Eat in more, eat meat less, urges 'Frugal' Nader

September 01, 1992|By Cox News Service

WASHINGTON -- Consumers could cut more than $700 from the average person's $1,700 annual food budget with just a few adjustments in their shopping and eating habits, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said yesterday.

"The first thing people concerned about saving money on food should do is eat out less often," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the center. "Eating out is roughly twice as expensive and not as healthful as cooking at home," he said.

Mr. Jacobson and others joined consumer advocate Ralph Nader to launch "Frugal Shopper Week," a campaign designed to help consumers save money on food, insurance, health care, home repairs, legal fees, auto repairs and banking.

Mr. Nader said that if Americans would only learn to buy more wisely, "they'd save so much money it would be like giving themselves a raise."

"Everyone talks about job skills and parenting skills, but not enough about shopping skills," Mr. Nader writes in a new book, "The Frugal Shopper," tied to the week's campaign.

According to the consumer advocate, there are several ways besides avoiding restaurants to save money on food. "Some of the suggestions may save you pennies and dimes; others can save you dollars," Mr. Nader said.

The book, co-authored by lawyer and consumer activist Wesley J. Smith, says shoppers should always make a list before going to the grocery store in order to avoid impulse buying.

This occurs when people purchase wasteful items that not only end up costing more money, but may have less food value as well, Mr. Jacobson said.

Plan grocery lists around advertised specials, Mr. Nader said, but beware of coupons because they don't always save money.

"Some coupons may induce you to buy food that you would not normally buy and which you may not want to eat. Only use coupons for foods that are normally a part of your diet and which you know you and your family will want to eat," Mr. Nader said.

Mr. Nader urged consumers to use unit pricing, which compares the retail price of the food and the price per pound or other unit of measure.

Mr. Jacobson said another cost-saving measure is to reduce the amount of meat consumers purchase.

"We spend about $130 billion a year on meat. That's about $500 per person. The average person could easily save another $250 or more every year by eating less meat," Mr. Jacobson said.

He added that it doesn't make sense for Americans to "pay for lavish advertising campaigns" by purchasing nationally advertised brands.

Assuming an average savings of 15 percent if consumers buy supermarket brands, "Americans could save about $100 per person" each year, Mr. Jacobson said.

Most important, the consumer advocates warned consumers not shop on empty stomachs.

"A growling stomach can lead to your eyes being bigger than your pocketbook and unnecessary impulse buying," the book's authors caution.

The consumer advocates also advised to buy in quantity (bulk goods often sell at a lower price than smaller-sized packages) and to read all labels carefully.

"Eating more economically can also translate into better nutrition and better health," Mr. Jacobson said.

"I'm not saying that eating out occasionally or buying certain nationally advertised foods doesn't offer some benefit, but it is clear that we could save an enormous amount of money on food," he said.

"The Frugal Shopper" can be purchased for $10 from Mr. Nader's non-profit organization by writing The Frugal Shopper, P.O. Box 19367, Washington, D.C. 20036.

HOW TO CUT YOUR FOOD BILLS

L Ten tips from the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

1. Eat out less often; bring your lunch to work or school.

2. When you do eat out, buy less expensive dishes.

3. Buy house brands, not nationally advertised packaged foods.

4. Buy fewer packaged foods.

5. Use unit pricing; make up a shopping list; watch for specials.

6. Buy less meat.

7. Buy more beans, grains vegetables and fruit.

8. Store food properly so it doesn't spoil.

9. Don't waste money on junk foods such as soda pop and coffee.

10. Grow as big and varied a garden as you can.

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