Saving Money on Food and Holiday Cooking

I’ll admit it: I have coupon envy. Especially when I see one of those organized shoppers with a pouch full

I’ll admit it: I have coupon envy. Especially when I see one of those organized shoppers with a pouch full of alphabetized clippings. If you’re like me, you have all kinds of excuses for why you don’t use coupons. But there are solutions.

No time to sort sales circulars and coupons from multiple stores? For $5 a month, thegrocerygame.com offers a weekly roundup of advertised and unadvertised sales in your area, linked to manufacturer coupons. Members report slashing their bills by as much as 60 percent.

Saving Money on Food and Holiday Cooking
Learn where to look to find great savings this holiday season.

No coupons for family favorites? Ecoupons.com has a trading club. Mail in your unwanted coupons (and a self-addressed, stamped envelope), then go online and select the coupons you want from other shoppers’ castoffs.

No coupons for organic foods? Or green cleaning products? Try mambosprouts.com.

The High-Tech Way
Have you ever wondered why coupons can’t magically appear when you need them? Well, with some new technologies, they practically do.

Electronic coupons With the Scan It system (now in nearly half of all Stop & Shop and Giant stores), you use your customer loyalty card to get on-the-spot coupons while you shop. Swipe your card at a small in-store kiosk to retrieve a handheld scanner. Then scan each item you’re thinking of putting in your cart. If you change your mind, rescan it and put it back on the shelf.

The system stores your previous purchases, so it might produce a two-for-one coupon on the ice cream you like. Wireless technology tells the scanner when you’re approaching items that have available coupons. Turn into the beverage aisle, for instance, and you might get a $1 coupon for your favorite soda.

To ring up the total, scan your card at the self-checkout area. Be prepared for random “honesty” audits.

Smart carts
These supermarket carts come equipped with a computer terminal and technology that tracks your purchases, alerts you to aisle-by-aisle savings, and offers manufacturer coupons. Upload your shopping list from your home computer and the program will also reorganize it by aisle order (no more wandering around looking for capers). ShopRite and Bloom are testing the carts.

Paperless coupons Link manufacturer coupons with loyalty cards at shortcuts.com and cellfire.com. Add the coupons to your online account, and present your card at checkout.

Entertaining for Less
I asked Melissa d’Arabian, host of the Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners, how she manages her own food bills, especially during the holidays.

  • “If I’m planning an expensive meal, I’ll eat cheaply the week before. I budget $20 at the supermarket. The rest comes out of my pantry. I just made salmon cakes for my family with a $1.79 can of salmon.”
  • “Buy protein only when it’s on sale. Every week, most grocery stores discount one cut of chicken, beef, and pork by at least 50 percent. They alternate the cuts, so stock up when your favorites come up in rotation.”
  • “Ask the dairy manager when he puts things on clearance. At my grocery, it’s 9 a.m. most days. They discount milk and yogurt by more than 50 percent four days before the sell-by date (you have about three days after that date to consume it).”
  • “Look at your entertaining menu, and take one dish off the list. You’ll never miss it, and you’ll save money and time.”

Sites for Savings

  • absurdlycool.com Freebies you may need (shower cleanser, dog food) and never knew you needed(caffeinated soap, ham cookbooks).
  • coffeebeandirect.com Gourmet coffee and tea at wholesale prices.
  • slacker.com Free Internet radio. Over 2.4 million songs (more than three times Pandora’s inventory) and no time limits. Customize your own playlist. Listen at home or on your BlackBerry or iPhone.
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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