Take Advantage of Cyclic Changes in the Market -
There are several cyclic changes (prices that cycle up and down with regularity) in the market that affect the prices we pay for groceries. Identifying these and buying groceries while the prices are low, in enough quantity to last until the next cycle, can be worked to our advantage. The simple shift of thinking when to buy is one of our strongest defenses against rising prices.
“Grandma” used to shop on Saturday, serve a roast of some type on Sunday, and serve leftovers the rest of the week with a few fill in meals and soup made from any bones and vegetable left overs at the end of the week.
Our schedules are all over the place, but consider the structure of the week when you plan, as well as weekly and quarterly cycles at the store and our seasonal specials, both those naturally occurring and ‘man-made’ – Holidays. I’ve spoken a lot about how figure out how much you have to spend, how to plan & shop from the weekly ads, and find inspiration and how to implement it all. Here we’ll talk about identifying and leveraging the cycles.
Do a modern uptake of “Grandma’s” thrift.
- Take one of your easiest days to shop, put away, prep your ingredients for the week and double your time by making something slow, like a roast or a soup or perhaps have something baking while you’re in the kitchen anyway. A slower day is a great day, also, to make a dish (or a part of a dish) or two ahead and refrigerate or freeze for later.
- Use planned leftovers – serve a roast and put half of it aside for another meal or two, and bring half to the table – Think something like a shepherd’s pie for one left over meal and perhaps Beef Sandwiches with peppers and onion for another. If you make chicken, make a little extra and set aside for a casserole later in the week. You get the idea – the main event meal of the week – what ever’s on sale, becomes a convenience food for other meals later in the week.
- Think about the rhythm of the week, as well when planning desserts or special treats. My family has a tradition of having some type of dessert one night a week – on the weekend or another not so busy weeknight. Any leftovers are to be saved for another evening. Any other desserts are pretty much nonexistent (who needs the empty calories in this day and age?) or very simple and somewhat healthy, a little yogurt over fruit, a baked apple.
- Really planning out breakfasts carefully can save you time, stress and money. Save the more time consuming things for the weekend. Prep ahead when possible, and try to think outside the box. Cereal box, that is - ounce for ounce it can be one of the most expensive items you’ll ever buy, and nutritionally often not much better than, say, a piece of cake. Grabbing drive through breakfasts or coffee shop baked goods are expensive and not so healthy alternatives.
- On a larger note, really consider the cycle of sales at the grocery store - most stores make sure each item reaches a low price every quarter, and tend to rotate the sales prices among different products to keep you coming in.
- There tends to be a cycle as well for coupons. When a coupon or rebate first comes out, generally several stores will have sales on those and related items, when a coupon or rebate begins to come to its end date, you can usually expect another resurgence of sales.
- Buy seasonally, too, and this applies to more than produce, although produce is the most obvious: asparagus and spinach in late spring, corn and tomatoes in the summer, apples and new potatoes and root vegetables in the fall, etc. Pork generally goes on sale in the fall, hams cure about six to eight months and go on sale when? You got it, Easter. (Easter is a great time to buy eggs and vinegar, and beans are always on sale around that time.) Lamb is butchered in the spring, large roasts (and often cream and other baking items) are on sale around the winter holidays, producing a glut of cheap meat (the other cuts) in the month of January.
- Take advantage of the seasonal offers of your suppliers, including all the specials offered around holidays, religious (even if it’s not your religion), national, and holidays of other nationalities. Black eyed peas and all kinds of beans are on sale before New Year’s eve, St. Patrick’s day usually has a lot of red potatoes and Corned Beef. Cinco de Mayo and the Chinese New Year comes to mind, with great sales on Mexican items, Chinese food and condiments and specialty meats. Brisket may be on sale around many of the Jewish holidays, but there are many examples. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Easter are a great time to stock up and bank meats and baking items for the year.
- Be also aware that any holiday may promote an urge for overspending on items we might not want, need or be able to afford, especially candy, sweets and gifts. (Sometimes homemade is better.)
- Watch for specials around sporting and seasonal events, which can include a lot of ‘fun’ items normally too expensive to include in your budget. Spring can bring great sales on cleaning products and over the counter medications. Many condiments are on sale in summer and have a super long shelf life.
- Consider a garden in the summer, too, or at the very least, grow some herbs in a pot – you can bring many of them indoors in the winter or easily dry them. If you don’t have space or time for a garden, lots of people use community gardens or rent space. Sometimes elderly neighbors have gardens they can’t keep up any longer; consider doing the heavy work and splitting the harvest, saving yourself a lot of work - and getting the added benefit of the knowledge they can pass on to you. Groundbreaking can be back breaking work.
- There are more and more small farms taking subscriptions for locally grown produce which they deliver or you pick up. It’s a great way to support local business. Don’t forget farmer’s markets, either, in the spring, summer and fall. Most every city has a host of pick your own berry farms, orchards, pumpkin patches and even Christmas tree farms – they can be entertainment for the whole family as well as a seasonal food source.
Cyclic Changes in the Market – Why not to budget the same amount every week
- So many Holidays have great sales – while it “seems” to make sense sometimes to budget a set amount of money per week for food, food doesn’t cost the same every week! The amount of savings can be much greater if you can identify when to expect great sales on items, and what those items are and budget a bit extra for those weeks.
- Beat the grocer at their own game! Instead of passively being drawn into a store to pick up one or two specials and then buy whatever else you need for the week, buy as much as possible of the specials for the Holiday week and weeks or months beyond. Make up the rest of your meal from low priced staples and such you have “banked” at home. Of course, only buy what you can store and use in a reasonable time period.
The Best Food Holidays, What’s on Sale and What to Buy!
- Happy Valentine’s Day Sales
- Saving on St. Patrick’s Day
- Easter and Lent, Leveraging the Sales
- Cinco de Mayo – It makes Cents to Save
- Mother’s Day Sales
- Summer Holidays
- Back to School Sales – Not just for school anymore
- Super Bowl Savings
Links for The Twelve Strategies:
- Strategy One: Bank Your Foods
- Strategy Two: Pay Attention to the Bottom Line
- Strategy Three: Control Costs - Maximize “Profits” and Minimize Losses
- Strategy Four: Take Advantage of Cyclic Changes in the Market
- Strategy Five: Be an Investor, not a Gambler
- Strategy Six: Give Back to the Community
- Strategy Seven: Have a Business Plan
- Strategy Eight: Invest in Training
- Strategy Nine: Know the Products you Buy
- Strategy Ten: Know your Suppliers
- Strategy Eleven: Take Advantage of Special Offers & Incentives
- Strategy Twelve: Use Sound Investment Principles