No coupons: Secrets to beat rising food costs

Published: Monday, March 26 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

Multiple deals also tend to hide the price per unit. "There could be products right next to it that are actually cheaper," Woroch said, "but you don't realize it because you are convinced the sale sign is the best deal."

So many tips

There are many tips and tricks to saving money while shopping. Woroch said if someone is going to buy name brands, coupons can be a good idea. In addition to the newspaper (obviously the best choice!) Woroch said websites like www.CouponSherpa.com (which she promotes) can aggregate offers that can be put on a customer's loyalty card.

Woroch said milk and eggs might be cheaper at drug stores.

Convenience foods are budget killers. McCoy laid out the costs in her book: Restaurants cost six to ten times more and frozen meals cost four times more than home meals. Prepackaged mixes are three times more than scratch. Precut foods cost twice as much as doing your own slicing.

You're going to make it after all

So making more things at home is one of the most profitable of McCoys tips to save money on food. Baking from scratch takes about the same amount of time as using baking mixes, she says. People can even make their own mixes in larger batches.

Snacks are a great area to reduce costs and are easy to substitute with homemade items like cookies or popcorn. Popsicles can be made out of pureed fruits or flat soda pop.

McCoy was surprised to learn 30 percent of her grocery bill was for beverages. Water is, of course, the cheapest substitute. She says parents can allow one cup of juice or milk at a meal and if family members are still thirsty, they can have water after that. She also points out instant drink mixes are up to ten times cheaper than soda pop.

When Aimie Buxton was expecting a child about two years ago, she said, "Meat really grossed me out." So she began using textured vegetable protein or TVP. She said she still uses it in place of ground meat — especially in recipes where meat is not the star like lasagna, chili and baked beans. She uses beef base or bouillon to add the meaty taste. The TVP costs about $1.88 a pound.

Buxton also likes to make her own yoghurt-like dairy product called kefir. Kefir grains are a mixture of bacteria and yeasts that ferment milk into the creamy tangy kefir. The starter kefir grains are then strained out to use again indefinitely. She then puts the kefir in a blender along with apricots canned from her mother's tree and serves it as a breakfast smoothie for her, her husband Seth and their three children Iris (1 1/2 years old), Wyatt (3) and Olivia (6). "It takes zero effort," she said.

And to save money doesn't take a lot of effort. Each of the experts interviewed for this article used the word "easy" to describe the small changes people can make that will save big on food. People eat, after all, about 90 meals a month. One dollar in savings per meal is $90. No coupons required.

Jonni McCoy's "Eleven Miserly Guidelines."

1. Don't confuse frugality with depriving yourself

2. Remove little wasters of money

3. Keep track of food prices

4. Don't buy everything at the same store

5. Buy in bulk whenever possible

6. Make your own whenever possible

7. Eliminate convenience foods

8. Cut back on meats

9. Waste nothing

10. Institute a soup and bread night (or baked potato night)

11. Cook several meals at once and freeze them

Source: "Miserly Moms" by Jonni McCoy

Email: mdegroote@desnews.com

TWITTER: @degroote

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