With the price of basic food items on the rise, what's a budget-conscious consumer to do?
Let Mellody Hobson help!
Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments and "Good Morning America's" personal finance contributor, went to Fry's Food and Drug, a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., to help shoppers find ways to save money and fill their carts with bargains.
1. Don't be impulsive. Just because it's on sale, that doesn't mean you have to purchase it.
2. Make a list of two weeks' worth of groceries and shop from it.
3. Don't go crazy in big club stores. Club shopping is very good for certain kinds of items, including toilet paper, paper towels and detergent, but you can actually waste your hard-earned money if you buy bulk sizes of items that you won't use.
4. Don't overlook the items in the bargain bin. Generally those items can be great deals, but you need to be careful with canned goods. Any canned product that's compromised in any way can make you sick.
Hobson appeared on "GMA" this morning to tell how you can save even more money when you grocery shop.
Q: What's the best way to find coupons?
A: Coupons are a popular way to save at the grocery store, and the Internet has revolutionized couponing, Hobson said. Her favorite website is couponsherpa.com, which has coupons for more than 5,000 stores. The website even has a section just for grocery coupons. When you find the coupon you like, simply print it and take it with you to the store.
Coupon Sherpa is also available for free on iPhones. Once you find the coupon you want on your iPhone, it will be displayed either as a numeric code or a scannable image that may be entered at the store's register, she said.
Hobson also likes coupons.com. In 2010, the website issued $1.2 billion worth of coupon savings, she said. And don't forget that some national chains will honor another chain's coupons, she also noted.
Q: I want to save money by buying generic brands. Is there any difference between the two?
A: On average, brand name items usually cost $1 more than their generic equivalents, Hobson said. Sometimes the decision to buy generic is easy, especially on products such as bleach, she said. At other times, the savings may not be worth it (if you're purchasing soda, for example), she said.
The reason brand names cost more is they have much higher marketing and packaging costs. Interestingly, many of the private label brands on the shelf are actually made by the brand name manufacturers, so they're the same product marketed under different names, she added.
Q: How can I save on meat purchases?
A: Hobson said the price of ground beef has increased more than 18 percent in the past year and beef is expected to go up another 8 percent this year.
The best way to save on meat is to go directly to the butcher, who will know which cheaper cuts don't sacrifice flavor for cost, she said.
You'll also save -- as much as 75 percent -- if you buy meat that's closer to its expiration date, she said. Simply buy in bulk and load up your freezer, she added.
5. If you try to compare the value of two items of differing sizes, you may have problems making an accurate assessment. It's best to compare the per unit prices displayed on the shelf.
6. Pricing mistakes occur often at the checkout counter. Make sure you pay close attention to the prices you are being charged and always double-check your receipt.
7. Don't forget to sign-up for the free shopping loyalty cards offered by most grocery stores. You will receive discounts on many of the products you buy, and you may also receive special offers and coupons.