It's a brand new year, which means brand new Christmas bills are dropping into mail slots across America. Every year we vow to economize and every year those good intentions seem to rapidly slip away.
But this year it's different. This year it's trendy to economize. Keeping up with the Jones's doesn't mean buying the flashiest car. It means putting out the least weekly trash on your block or getting the most out of your kitchen garden.
Coupon Sherpa has done the hard work and come up with 10 different resolutions for saving money at the grocery store. Select one or adopt all 10 for 2010. The important thing is that you stick with it past Jan. 15.
1. Make a top-20 list: Comb your kitchen cuapboards and the fridge to create a list of the top 20 products you buy most frequently. Research the standard unit price for each item and keep notes so you can spot a good sale when one comes along.
2. Stockpile: Keep an eye out for excellent sales or coupons for your top-20 items and stockpile them while they're hot.
3. Prepare a menu: Check your pantry and fridge for items you already have and plan meals around these ingredients.
4. Watch for regular sales: Some items go on sale on a cyclical basis, such as hamburger once a month or turkey during the holidays. Watch for these patterns and buy enough to hold you over until the next sale.
5. Use coupons: With a little organizing and research, you'll find coupons much easier to use than you ever realized. Stop procrastinating and start clipping.
6. Don't buy pre-packaged meals: Cooking from scratch tends not only to be healthier but far less expensive. For example, compare the price of pre-chopped and cooked chicken to uncooked chicken breasts. Rather than pay for the convenience, buy, cook and chop many breasts at the same time and freeze what you don't need. You can use this approach for pancakes, snacks, bakery items, etc.
7. Join a co-op: A food co-op can reduce your weekly food bill up to 50 percent by volunteering and buying in bulk.
8. Shop early: Hit the grocery stores before 9 a.m. and you'll have a better chance of finding sale items, particularly produce, dairy and baked goods.
9. Cut down on meat: Meat is a good source of protein, but it's expensive. Nor do we need as much protein in our diets as is commonly believed. (You only need about 12-15 percent of daily calories from protein. For example, if you eat 2500 calories per day, then you only need 75 to 94 grams of protein per day.) Substitute peas, beans, cheese, kale, peanut butter and other non-meat items for a big price reduction at check-out.
10. Use discount gift cards: Gift cards from big-box merchants like Target and WalMart can save money before you even hit the stores.