COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

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5 tips to keep your back-to-school grocery budget in check
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/5-tips-to-keep-your-back-to-school-grocery-budget-in-check-829

Posted: 2015-08-19

by Kathryn Flynn

It's back-to-school time! Have you thought about what you'll pack in your kids' lunchboxes this year? How about what you'll eat after football practice? It's so easy for parents to rely on convenience foods this time of year, but things like overpriced snacks and frozen prepared meals can really inflate your grocery bill. Not to mention trips to the drive through on nights when you're just too busy to cook.

Instead of throwing money away on unhealthy food you probably don't even want your kids eating, here are some tips on how to feed your family this school year without going broke.

1. Avoid grocery store "traps"

Just like any other corporation, supermarkets are in the business of making money. When you see a "sale" sign next to a certain item, it doesn't always mean you're getting a good deal. Admit it, we've all been guilty of throwing the s'mores set up (marshmallows, graham crackers, Hershey Bars) in the cart, in hopes of making family memories over a campfire in the backyard one day.

But Terri Gault, CEO of TheGroceryGame.com, advises shoppers to avoid these types of cross promotions displays.

"There are special displays set up with suggested combinations, like caramel apple dip next to the apples," Gault says. "Those apples may not be the best sale, or there may be less expensive caramel dip in other departments."

RELATED: Top 4 savings essentials for young families

2. Take advantage of coupon apps

If you're reading this, you're most likely a busy parent who doesn't have time to sit down with a scissors and printed newspaper to clip coupons. We get it. But there's an easier way to get discounts on everyday grocery items, by simply using apps on your phone or tablet. Savingstar, Checkout51 and Ibotta will give you cash back on your purchases just for taking a picture of your receipt.

Lidia Shong, Head of Marketing at aboutLife, recommends these apps in particular because "They offer discounts on the most common items - milk, fruit, cereal, bread and snacks so you can save a ton by uploading your receipts."

Consumer and money saving expert Andrea Woroch agrees that coupons work best when they can be accessed "on the fly".

"One of the biggest complaints I hear from shoppers about using coupons is that no one wants to spend time clipping coupons or they forget to bring them to the store," says Woroch.

"With free apps like Coupon Sherpa's mobile coupon app, you can access digital coupons for groceries, restaurants and more right from your smartphone. If you do end up eating out, the app has great deals for take out like $1 off any sub or salad at Blimpie or $1.50 off tacos in the evening at El Torito."

3. Plan your meals

That means lunches and dinners. Woroch also reminds parents to check your kids' social and activity calendar before making your grocery list so that you can be sure plan accordingly for nights you won't be home.

"Meal planning is essential for keeping your grocery budget in check especially so you don't end up overbuying and throwing food in the trash! Searching for recipes that use overlapping ingredients so you reduce food waste," says Woroch.

RELATED: 4 ways to get your kids involved with saving for college

4. Buy grocery items in bulk

Who doesn't love a trip to Costco? But aside from all the yummy free samples, club stores like Sam's and Costco can offer a great way to save on snacks and other lunch box items.

Gault warns parents that single serve packages can easily become another budget-buster.

"If not on sale, the individual size multi packs can cost up to four times as much as bagging up your own," says Gault.

Woroch suggests making your own individual-sized lunch portions. "Make your own buy purchasing large containers for less at warehouse stores like Costco then use small food containers or ziplock bags to create a bunch of single portions to keep in the pantry or refrigerator," she says.

5. Plan for hungry athletes

Does your son or daughter seem to scarf down everything in sight after swimming practice? Kids burn calories, and need to replenish. Be prepared by having healthy snacks on hand that will tide them over until dinner.

Dr. Chester Goad, university administrator and former K12 principal and teacher, knows this struggle all too well.

"We have a growing teenager who also plays football. We've found that having a protein bar, granola, or some other snack in the car or sending one in his football backpack to eat after practice helps a lot with the ferocious after workout appetite that sometimes warrants a drive thru stop," says Gould.

