Wallet woes: Ways to save on food and fuel
The skyrocketing food and gas prices affecting much of the world have many of us looking for ways to stretch our dollars at the grocery store and at the gas pump.
Food for thought: Pay attention to how you shop
Here are 10 tips for saving on food and everyday expenses.
Buy local. You can save money on fruits and vegetables by buying local as much as possible. Planning your menus around food that is in season means fresher ingredients and that you won’t be incurring expensive food transportation costs.
Comparison shop. Look around for the best bargains, and not only in grocery stores. Pharmacies and hardware stores often offer good deals on staple items. If you find a good price, consider stocking up.
Shop smart. Make a grocery list and a weekly spend limit — and stick to it. Even small impulse items can add up — as much as 10 per cent of your yearly grocery bill, according to some experts. Utilize store circulars and coupons. And be sure to check your receipts for accuracy. Accidental overcharges can add up to a hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. Note: In Canada, if you’re overcharged because of a scanning error, you could be eligible to receive the item for free (or $10 off if the item is more than $10). To learn more, click here.
Save green when you go green. If the prices of organic foods have you bulking, target your spending for foods where conventional pesticide use is high. These include apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries.
Get out the slow cooker. Buying inexpensive (and tougher) cuts of meats won’t be a sacrifice if you slow cook them to mouth-watering tenderness. Slow cookers also make great use of leftover vegetables.
Consider making your own cleaning products. A trip down the cleaning supplies aisle can add big bucks to your grocery bill. Instead consider making natural and less expensive cleaning solutions from items in your pantry. (Read more).
Know your food costs facts. A few rules of thumb: white eggs are generally cheaper than brown; skim milk is cheaper than 2 per cent milk; and bacon is usually less expensive than sausage. A rotisserie chicken is not only a convenient way to prepare dinner, but it can go a long way toward leftovers, soups, etc. — and it is often cheaper than buying, say, boneless chicken breasts.
Think generic. Cereal, canned and frozen foods can be cheaper when sold through the store brand name — and in most cases, the quality isn’t that much different.
Engage in stealthy stock-up.Stocking up, particularly on reduced items, can help to save on fuel costs from that extra trip to the store as well as multiple-shop impulse buying. In many areas, bread prices have skyrocketed, so if your favourite multi-grain is on sale, buy a couple loaves to store in the freezer.
Choose your shopmates wisely. We’ve all heard the old adage, ‘don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry’, but you might also want to consider who you bring with you. Children or grandchildren, for example, have ways of persuading you to buy items you hadn’t planned for.
Put the brakes on gas guzzling
Consumers are being hit not only with rising food costs, but record breaking gas prices. Here are practical tips to put the brakes on gas guzzling*.
• Lighten up on the gas pedal. According to the US Department of Energy, every five miles per gallon that you drive in excess of 60 mph (96km) is about the same as adding 10 cents to every gallon of gas. Use cruise control to maintain constant speed on the open highway.
• Use high gear or overdrive when driving at highway speeds. Switching to high gear will reduce engine speed, thereby saving gas and cutting wear to the engine.
• Avoid aggressive driving. Jack-rabbit starts following by abrupt, screeching stops can cut both highway and city mileage. Such reckless driving also puts unnecessary wear and tear on your tires.
• When idling, shut the engine off, even if you expect to be waiting for even a short period.
• Be sure to buy the right grade of gasoline. Consult your owner’s manual: if your vehicle is designed to run on regular, filling the tank with more expensive mid-grade or premium fuel will not make your car run any better.
• Buy on price and convenience. Gasoline is a commodity product and one brand is as good as another.
• Pay attention to maintenance. Change oil, engine coolant, filters and spark plugs at intervals recommended in the owner’s manual. Keeping your engine tuned will reduce gas mileage by as much as 10 per cent. For greater fuel efficiency, tires should be maintained and properly inflated.
• Try to avoid the roof rack. For vacation driving, pack as much luggage as possible in the car. A loaded roof rack can cut fuel economy by as much as 5 per cent according to the (US) Department of Energy.
• Roll down the window. Heavy use of your air conditioner can increase gas consumption by 10 – 20 per cent.
• Switch to a vehicle that offers better gas mileage. Options include opting for a smaller car or a gas-electric hybrid vehicle.