SMART BUYING


Beat the Rising Cost of Groceries

Maya guy, a stay-at-home mom from Stafford, Va., says the price of food these days is ridiculous. So Guy goes to great -- some might say extreme -- lengths in order to shave her grocery bill. But her efforts pay off: She recently left a grocery store with $250 worth of food for which she had paid just $100, thanks to strategic shopping. Guy chooses the cheapest store for items on her list (she favors Costco or Walmart's Supercenter for milk, for instance), buys items on sale, uses coupons -- and even shops early in the morning to snag meat on the sell-by date at 50% off.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting a 2% to 3% uptick in food prices this year, with some goods, such as pork and dairy products, expected to log gains on the order of 4% to 5%. Recent commodity spikes have already prompted grocers, food manufacturers and restaurants to hike prices.

Plenty of bloggers and Web sites can clue you in on how to shop strategically. At CouponMom.com, you'll find printable coupons, a list of grocery deals by state, an interactive database of newspaper-circular coupons, plus a tutorial on how to use coupons effectively. Check out Restaurant.com for savings on meals out. Don't see coupons for your favorite products? Follow Guy's example: E-mail the manufacturer and ask for some.

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