RELATED: Scoring an athletic scholarship

It's back-to-school time! Have you thought about what you'll pack in your kids' lunchboxes this year? How about what you'll eat after football practice? It's so easy for parents to rely on convenience foods this time of year, but things like overpriced snacks and frozen prepared meals can really inflate your grocery bill. Not to mention trips to the drive through on nights when you're just too busy to cook.

Instead of throwing money away on unhealthy food you probably don't even want your kids eating, here are some tips on how to feed your family this school year without going broke.

1. Avoid grocery store "traps"

Just like any other corporation, supermarkets are in the business of making money. When you see a "sale" sign next to a certain item, it doesn't always mean you're getting a good deal. Admit it, we've all been guilty of throwing the s'mores set up (marshmallows, graham crackers, Hershey Bars) in the cart, in hopes of making family memories over a campfire in the backyard one day.

But Terri Gault, CEO of TheGroceryGame.com, advises shoppers to avoid these types of cross promotions displays.

"There are special displays set up with suggested combinations, like caramel apple dip next to the apples," Gault says. "Those apples may not be the best sale, or there may be less expensive caramel dip in other departments."

RELATED: Top 4 savings essentials for young families

2. Take advantage of coupon apps

If you're reading this, you're most likely a busy parent who doesn't have time to sit down with a scissors and printed newspaper to clip coupons. We get it. But there's an easier way to get discounts on everyday grocery items, by simply using apps on your phone or tablet. Savingstar, Checkout51 and Ibotta will give you cash back on your purchases just for taking a picture of your receipt.

Lidia Shong, Head of Marketing at aboutLife, recommends these apps in particular because "They offer discounts on the most common items - milk, fruit, cereal, bread and snacks so you can save a ton by uploading your receipts."

Consumer and money saving expert Andrea Woroch agrees that coupons work best when they can be accessed "on the fly".

"One of the biggest complaints I hear from shoppers about using coupons is that no one wants to spend time clipping coupons or they forget to bring them to the store," says Woroch.

"With free apps like Coupon Sherpa's mobile coupon app, you can access digital coupons for groceries, restaurants and more right from your smartphone. If you do end up eating out, the app has great deals for take out like $1 off any sub or salad at Blimpie or $1.50 off tacos in the evening at El Torito."

3. Plan your meals

That means lunches and dinners. Woroch also reminds parents to check your kids' social and activity calendar before making your grocery list so that you can be sure plan accordingly for nights you won't be home.

"Meal planning is essential for keeping your grocery budget in check especially so you don't end up overbuying and throwing food in the trash! Searching for recipes that use overlapping ingredients so you reduce food waste," says Woroch.

RELATED: 4 ways to get your kids involved with saving for college

4. Buy grocery items in bulk

Who doesn't love a trip to Costco? But aside from all the yummy free samples, club stores like Sam's and Costco can offer a great way to save on snacks and other lunch box items.

Gault warns parents that single serve packages can easily become another budget-buster.

"If not on sale, the individual size multi packs can cost up to four times as much as bagging up your own," says Gault.

Woroch suggests making your own individual-sized lunch portions. "Make your own buy purchasing large containers for less at warehouse stores like Costco then use small food containers or ziplock bags to create a bunch of single portions to keep in the pantry or refrigerator," she says.

5. Plan for hungry athletes

Does your son or daughter seem to scarf down everything in sight after swimming practice? Kids burn calories, and need to replenish. Be prepared by having healthy snacks on hand that will tide them over until dinner.

Dr. Chester Goad, university administrator and former K12 principal and teacher, knows this struggle all too well.

"We have a growing teenager who also plays football. We've found that having a protein bar, granola, or some other snack in the car or sending one in his football backpack to eat after practice helps a lot with the ferocious after workout appetite that sometimes warrants a drive thru stop," says Gould.

RELATED: Scoring an athletic scholarship

 

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