My best tip to save money on groceries is to keep track of the prices on 10 or more of your most commonly purchased items. Then you'll know when to stock up and when to ignore a so-called sale. Here's a start. Pre-cooked spiral cut ham is a popular choice for Christmas and prices range from $1.69 to $6.89 a pound. I've tried the expensive HoneyBaked hams for nearly $7 per pound and much cheaper ones at Costco for around $2 per pound and have concluded that most taste about the same, especially after the ham glaze is added. If you're looking for a deal, try Aldi's Appleton Farms spiral-sliced half ham at $1.69 per pound (from Massachusetts, not Wisconsin), or Target's Archer Farms brand for $1.89 on sale this week. Compare those to the Cub brand at $1.98 or Rainbow's Hormel brand for $2.49 per pound, both on sale this week. If the hams are too large, check the deli section or ask the meat department for smaller packages of spiral-sliced ham, which will cost more but without the excess.Stocking stuffer for movie buffs
Need a last-minute stocking stuffer for a gamer or a movie buff? If they rent titles from Redbox, go to Redbox.com to purchase a five-DVD rental package for $5 or a 10-DVD package for $10. The gift "card" can be sent via e-mail, text or Facebook. Each gift can be personalized with a message and a card design. Regular prices for a rental are $1.20. The rentals can be redeemed at any of the 34,000 kiosks nationwide and are valid for the first night's rental. Locations can be found at Redbox.com or by texting FIND to 727272.After-Christmas sales
Most of us have favorite clearance sales to hit on Dec. 26, like Nordstrom or Crate & Barrel, but don't forget a couple of smaller retailers with storewide 50 percent off sales. Judith McGrann & Friends gift shop (4615 Excelsior Blvd., Mpls., 612-922-2971, www.judithmcgrannand friends.com) and Discount 70 surplus shop (4027 Central Av. NE., Columbia Heights, 763-781-8922, www.discount70.biz) both have 50 percent off most, if not all, their stock.
Every year McGrann liquidates her entire remaining inventory of women's clothing, jewelry and accessories, ceramics, candles, seasonal items and books from Dec. 26-31. Unsold items are donated to charity.
Discount 70 does a similar sale with 50 percent off everything except electronics and furniture in the Annex. The surplus store with clothing, gifts, packaged foods, housewares, pet supplies and bedding is hit-and-miss, but it's always been a notch above Brand Name Deals in Fridley, which closes soon. Both stores are a good source for returns from Costco and occasionally Sam's Club, Target and Wal-Mart. The liquidation runs Dec. 26-31.