financial corner : SIFE

U-News Staff

Making the most of your food budget

Eating out is expensive.

That’s why the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that households earning a pretax income of $93,784 and above— the top 20 percent of all households—basically split their food budget in half. About 52 percent was spent at home and 48 percent spent dining out.

And that’s why on the flip side, the lowest-earning 20 percent of households spent nearly 70 percent of their food budgets on meals prepared at home.

What does this mean for the average college student?

Many fit into the latter category, and males spend more money on food than females.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies monthly food expenditures as either thrifty, low cost, moderate or liberal. In July 2012, the average for all males ages 19-50 was around $266, with $180.80 thrifty and $359.40 being liberal.

For women in the same age group, the average was around $233, with $160.70 considered thrifty and $319.40 considered liberal.

These numbers can seem intimidating considering how many other expenses students have.

Stick to a list, and check it twice:

Recording one’s expenses can help significantly cut down on a person’s spending.

A report from the Food Marketing Institute concluded that shoppers select their primary grocery stores based on three things: price, quality of the produce and store promotions.

Instead of buying on impulse, price-conscious shoppers are on a mission to find what they need instead of what they want.

Thanks to technology, there are many apps that can compare prices of items on a shopping list at supermarkets around the area.

Coupons:

Popular TV shows like “Extreme Couponers” depict coupon-savvy shoppers with carts full of groceries that would normally cost about $400, but with coupons, only cost $50 or $100.

In addition to in-store coupons and weekly ads, another way to save is by looking online for coupons from companies’ websites.

Companies like Target, Hy-Vee, Price Chopper and Hen House have coupons exclusive to their website, designed to entice customer loyalty.

FrontFlip is an app that allows users to go to a restaurant that has a front flip QR Code poster inside, scan it with a smart phone camera, and scratch it off using the app for prizes that can be instantly redeemed.

Where to shop:

Should a consumer go for price, quality or atmosphere?

Organic health food chains like Whole Foods Market offer premium products at a premium price. Trader Joe’s also carries many gourmet and organic products, but at a much lower price. So do local grocery stores like Hy-Vee, Sun Fresh and Cosentino’s Market, which have a more limited organic selection.

It is more expensive to buy fresh produce and meats, but many choose to do so for health reasons.

The City Market, at 5th and Walnut Streets downtown, has a large and very affordable weekend farmer’s market. It is also accessible by the Main Street MAX, which students can ride for free using their UMKC ID cards. Here, one can save money, eat healthy and support the local economy. Many other local communities also have weekend farmers markets.

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