Keeping the bill down as food prices go up

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- Higher gas prices, regional droughts, and a greater demand for food may have you taking fewer bites at the dinner table, and greater amounts of cash out of your wallet.

Food prices are rising, though anyone who is a comparison shopper or chronic coupon clipper knows that.

If you do neither, in the coming weeks, you may be pushed to change how and what you eat.

Jen Alcala is a freshman at the University of Tennessee who is originally from Colorado.

On Thursday, her and her mother were doing some grocery shopping at the SuperTarget in West Knoxville.

Even though they may get more food for their money here than in the Mountain State, the difference between the two is becoming fuzzy.

“I think everything is higher than last year,” said Kay.

The Labor Department agrees.

Since last year, Milk is almost 30 percent higher, eggs are almost 36 percent higher, meats between four and 10 percent higher, and fresh fruit about 10 percent higher.

“I think it's driven by what we push, I haven't noticed much change in what consumers are buying,” said Kim Dunbar, the manager of the grocery section at the Turkey Creek SuperTarget.

“Families do have to be very disciplined, if they're not, they are going to spend a lot of money on food,” said Dr. Dena Wise, a UT Family Economist.

According to Dr. Wise, so many working families are so pressed for time, they barely
have time to eat together, much less cook or shop together, so it's easy to drop the ball.

“It takes so much time to prepare coupons, and you don't have time to prepare a meal,” she said.

“You know, I just can't file that and keep up with it all,” said Kay.

Dr. Wise said learning your grocers sale patterns can help you save more money than burning gas going store to store.

“I tend to make a list and plan for the week and do my shopping that way,” said Dunbar. “That way, you don't buy what's not on the list, and overspend.”

To help out, Kay has devised her own budgeting system for Jen.

“Its setting an amount every week, and each year,” she said. “We're going to try to make that interval last longer, so sophomore year, we're going to go for two weeks.”

The lesson is to make it stretch, or go hungry.

Doctor Wise had one more lesson; make friends with your grocery manager so you can shop for what's in season.

Right now, sweet potatoes and greens are cheaper than berries.

When it comes to coupons, you're better off surfing than clipping.

Your favorite brands and supermarkets both put coupons on their websites.

There you can download and print only what you need.

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