Stretching the dollar when shopping

  • Published
  • By Landy C. Schwiesow
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
These days, many people find themselves struggling to make ends meet. To ease the financial crunch, people scrimp and save where they can. 

Here are a few tips on stretching a buck. 

One thing to do is "shop" when shopping, said Nancy O'Nell, public affairs specialist with the Defense Commissary Agency. Look around and compare prices between brands before deciding on a final purchase. Since all products aren't always the same size, look at the per-unit price, usually in ounces or grams. Store brands may be cheaper than national brands. It pays to compare. 

"Always check the unit price shelf tag, or do the math yourself," said Ms. O'Nell. "Sometimes huge savings can also be found by comparing the same product in different forms." 

On some occasions, stores run specials on items. These items are usually located at the front entrance of the store or are featured on end-caps at either end of the aisles. The prices on these items can be lower than cost since stores often use this special pricing to get people in the door to purchase other items. 

"Like any commercial grocery store, DeCA's business partners provide commissaries with frequent sales on hundreds of products on any given day, or special pricing on club packs or bulk items," said Ms. O'Nell. "If a manufacturer offers DeCA a special price, we pass it on." 

The next tip to consider is finding and using coupons. Coupons seem to be everywhere. Just open a Sunday paper or check the mid-week mail, but there are other places to find them. Consider looking on-line. There are printable coupons for clipping there. 

"All commissaries honor Internet coupons these days, and most commissaries make paper coupons available near the store entrance, in the checkout area or sometimes attached to the products themselves," said Ms. O'Nell. 

Another thing to consider is going on-line to a favorite local or national brand name product site where there may already be coupons to print out. And if they don't have any "e-coupons," go to the "contact us" section of the Web site and request them. 

Just because a coupon is expired, that doesn't mean it's unusable. Some stores accept expired coupons as well as other store's coupons. Stores are willing to get and keep business by accepting expired coupons or coupons issued by competitors.

According to Ms. O'Nell, overseas commissaries redeem coupons that are past their stateside expiration date. "In most cases, individuals and organizations send coupons to the military installations overseas and the officials there make them available to shoppers in their communities," she said. 

People with time on their hands, or who like to cook, might consider cost over convenience. 

"The higher price for 'convenience' items reflects the labor required to pre-cook, pre-cut or pre-measure," she said. "Most of the time, substantial savings can be had by making these preparations yourself. If, for example, coleslaw is on your menu for dinner tonight, compare the difference between buying a head of cabbage (22 cents per pound) and shredding it yourself versus buying a 1-pound bag of coleslaw mix ($1.99). What a huge difference!" 

Among other cost-saving tips, Ms. O'Nell mentions planning ahead and using leftovers as part of that plan, making a list and sticking to it by avoiding impulse buys, and shopping case lot sales. 

People who are still having trouble making ends meet, should consider eligibility through the federally funded Women, Infants and Children program.
This program provides services at no cost to clients for supplemental foods including milk, cereal, juice, bread, rice, eggs, beans, peanut butter, fresh fruits and vegetables, baby food, canned tuna and canned salmon, said Deanna Stoffel, a nutritionist with the Charles Drew Health Center WIC Program, who also works two days a week at the Offutt WIC Clinic. 

Ms. Stoffel's WIC cost-saving tips mirror those offered by Ms. O'Nell, with one exception. 

"Plan to shop without kids if possible. Sugary products are typically at children's eye level, which increases sales by 50 percent," Ms. Stoffel said.
She also encourages people to see if they are eligible for WIC benefits and not make assumptions. 

"Don't assume that you don't qualify for WIC just because someone with your same rank doesn't qualify. Income guidelines are based on household size. Call our office to check eligibility or to ask questions," Ms. Stoffel said.