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Shop Smart, Save A Bundle On Food

You don't have to fork over lots of extra dough just because food prices have been soaring.

On The Early Show Thursday, someone who knows her way around supermarkets showed CBS News correspondent Priya David how to spend less than $100 a week to feed a family of four -- without skimping.

Stephanie Nelson, founder of, met David at a supermarket in Westchester County, north of New York City.

The two went through the aisles, buying the same items, and Nelson spent only $73.35 for a cart full of groceries that cost David $232.60.

How does Nelson do it?

The bottom line: Plan ahead, and combine store discounts with coupons.

Nelson says she engages in "strategic shopping," which isn't, she points out, about changing the way you eat -- it's about changing the way you buy the food you like.

According to Nelson:

In many cases, shoppers can get free groceries when they use sales and coupons at supermarkets and drugstores. Overall, a family of four can enjoy a healthy diet for $100 per week or less with some simple changes in their buying habits.

It's important to have a plan when grocery shopping, but if you don't, you can get one in 60 seconds by looking through the store's circular. In it, you'll see what's on sell for the week. Plan your meals and shopping list around what's on sale. Make the list as comprehensive as possible to avoid unplanned trips to the store. Stick to the list to avoid impulse shopping.

Simple substitution also helps. Sometimes, people need to be aware of the actual costs of items. Simple substitution can make a big difference. Take, for instance, an apple and a banana. Each banana can cost 24 cents, whereas an apple will cost $1.00) Both pieces of fruit are 100 calories, but for a family of four, you can end up spending more per year eating apples. If you eat bananas instead, you will save on your fruit costs.

Know your store's savings program. Although every store will have different savings, they generally offer them in these three ways: coupon policy, discount cards, and sale-cycles. For instance ShopRite has double coupons, buy-one-get-one-free, and one free-item-of-the-week coupon. Shoprite also has a card that will give you free miles when you shop with the card. And, like all stores, ShopRite has a selling cycle, which means that every so often chicken, for instance, will be on sale. There will always be popular items on sale each week, and it will come up again, so only buy it when it's on sale.

Before doing her shopping Thursday, Nelson got the circular and looked at what the best items on sale were and planned her menus around them. Once she knew what she wanted to get on sale, she found coupons for those items in the Sunday newspapers. Eighty percent of coupons are from the Sunday paper. She buys three copies of the newspapers, so she has multiple coupons. That way, she can stock up on the coupons and use them when those items go on sale. It's all in the planning and checking for what's on sale in the circular, then matching coupons to that.

Before leaving the store, check your receipt for accuracy. Accidental overcharges are common and can add up over the course of a year. Shoppers should watch the prices as they ring up at the register so they can question an incorrect price immediately, before the transaction is completed.

Nelson's total before any discounts came to $135.55. Her store card took $18.52 off that, then coupons got another $43.68 off, bringing her total to $73.35.

Nelson's and David's shopping lists:

Boneless chicken breasts, lb. (4 lb. total)
London Broil, lb. (2 lb. total)
Ground beef 80% lean, lb. (3 lb. total)
Oranges, 4 lb.
Bananas, 8 ct.
Apples, 8 ct.
Carrots, 3 to 5 lb.
Lettuce--2 lb.
Potatoes--5 lb.
Sweet corn-6 ears
Frozen vegetables--3 bags 16 oz.+
Ice cream--56 oz. Carton--1
Orange juice concentrate--12 oz.
Baked beans--2 large cans (22 to 28 oz.)
Pasta sauce--1 can or jar (26 oz.+)
Dry pasta-13 to 16 oz.
Rice mix or plain rice--minimum 1 meal
Snack bag--chips or pretzels 13-16 oz.
Microwave popcorn 3 ct.-2 pkg.
Marinade--bottled-1 or more
Salad dressing 16 oz.--bottled--2
Peanut butter 18 oz.
Mustard 14 oz.
Cereal--2 boxes (approx. 15 oz.+)
Sandwich bread--2 loaves 24 oz.
English Muffins--2 packages 6 ct. or one 12 ct.
Coffee 13 oz.
American cheese singles 12 oz.
Eggs--large dozen
Milk--2 gallons
Lunchmeat--1 lb.
Laundry detergent 80-100 oz. Jug
Dishwasher detergent 75 oz.
Deodorant (2)

Suggested meals for a week:

Hamburgers, baked beans, salad
London Broil, corn, green vegetable, salad
Grilled chicken breast, rice, vegetable, salad
Pasta with meat sauce, salad
Meat loaf, potatoes, green vegetable, salad
Baked chicken breast, baked beans, vegetable, salad
Chicken soup with frozen vegetables, carrots, potatoes

Sandwiches, fruit, pretzels or chips, homemade cookies

Cereal, eggs, English muffins, orange juice, milk

Microwave popcorn, ice cream, pretzels/chips, homemade

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