Saving money on food
Grocery store ads the week before Thanksgiving trumped chicken stock at two-for-one. Same deal for cranberry sauce. Butter was better at $2.50 a pound instead of nearly $4. And turkey? It wasn't too hard to find a bird for about $1 a pound.
With the holiday season just beginning, I stocked up on the ingredients I'll use most often in the next few weeks: Butter, chicken stock, even cranberry sauce. (Turkey sandwiches are a staple in my children's lunch boxes.)
The weekend after Thanksgiving, turkeys were even cheaper. Costco had 20-pounders for just 49 cents a pound. Publix, a Southeast supermarket chain, offered fresh Butterballs for 79 cents a pound. I picked up a 12-pound bird, roasted it, sliced most of the white meat to freeze for lunches in coming weeks, and had enough left over to make three dinners, plus a warming batch of turkey soup. Not bad for about $10.
As Christmas approaches, you'll find similar bargains in stores, especially just before the big day. Think rib roasts, ham, asparagus and baking supplies like condensed milk. If it's a staple on the holiday table, chances are somebody's going to put it on sale. That's because customers come in for the bargains, and often wind up buying lots of other things — with a higher markup — on impulse.
If you're shopping for food bargains this season, make a list and stick to it. Pick up a Sunday newspaper for the coupons or search for them online. Join a free site like CouponMom.com (www.couponmom.com), which matches coupon savings to store sales and lists the best deals at supermarkets and mass merchandisers.
If that's too much prep work, simply check out the sale ads when you go to the supermarket. Think about what items you use often, like mayonnaise or onion soup mix — other staples that are often discounted heavily during the holidays — and stock up. If you've got the freezer space, pick up extra butter and meat when they're on sale.
And don't forget to shop the day after a holiday for the best deals on seasonal items like toffee or cinnamon baking chips, spiral-sliced hams and other foods that your supermarket doesn't stock year-round. Stores are anxious to clear them. (Some are so anxious they start the markdowns the evening before a holiday, a strategy that pays off when shopping at many kitchen supply stores, too.)
Buy at the right time, and you can enjoy the holiday savings for months to come.