Friday, November 19, 2010

How to Save Money on Groceries

People in my life keep complaining that food is getting more and more expensive.

Granted, these are people with no actual information -- people who would no sooner research the pattern of beef and corn prices relative to inflation over the last 50 years than they would perform an unwarranted tonsillectomy on a gerbil -- are experts on how the average family suffers from an increasingly unreasonable grocery bill.

Yet as much as 50% of the food produced in this country goes to waste; we throw half of it away after it’s prepared, reports the New York Times.

When you add in the food we eat that we probably don’t need to eat (yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. Second Helping), that figure is probably closer to 90%.

A Cornell University study found that 93% of us admit to buying food we never use.

Yeah, we’re suffering, all right.

I checked the government’s Consumer Price Index, and discovered this shocking fact: what you spend depends on what you’re eating. Beef and dairy products did get more expensive last month. On the other hand, fruits, vegetables, and egg salad sandwiches dipped with root beer spilled on them have gotten cheaper.

Overall, food prices in the United States have increased 1.4 percent in the past year - a much slower rate of increase than energy (5.9 percent) or medical care (3.6 percent). Costs for clothing have actually decreased 1.2 percent, which explains why Lady Gaga’s meat dress is actually a status-grab.

Our sustenance comes to us more cheaply than anywhere else in the world. The average American spends about 10 percent of his or her income on food, compared to upwards of 75 percent for impoverished residents of certain Third-World countries, according to the Financial Times.

In other words, while you’re ordering that cheese-steak with ice cream for dessert, and complaining about the bill, some 13-year-old in Sri Lanka is spearing a pigeon for his only meal of the week.

If that perspective does not ease your querulous lamenting, I do have a few tips for saving money on groceries:

1.  Whenever you go to the grocery store, buy 29 gallons of milk.

Milk is always the first thing we run out of. It is the barometer of our grocery-buying habits. As long as we have milk, we don’t need groceries yet. And when we run out of milk, we go to the store.

The problem is, every time we go to the store, we spend $135, regardless of when we were last there and what may or may not be in the pantry at home.

So don’t let yourself run out of milk until you’ve run out of a lot of other stuff first. Freeze it, if necessary, so you don’t have any reason to go shopping for food until you’re desperate enough to eat some of your smaller household insects.

2.  Start a garden. Rumor has it you can make food appear out of the dirt. (Weird, huh?)  Find out how.

3.  Eat at restaurants all the time. Watch your grocery expenses plummet!

4.  Hawk coupons online. Gone are the days when you buy two extra copies of the Sunday paper so you can clip enough coupons to save the amount you spent on extra copies of the Sunday paper. Now, coupon aggregators, retailers, and manufacturers make it easy for old ladies like you to feel technologically savvy.

5.  It would not surprise me of gerbil tonsils are considered a delicacy in certain parts of Sri Lanka.

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