Economic grocery shopping begins before you even get to the store. First, Hartshorn suggests taking stock of what you have and what you may need to buy. "I'm one of those people, I'll go to the store and I'll buy my kids another box of yogurt, forgetting that there's already one in the fridge," says Harshorn.
Clipping coupons can help, too. While it takes some time and effort, you can save a lot of money. "If you save... two dollars a week, that's... $104 in a year, which is a week's worth of groceries," says Hartshorn.
Also, if you can avoid taking the kids to the store, you can save a ton of money. Kids distract you while you're shopping; this can lead to impulse buys and keeps you from reading price tags, which in turn makes for a huge grocery bill at the checkout. You'll save time - and money - if you can leave your kids at home with your spouse or a babysitter.
Once you're at the grocery store, try to avoid buying in bulk unless it's something that won't expire, such as baby wipes or paper towels. Buying a huge block of cheese won't save you money unless you're throwing a party; instead, you'll use part of it and the rest will turn moldy by the time you're ready to use it. "Kids don't have huge appetites - they have little stomachs," says Hartshorn. "You'll just never get through it all."
Another money saving tip? Look for store brands. "The generic brands are actually really good these days," says Hartshorn. Sometimes, generic items can be half as expensive as brand-name products and the quality will be just as good.
At the checkout, be sure to use your grocery store's loyalty card. If you don't have one, you'll definitely want to sign up. Not only can these lead to instant savings at the checkout, but sometimes, stores will print out coupons with your receipt based on your buying trends. "When they swipe your card, they'll know whether or not you're often buying diapers... so maybe a diaper coupon is going to come out for you to use next time," says Hartshorn. All those coupons can add up to big savings.
Once you've returned from the store, there are a few things you can do to make your food last longer. Pay attention to where you're storing your food in the refrigerator. Things like milk, eggs and other perishable items shouldn't be stored on the door; keep items that don't spoil so easily, like jelly or pickles, there instead. The key is air flow; because the refrigerator door is exposed to warm air every time you open the fridge, items stored there tend to go bad quicker than items stored inside crisper drawers or on the shelves. Rearrange your fridge so that items are stored more efficiently.
Also, store fresh produce carefully. Try keeping food in plastic zip top bags to keep the air out. You can also wipe down vegetables like lettuce or broccoli before storing them in the fridge. A little extra effort can save a lot of money in the long run.
For more information on economic grocery shopping, as well as additional parenting and family life advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.
By Erin Petrun