Published on January 14, 2010—  Leave a comment

Clever Ways to Save on Food & Clothing in 2010

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This article comes courtesy of Real Simple Magazine (

With a household of seven kids, Mary Crotty, 49, feels as if she can never save enough. She and her husband, Dan, 49, a bond trader, trimmed hundreds each month by streamlining their food costs. Eating out has become a thing of the past, and the three cases of sports drinks that she had been buying weekly have been replaced with powdered mix or water from the tap―saving them $50 a week. To cut impulse spending, Mary subscribes to Relish!, a service that creates dinner menus and puts together an ingredients list for those meals. She then faxes that list to a local supermarket that offers free delivery.

The average household spends $3,744 a year on groceries. For a large family, this number could easily triple. Follow these tips to put your food budget on a diet:

  • Track your food budget. At the start of each month, attach an envelope to the refrigerator. Each time you buy food, drop the receipt in the envelope. At the end of the month, analyze your spending to see where you can make cuts. Aim to spend no more than $125 a week for a family of four, says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, the author of Zero Debt ($15,
  • Make a list and stick to it. You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: People who avoid impulsive shopping save big, spending up to 23 percent less on grocery bills, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania. Annual savings: $861
  • Join a food co-op. Become a member of a locally owned grocery store in exchange for a share of the bounty. Find a co-op near you at
  • Cut your meat. “Any recipe calling for a pound of ground meat can be substituted with 13 to 14 ounces,” says Melissa d’Arabian, host of Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners With Melissa d’Arabian. Those few dollars of savings add up quickly.
  • Buy more fruits and vegetables. Research from the American Dietetic Association shows that when families add more produce to their diets, their waistlines get smaller and their food budgets can shrink by 25 percent. Annual savings: $936
  • Befriend the managers. The folks in charge of the produce, meat, dairy, and seafood departments can tell you what time of day food is marked down so you can score the best deals.
  • Slice your own veggies. Those prepackaged foods will cost you. Take a minute or two to wash your own greens and cut your own fruit and you’ll slice up to 78 percent off your bill. Annual savings: $408
  • Shop smarter. Hit up a local outlet for baked goods from Entenmann’s, Arnold, and Boboli at up to 50 percent off. Search the outlet locator at for locations.
  • Sign up with This site provides a handy list of what grocery deals are available near you, plus a load of printable coupons.
  • Swap coupons. Become a member of eCoupon’s Grocery Coupon Trading Club. Collect a stack of coupons for items you don’t need, then mail them to the website. In return, select up to 25 that you do want.
  • Take advantage of the competition. Many supermarkets will match other retailers’ discounts, but most don’t advertise this. Ask a manager if your store has this policy.

Putting clothes on your back shouldn’t cost $1,800 a year. Here’s how to fill up your closet without spending a fortune:

  • Save up to 15%. Your AAA membership gets you more than roadside assistance. It scores you discounts at retailers like, New York & Company, and more. Visit for details.
  • Shop the middleman. Brand names tend to go on sale more often (and at deeper discounts) at retailers with a lot of variety, like department stores, compared with a label’s own store or website.
  • Get secret deals. Several department stores (like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus) now offer unadvertised, online-only rush sales to their e-mail subscribers. Sign up and you’ll receive friends-and-family promotions, too (usually 25 percent off). Annual savings: $450
  • Cash out. Some shops, especially independent ones, will offer you at least 10 percent off when you pay with cash. Ask a manager or the owner before paying. Annual savings: $180