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12 Ways to Save on Food

Whether you’re dining out or grocery shopping, saving money on food is possible

Elwood Smith

1. Stealth discounts. Some grocery stores and chains offer older shoppers unadvertised discounts of up to 10 percent. The savings are typically available only weekly or monthly on slow midweek shopping days. Local stores, regional chains and co-ops are more likely to offer the discounts than national chains. Ask at your store or search "Grocery Stores Senior Discount" for a list.

2. Borderline. Avoid the packaged foods in the middle of the store and cruise the periphery. Fresh produce, dairy foods and bulk grains are often more nutritious — and cheaper. Among the healthiest are oatmeal, greens, potatoes, bananas and chickpeas.

3. Stock-up time. Most supermarket products go on sale every three months, and brand-name coupons also appear quarterly. That's food for thought to help you know when to stock up. Other sales occur during promotions like National Ice Cream Month and National Hot Dog Month — both in July.

4. Hunger pangs. Check out the Foodspotting app for mobile phones, which provides recommendations on what to eat, not just where to eat.

5. Free breakfast. Many Ikea restaurants serve it before 11 a.m. on Mondays, and charge 99 cents on other days.

6. Equal eggs. Why pay more for brown eggs? White eggs have the same nutritional value and taste. Shell color is determined by the breed and color of the laying hen.

7. Eat local. Produce is often less expensive when it's grown locally, because shipping costs are lower and there are fewer middlemen. Visit to find a nearby farmers market or join a community-supported agriculture group (CSA) that buys directly from farmers.

Ways to save on food expenses - Broken egg lying on floor

Don't spend extra money on brown eggs. White eggs have the same nutritional value and taste. — Photo by Junos/beyond/Corbis

8. Shop less, save more. Food shoppers spend about 50 percent more than they planned because of impulse buys, researchers say. Restricting yourself to one weekly trip instead of three could save you hundreds of dollars a year.

9. Waste not. The average American family of four spends about $1,600 a year on food it never eats. To save what you pay for: Refrigerate greens in a damp paper towel in an airtight container; blanch fresh vegetables and freeze them in one-meal portions; make overripe fruit into compote; store leftovers in glass containers so you can see them.

10. Cheaper cheese. If you love Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, consider Asiago or Grana Padano instead. They pack plenty of flavor at a fraction of the cost.

11. Dining-out deals. Buy discount certificates at Make free reservations via to earn gift checks. BiteHunter, an app for mobile devices, lists restaurant specials and daily deals. Local editions of the Google Entertainment Book offer "buy one, get one" dining deals and more.

12. Where's the beef? You can save plenty by buying beef wholesale in quantity. But know what you're getting. Advertised weights of beef carcasses or sides include bone and untrimmed fat. Look for the USDA "yield grade" stamped on the meat to learn what percentage is edible cuts.

Contributors to 99 Great Ways to Save 2012: Arthur Dalglish, Cathie Gandel, Joan Rattner Heilman, Sid Kirchheimer, Jason L. Lawrence, Marsha Mercer, Geoff Williams, Jeff Yeager and AARP members like you.

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