Diet-to-Go Blog
  1. 13 Shopping Tips to Stretch Your Food Dollar

    I enjoy food shopping. However, more often than not, I come away from my local Walmart or Weis with a cart that's crammed and overflowing with unplanned purchases.

    Did I really need three large bags of Jalapeno Krunchers that cost me more than $11 or those three half gallons of ice cream that cost me hundreds of extra calories?

    Of course not. But that's how I shop... or, as my wife is fond of saying, that's how I buy.

    Shopping should mean looking for deals and sticking to a list, not just grabbing a pack of cupcakes or a frozen pizza just because the colorful packaging or end-of-aisle location happened to catch your eye!

    I could have surfed the web for shopping tips but I prefer to turn to my friends in times like these.

    Meet Sally Ketchum. She's a Michigander who has been writing about food and cooking for me for some six or seven years now. Sally is fun and knowedgeable about food and cooking so I have asked her to whip up a baker's dozen of tips for us.

    The next time you find yourself in a supermarket and mulling over buying that super-sized package of double-stuffed Oreos, ask yourself, "What would Sally do?"

    Sally's shopping trips & tricks to save $$$$

    1. Know your store.

    Note how the aisles are laid out. Many stores place groceries that they want to push for various reasons up front. You might want to go deep into the store and more or less shop your way forward.

    2. Know the products in a no-frills store.

    Not all will be up to your standard. Soups from "SAVE HERE" are mostly salt and water, while their tissue special is OK. My dog won't touch cheap chews from one store (Made in China), but loves ones from the large chain store (Made in Brazil).

    3. Read labels for healthy content, proportions -- how many clams in that clam chowder? -- and additives.

    4. Have family contests once in a while.

    Everyone rate the brands of chili. What is the family's favorite... and it is worth the cost? It may not be the most expensive! Try this with soups, sauces, canned vegetables, etc.

    5. Don't shop when you are hungry!

    Sometimes we have no choice. We need to pick up "a few things" on our way home from work or school. Be prepared by carrying a health bar or low-cal mints in your pocket.

    6. When making shopping lists, think "meal builders."

    Ground beef has got to be America's No. 1 hearty meal recipe base. The best buy, all reasons considered, is ground chuck since it produces the best flavor.

    While some dieters prefer extra lean ground beef, it may not deliver enough flavor, and the cook can always cut down on the amount of beef in a recipe when using chuck. Make your burgers smaller and top with light-on-the-mayo slaw.

    7. Make shopping lists and stick to them!

    There can always be exceptions so don't beat yourself up over this one. You need that wiggle room for great sales -- 10 cans of soup for $10 -- or truly needed items you forgot to jot down like milk, bread or eggs.

    8. Shop when stores are less crowded.

    I've found that Tuesday is a good shopping day and mid-day, after lunch hour, is a good time. You'll be less rushed and less likely to grab something without thinking.

    9. Ready, steady, go green!

    Certainly, reusable cloth bags save our environment. If they are homemade, put a sturdy piece of cardboard in the bottom so the bags stand up in you car on the way home.

    10. Meet 'n greet your meat cutter!

    Talk to your butchers -- even in larger chain stores. Ask to meet them, and then ask them a couple of questions. You'll be surprised at the extra services they can give you... including money saving tips, too.

    11. Bone up on your knowledge.

    Some stores charge for bones, some do not. And, I'm not talking about bones for your dog. Economical, healthy soups can be made with bones and barley or rice, or noodles. Think of the children's tale of Stone Soup.

    12. Use coupons wisely.

    If you are a coupon clipper, review coupons frequently. Toss the outdated ones, and also those for products that you do not usually use or ones that you may have changed your mind about. A basement or stuffed pantry full of sale items that are out of date amd past their prime does not save you money.

    13. Deal or no deal?

    Take advantages of specials like 5 items for the price of $4. In order to not overstock your shelves, label three bags for the coming months of February, March and April. Distribute extra sale items in them; restocking handy shelves from the bags the first of the appropriate month. Turn February's bag into May, and so on. This makes a surprisingly good start for each month.

    Thank you Sally! You remain my food hero. For more on Sally, and to check out her award-winning middle grade novel, Bread Garden, go to

    Be sure to look for Sally's kitchen tips exclusively here next week in the Diet-to-Go blog!

    Author: John McGran

    Archived posts 2010
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