Five super shoppers - from singles to moms to retired folks - provide money-saving tips to help you save on your food bill during these high-price times.
A longtime frugal shopper, Pettman likes outlets such as Mike's Discount Foods in Fridley. She tries to combine grocery shopping with other errands to save gas and time. Pettman remembers the McGlynn's bakery outlets, now called Concepts2, which she said don't have the selection they used to, but bread is still only 50 cents a loaf.
Her five tips:
• Get inexpensive, nutritious staples through Fare for All (Fareforall.org, 763-450-3880). Open to anyone who wants to save money on groceries; buyers can save up to 50 percent. Participants register, prepay for their food and then pick it up generally the third Saturday of the month at distribution sites across the Twin Cities area.
• Try Big Lots for good deals on tea, soup, bread and many other foods.
• Cook rice in big batches, put in bags in the fridge. Use as needed with sauteed onions, chicken and other veggies for quick, healthful meals during busy weeknights.
• Buy medium-sized bags of dried fruit, trail mix and deluxe mixed nuts when Fleet Farm has them on sale.
• Check neighborhood bagel shops that may discount the day's bagels 50 percent an hour or so before closing.
The retired couple shop at Aldi, Costco, Trader Joe's and United Natural Foods buying club. They buy in bulk, have a pantry, a freezer and large garden. They make bread and soup from scratch. Bones from the meat make soup stock. They buy organic when they can. Their tips:
• Buy meat in bulk. The Mathieus buy a side of beef from an organic farmer who lives nearby. Find farm sources by checking signs in outlying areas or going to the farmers' market in the city.
• Avoid prepackaged items, which are often pricey, unless you can use a coupon when an item is on sale.
• Buy fresh, healthful ingredients as cheaply as possible and then make meals around what you have on hand at home.
• Buy a large portion in a restaurant and take part of it home for another meal.
• Dust off that breadmaker, if you have one. Baking ingredients are cheap, making homemade bread much cheaper than store-bought.
Crumb and his wife, empty-nesters in their 50s, try to shop for healthful, cheaper food. An 18-ounce carton of blackberries for $5 at Costco is a better deal than a gallon of ice cream, he said. By shopping the Sunday ads and using coupons, Crumb estimates, they saved about $1,500 last year. "We could take a week's vacation on that," he said.
• Realize that no store can do it all for you. Base your shopping on your driving habits. Rainbow is close to Crumb's workplace, Cub is close to his home, Festival is close to his dry cleaner's, etc.
• Stick to your shopping list (with coupons attached) to avoid triggering the "want machine."
• Don't be wedded to any brand. Buy the brand that's on sale.
• Buy a store's private-label items when they're on sale for maximum savings.
• Eat out once or twice a month as a treat, but take a coupon from the restaurant website, newspaper or a coupon book.
Saiko, with her family of five, stays ultra-organized to save money and satisfy her 13-, 12- and 6-year-old. Her family buys half a cow for about $1.72 per pound from a local farmer. She takes a coupon book and calculator to the grocery store. She plans meal amounts carefully because leftovers are not well accepted at her house. "Nothing goes to waste," she said.
• Plan meals based on what's on sale in the Sunday ad and which sale items you have coupons for.
• Check to see if stores in your area accept Internet coupons. In Saiko's area, Rainbow accepts them, but Cub and Target do not.
• Take expired coupons to Cub, which will accept them for up to 90 days after expiration.
A young single woman, Grunwald is no fan of the kitchen. She prefers to eat out with friends or her sister and her three kids. Eating out may not be the thriftiest option, but she finds restaurant deals online as well as Rainbow and Cub's Web ads for staples around the house. Her five tips:
• Sign up for birthday clubs at restaurants that offer it and get a free meal on your birthday.
• Go to Twincitiesmom.com/freestuff.html for a fantastic, exhaustive list of which area restaurants offer free meals for kids. It's organized by the day of the week. On Thursdays, try Bar Abilene in Minneapolis, Champps in Maplewood and selected Embers America restaurants. Grunwald got the tip from her sister.
• Two words: happy hour! La Casita in Columbia Heights offers a free buffet, and at Fridley Crab House appetizers are $1.99 all week during happy hour. For more happy-hour specials, go to Thriftyhipster.com.