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Fight Sticker Shock

Friday, 30 May 2008 | 5:57 PM ET

While opening up a bottle of apple juice for my wee one yesterday, the price sticker on the cap reached up and smacked me in the head. $5.45?! For two quarts. And it wasn’t even organic! Mind you, I do most of the grocery shopping so I should have known how much I was gouged at checkout. I was rush-shopping and remember wondering why that final tally broke our family record. Now I know.

The gas/oil-price-bloat is trickling down to our grocery list. Let’s not get into the funky math of how the Consumer Price Index is only going up around 4% a year when we’re paying skyrocketing costs for anything and everything transported by a truck or that requires some kind of feed (eggs up 62% in the last two years!).

So, gas is pricey, groceries are pricey, retirement, college, utilities, freakin’ cable. What’s a regular American to do? My mom and dad used to spend hours on Sundays clipping coupons. They shopped only at the local Grand Union where they doubled coupons and my dad could do his victory dance (in his head) when he saved more than he spent—for a family of eight, quite a feat.

Coupons aren’t as popular as they used to be but sites like Dealhack.com and Fatwallet.com are great portals into saving on some basics. For groceries, don’t make my mistake. Before grocery shopping take ten minutes to sit and plan a list that you vow to stick to. Check your fridge and pantries to remember what you have and don’t have and plan meals for the week if you can think that far ahead. Take another two minutes to gobble some nuts before you go—hungry shopping equals hungry eyes and another 20 to 30 bucks on your tally. Find and frequent the lowest-cost, highest-quality grocery store around you and if you’ve got space for buying bulk, bring a calculator and do the math on cost per pound/oz., etc. to make sure it’s a true bargain. A couple more tips from my friend Mary are to cut down on grocery trips or eating out (and gas) by planning and freezing meals for the week and don’t be afraid to chuck your usual brands if they’re too pricey. You could discover something new, yummy and cheaper.

This week, Mama C is gonna slow down and plan the next Ulrich-family grocery trip—with a belly full of nuts!






Hi Carmen: I just went to the store and bought mayo, relish, mustard and oil and my bill came to $27!!! --Shakeba, NY

I notice grocery sticker shock for coffee. We used to spend between $5.49 and $6.99 for our brand, which went down to $4.99 when it was on sale. It's now $11.69 per canister. It's a good time to give up caffeine! --Melissa, IL