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Skyrocketing fuel prices helping drive up food costs

Sharon Caskey Hayes • Mar 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Richard Simcox, assistant produce manager at Food City in Kingsport’s Crown Point shopping center, stocks the produce section at the store recently. Erick Yoon phoot.


Linda Bambino never paid much attention to the cost of groceries. Until now.

“I’ve noticed that I get a lot less food for the same amount of money. And you’re talking about staples — bread, milk, eggs, vegetables,” said Bambino, who lives in Kingsport. “You’ve got to eat. You’ve got to have it. So what do you do?”

Consumers across the nation are feeling the pinch from rising food prices, sparked in large part by skyrocketing fuel costs.

But there are ways to help combat the increases.

Earlier this week, Stephanie Nelson, author of the book “Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom,” held a webinar — a seminar aired on the Internet — to help consumers across the country learn how to cut their food bills.

Nelson said she uses “strategic shopping” featuring three principles to help her achieve her goals.

First, Nelson said she knows prices. Nelson recommends tracking the prices of items you buy on a regular basis and then buying those items only when they hit the bottom price — and stock up at that time.

Second, she said you should know your store’s savings programs and policies. For instance, some stores advertise “buy one, get one free” — and some consumers may think you have to purchase two of the items to get the savings. But many stores simply cut the price of the item in half, so you can just buy one and get it at a 50 percent savings, she said.

Nelson said customers should also take advantage of store loyalty cards, which give special prices to cardholders.

Thirdly, Nelson said consumers should use coupons. Consumers can check their Sunday newspaper for coupons. She said some stores also display coupon holders on store shelves.

Nelson said consumers should use coupons to “stack” their savings. Consumers should purchase items at their lowest price, and then use coupons to further reduce the cost.

“You can save a lot of money on your groceries, and you don’t have to change the way you eat. You don’t have to compromise the types of items you buy,” Nelson said.

“If you know your prices, you know how these store savings programs work, and you know how to use coupons — from experience, I truly believe you can cut your grocery bill in half with these three principles.”

You can also cut your food bill and still eat healthy.

At www.frugalliving.about.com the writers suggest buying produce from the reduced rack. There you can get ripe fruit for a fraction of the cost.

The Web site also suggests buying frozen vegetables to cut costs, buying fruits and vegetables when they’re in season, and buying from your local farmers market.

For more information and tips — and to download coupons — visit Nelson’s Web site at www.couponmom.com. Registration is free.

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