Stay Frugal With Food Buying Clubs

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Frugal Food Buying ClubsNo one likes to throw food away. It's wasteful, and essentially like tossing money in the garbage. Here's how you can ensure that you're using exactly what you're buying.

According to recent statistics, 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. gets thrown out. That's about 20 pounds per person, per month. What's the solution? Join a food buying club.

In food buying clubs, small groups of friends and neighbors buy higher quality, healthful groceries in bulk from wholesalers or local producers. The work of distributing and obtaining the food is divided as equally as possible between the members, and time and effort are traded for lower prices.

You'll likely have to plan your meals and shop ahead of time, but this can help prevent unnecessary spending since you're only getting what you really need. In other words, your meals -- and money -- won't end up going to waste.

To help you find a food club near you, check out LocalHarvest.org. This site will help you find the best organic food grown in your area. Just type "Buying Clubs" in the search engine, put in your zip code, and you're ready to go.

How much will food buying clubs save you? According to ABC News, smaller families reported saving up to $200 per month on food, while larger families reported saving as much as $500. Overall, participants estimate that they saved around 20-25 percent of their grocery bills through their buying clubs.

So, start 2014 off by checking out food buying clubs and saving yourself some money. It's a healthy resolution that won't go to waste.

Stay Frugal With Food Buying Clubs -- Savings Experiment

Coffee is a favorite go-to example in money-saving circles. Brew your own coffee at home, and you'll spend $15 to $40 per month -- about $180 to $480 per year. Buy one or two coffees each day at an outlet such as Starbucks (SBUX), and shelling out from $3 to $6 or more per day can cost as much as $1,500 per year.

Forgoing the tap or the water cooler at work in favor of buying a bottle or two of H2O each day easily can add up to $3 a day, or about $1,000 a year. Instead, try filtering water at home with a special pitcher or sink-attached device and filling a water bottle or two to last you through the day. If that's too much trouble, just buy your own bottled water at supermarkets, where cases of it on sale can be relatively inexpensive.

When shopping for produce, focus on what's in season. These days, for example, you might find cherries selling for $3 per pound, whereas they can sell for $7 or more per pound in other seasons.

Keep life spans in mind, too. A lot of money can be wasted if you don't get around to preparing and eating fruits and vegetables before they spoil. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average American throws away more than $40 of food each month (some 33 pounds' worth), totaling close to $500 annually. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans waste about $100 billion worth of food annually -- enough to fill the Rose Bowl each day!

Be careful with "convenience" foods, too. It can certainly be handy to buy small packets of potato chips or cookies, as they can immediately be tossed into a lunchbox or bag, but that convenience is costing you money -- up to 40% more than the item needs to cost. Consider buying regular-sized packages, or better still, buy in bulk then assemble your own individual servings.

Try to buy store brands, too. According to a study by the (admittedly not so objective) Private Label Manufacturers Association, over six weeks the typical consumer can save about 33% by opting for store brands over name brands. That amounted to roughly $42 in the six-week period, or $364 per year.

When it comes to frozen dinners or other prepared meals, know that you can save a bundle by opting to make the meal yourself -- even when the prepared ones are on sale.

A Lean Cuisine dinner might be on special for just $2.50, but for less than a dollar a serving, you can prepare a more filling pasta meal, with a vegetable on the side. Even if your homemade meal costs more than a frozen alternative, it can be far more nutritious and filling, keeping you from seeking supplemental snacks.

Coupons also offer great savings. It's not too hard for a household to rack up $10 in supermarket savings each week by using coupons. That adds up to more than $500 in savings per year, without too much effort. Don't be embarrassed about using them, either -- studies show that those most likely to use coupons are the wealthy.

Food costs a lot already. By planning ahead, sticking to your shopping list, making smart decisions, using coupons, and changing a few habits, you can save $2,000 or more per year -- relatively easily. Share your tips and tricks for slashing your food tab below.

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