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A great way to save cash

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news

As Kimberly Danger, author of “Instant Bargains: 600+ Ways to Shrink Your Grocery Bills and Eat Well for Less,” points out, the average family of four spends $8,513 a year on groceries, according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates. To combat needless overspending, she founded http://www.mommysavers.com in 2000, when she became a mom. The mission: to live well for less. Her book is an extension of the website.

Chapter one starts with the basics: getting organized by planning menus, avoiding waste and incorporating sale items into your recipe repertoire. While the accompanying worksheets take time to complete, Danger believes it’s worth every penny; she gives an example of the cost of a casserole ($10.35) by breaking down every ingredient’s price. Then she compares it with a tilapia and broccoli meal, coming in at $7.28. As she aptly points out, it’s not about buying cheaper but about shopping smarter. She arms people with a plethora of websites that can help people save money and find new recipes. She also provides pages comparing common product prices at Whole Foods, Cub Foods, Aldi and Walmart, which is helpful if you shop in Denver, but not so much in Summit.

The book provides excellent ideas, tips and resources, but it’s quite a time commitment to create things like a price book, which tracks prices of complete meals, components, inventory in your pantry and more.

Still, the book is worth reading, because it’s packed with details that most people don’t consider, such as, the more colorful the packaging, the more expensive to produce, or when grocery stores change their layout, it’s often designed to make shoppers linger – and thus spend more. She warns against scanning mistakes, which add up to $2.5 billion a year. And, she reminds shoppers that ethnic stores can be less expensive, or at least offer better quality food. Also, knowing that caked-on food on oven coils cause the appliance to work harder to regulate temperatures is quite useful.

She challenges shoppers to devote a half hour a week to coupon clipping and see how much they save. I did this, and I saved $24, but it took me almost three times as long to shop. I’m sure I’d become more efficient with practice, and I did have fun, feeling like I was on a bit of a scavenger hunt.

One of the most inspiring chapters focuses on healthy eating and points out that it’s actually cheaper than most people think. The U.S. Department of Agriculture looked at 154 different fruits and vegetables and found that more than half cost 25 cents or less per serving.

And, a particular useful chapter for me included information on how long food, like dried beans and lentils, or eggs last. The test for eggs: Drop an egg in water and see if it floats. If so, it’s bad news.

“Instant Bargains” is part tips, part recipes (especially ways to revive leftovers), part resource lists and part inspiration. It’s a perfect guide for making it through this current economy.


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