The severe drought in our nation’s breadbasket has a lot of people worried about rising food prices. That makes this a great time to know when to buy food — because knowing when to buy can save you a lot of money. Here are a few guidelines:
Meat. Buy meat in the morning on weekdays, when you’re more likely to see “Manager’s Specials,” which often must be sold by noon that day. You’ll find discounts of 50 percent or more. Freeze what you won’t use right away.
Eggs. Most shoppers don’t know that grocery stores sometimes put eggs on sale when they’re approaching their expiration dates. For some food, expiration dates equate to the last day that food can be safely eaten. But eggs can be eaten three to five weeks after the expiration date, so buy them when you see them on sale and don’t worry about getting sick.
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Prepared foods. If you like rotisserie chicken, sushi and other prepared foods, you know they’re expensive. Go to your grocery store about an hour before it closes, when many stores mark down prepared foods that can’t be sold the next day. Expect discounts of 40 percent or more.
Bread and baked goods. Shop in the late afternoon and evening, when some stores drop prices by 50 percent rather than throwing out this food at closing time. Bonus tip: More and more dollar stores sell brand-name bread for a half to a third of what you’ll find in grocery stores.
Frozen turkeys. Some grocers will lower the price of turkeys before Thanksgiving and Christmas to attract shoppers, but the best prices tend to be right after the holidays, when grocers are trying to get rid of unsold turkeys, which take up a lot of space in their frozen-food cases.
Produce. Buy fruits and vegetables when they’re in season. The flavors are at their peak, and the prices are usually lower then because they’re more plentiful and grocers don’t want to see them rot in the stores. The U.S. Department of Agriculture website lists the best times to buy in-season fruits and vegetables.
Coupons. Use them only for items you usually buy, and always use them for staples, such as ketchup, toilet paper, margarine and cereal. Bonus tip: Everyone knows that Sunday newspapers include lots of coupons, but the most serious coupon clippers know the first of the month is when many of the most serious coupon sites – coupons.com, redplum.com, thriftytiff.com and others – offer a new round of coupons.
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Grocery shopping. Wednesday is the best day to go. Weekly sales at grocery stores almost always start on Wednesdays. If you shop then, you won’t have to worry about popular items selling out, and you won’t have to hunt for items because stores typically are well staffed to take care of larger crowds.
Bonus tip: To reduce impulse buying and save money, make a list and stick to it, shop once a week or less often and don’t take your kids.
Long-time journalist Mark Di Vincenzo wrote the New York Times best-seller Buy Ketchup In May And Fly At Noon: A Guide To The Best Time To Buy This, Do That And Go There. This month he released an app based on that book called WHEN; and an all-new, second edition on the best time to buy things, called Buy Shoes On Wednesday And Tweet At 4:00: More Of The Best Times To Buy This, Do That And Go There, will be released on Sept. 11.