideas take time but result in time well spent. One-half hour of planning before each weekly shopping trip can result in savings.

If you’re not already using coupons, consider doing so. By collecting coupons for an hour each week, shoppers can save as much as $200 a week.

Cost-conscious shoppers influence the entire food industry. If shoppers do not check prices, retailers may display items that sell by saturation advertising or gimmick packaging. Both add to food costs.

Smart shopping can result in satisfaction instead of frustration. Initially this satisfaction results from actual savings in the family’s food budget. The wise shopper realizes intelligent buying keeps our food industry the best in the world.

Securing the most for your food dollar is significant to every consumer in this country. It is also well worth the effort.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.