Fight Rising Grocery Prices with Strategic Shopping

With grocery prices rising rapidly with no end in sight, it is more important than ever to know how to shop strategically.

As I've said before, strategic shopping is not about changing the way you eat, it is about changing the way you buy the food that you like.

Fight back with these proven strategies:

1. Be flexible regarding store and brand choices.

2. Study the store's sales circular and use online resources to find the best sales.

3. Plan your meals and shopping list around what is on sale at stores.

4. Know multiple sources of coupons. Maximize your savings by knowing when to use them and where to find more of them. Match coupons with sale items.

5. Check your receipts for accuracy. Accidental overcharges are common and can add up to a hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.

I was recently challenged to demonstrate my Strategic Shopping system in another city as part of a contest with another expert shopper. Although I live in Atlanta, by using grocery store Web sites and my site's lists of best deals for that city's stores at www.couponmom.com. I knew I could plan the shopping trip easily. I use the same strategies to plan my shopping at the grocery store two miles from my home every week.

The challenge was to see who could buy the most food to feed a family of five a balanced, healthy diet for a week with $100. The point was not to see how many items I could buy with coupons, but to see if my Strategic Shopping system was practical to feed the average family. I knew it was, but I had to prove it. In the process, I learned which strategies made the most impact in stretching my $100. I was only allowed to use newspaper coupons from the past two weeks, and could only use two sets of coupons. In reality, coupon users who save the most money save their coupons from at least the previous three months and buy up to five copies of the newspaper to maximize coupon savings.

In spite of the stringent coupon restrictions, I was able to buy $300 of high-quality, well-balanced groceries with $98.80, which was not only enough to feed a family of five for one week but allowed me to stock up on many items for future weeks. Here are the tricks that saved the most money for me, and can help you save on your own family's groceries every week:

1. Be willing to shop at more than one store per week to really save by getting each store's best deals. This is called "cherry-picking." Most shoppers do not like this idea because they only want to shop at one store per week. However, most shoppers end up making unplanned trips during the week to get forgotten items. Overall, you would probably spend less time shopping at two or three stores with well-planned lists than you would if you weren't organized and ended up shopping three times per week anyway. The extra planning would also save far more money.

I began my planning by reviewing the best grocery deals lists at CouponMom.com for six area stores and narrowed my shopping choices down to the three stores with the best deals that week. I then planned the week's meals around the best sale items for meat, chicken, fish and produce. In addition, I visited the stores' Web Sites to learn about special promotions.

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