The smart & simple way to sidestep inflation at the grocery store

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A lot of shoppers are experiencing sticker shock when they fill up the grocery cart.

Food-at-home prices have increased 10% over the past 12 months.  Many consumers are concerned about inflation and looking for ways to save. That’s led many shoppers to turn to store brands. We explain why ditching name brands can save on groceries, and which categories offer the most savings.

 

Why do store brands cost less?

Store brands are the private label versions of brand name products. In most grocery stores, you can find the store brand version of just about any product. Store brands are less expensive because they are plainly packaged, and companies do not pour dollars into marketing and advertising these products with billboards, commercials, or colorful, eye-catching packaging. The cost of this marketing gets passed on to customers in the form of higher prices, says Jonathan Deutsch, professor and director of the Food Lab at Drexel University.

You might be concerned that the lower cost of a store brand product translates to lower quality, but that’s not always the case. “There’s a good, high-quality version of many store brands; there is a low-quality version of many store brands. The same is true for name brands,” says Deutsch. Stores want consumers to associate their brands with quality.

How can you use store brands to save?

If you want to maximize potential savings from store brands, know where to look. You can shop at places that make finding store brands easy. Trader Joe’s, for example, is known for its store brands, and people shop there specifically to get them, Deutsch says.

You can also find private label brands at your store of choice. Just remember that manufacturers often pay retailers for premium shelf space. Those more expensive name brand products are likely to be at eye level, while you might have to check look harder for the less expensive store brands.

It is also important to make apples-to-apples comparisons. When you are looking at name-brand versus store-brand prices, consider the package size. “It can be deceiving if package sizes are different,” says Deutsch. “Something may look much more affordable, but then it turns out, it’s in the smaller package size.” Compare the cost per gram, per ounce, or per milliliter. Many grocery stores have made this comparison easier by including unit pricing on the shelf.

Coupons and other incentives might make name-brand products the less expensive option. Keep an open mind when you walk the aisles and cross items off your shopping list.

→ Read our list of 50 ways to save at the grocery store

In what categories of food do store brands make the biggest difference?

Meat and fresh produce are two of the most expensive food categories. Prices have been impacted by inflation, as well as supply chain issues related to COVID-19, Deutsch says. Shopping store brands in these categories can help to reduce your overall cart cost.

Your shopping preferences can still play a role in your grocery cart. For example, some people like to stick with brand names for certain products, like snack food. “You want those flavors that are very familiar and comfortable and reliable. You may not be as open to a store brand, whereas for something like canned vegetables or frozen vegetables, you may be more accepting of the differences,” says Deutsch.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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12 things you should never, ever do in a restaurant

 

We all manage a faux pas or a slip of our manners from time-to-time. But there are some things people do that are just plain rude. If you do them, you could wind up making a bad impression with your dining companions, especially in a restaurant. And no, we’re not talking about the basics like talking with food in your mouth, gesturing with cutlery in your hands, or putting your elbows on the table.

Here are 12 things you should try to avoid doing when dining out. Stick to these etiquette rules and chances are you’ll end up having better dining experiences. And so will your friends.

 

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Nobody likes to waste time waiting for someone to show up, and that’s especially true when it comes to restaurant reservations. Many restaurants employ a 15-minute rule. If you’re later than that for a reservation, you may forfeit your table. Others that don’t have such a rule may bump you to a less desirable table or make you wait.

So, don’t be late (your friends will thank you, too!), but if you can’t avoid it, call and let them know (your friends and/or the restaurant). They may be able to make a special accommodation and they’ll appreciate your good manners.

 

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Dinner and a show is great,  but not when you’re rushed for time. And that goes for both you and the restaurant employees who are serving you. So give yourself ample time so you’re relaxed and can enjoy the experience. If you find yourself with extra time between dinner and the show, you can always take a stroll, stop for coffee (or have a second round at the restaurant).

 

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While it’s good to be relaxed, be aware of second-seating times or that large group of patrons at the bar waiting for a table. If your table is cleared, you’re no longer eating or drinking anything and are just talking with your companions, consider moving the evening to a nearby bar, park or even someone’s home.

It can help to think of your table as a taxi. You’re paying for the ride to your final destination, but if you sit in the car for 30 minutes after arriving, the driver isn’t going to let you do so for free. The meter will keep running.

While the restaurant doesn’t have a meter running like a taxi would, you are costing them money by occupying a table that could otherwise be serving other guests. So, if you want to linger, order another bottle of wine or some coffee and dessert. Of course, if the restaurant isn’t busy or you know you’re the last seating, tarry away until closing, but do leave a nice tip.

 

 

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There’s a rhythm to dining out, and that rhythm is typically orchestrated in large part by your server. In higher-end restaurants especially, they balance your needs as a customer with the abilities of the kitchen based on sheer volume of orders. So, if you insist on ordering your entire meal at the moment they greet you (instead of just your drinks, for example) you could end up disrupting the rhythm. It’s often most enjoyable if you just sit back, relax and let your server be your guide.

 

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This is especially important these days. COVID-19 has left many restaurants short staffed. You may not be getting the best service, but it may not be your server’s fault. Try to be understanding if you see that the restaurant employees are scrambling to keep up.

 

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In most cases, eye contact and a simple nod should suffice. If your server has simply disappeared, get up and speak to the host or manager. Flailing your arm, snapping your fingers, holding up your credit card (or even laying it at the edge of the table) — especially in a nicer restaurant — only reflects poorly on you.

 

 

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Some people think they should tip only on the base cost of the meal, not the tax. Others think they should tip only on the food and not on their drinks. Some people think 10% is more than enough when it comes to gratuity. All of these people are wrong.

The majority of servers in the United States rely on tips for their income. Some make as little as $2 an hour as a base salary, so consider that cost before dining out. If you can’t leave at least 15% for good service, you may be better off going somewhere you don’t need to tip.

 

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We’ve all been there. There’s that one table in the restaurant with the loud talkers, the boisterous laughers or the folks who don’t mute their phones even amid multiple chirps and rings. Don’t be those people.

 

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Put your phone down and engage with your dining companions and the server. You’ll have a much better experience.

If you absolutely need to take a call or send a text, step outside or into the restroom.

 

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You probably just want to be generous and treat your dining companion(s), but everyone thrusting their credit cards at the waiter in a game of “pick me” as they deliver the bill is just an awful predicament for the server.

Arrange in advance for who will pay the bill. If that doesn’t work, just let your friend pay. You can make it up to them some other time.

 

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If you’re dining in-person and you have a bad experience, let the manager or another employee know. In most cases, restaurants want to know when something goes awry. They want you to be happy and fix any issues. You may even get a discount off your meal.

Likewise, not saying anything while you’re there and then leaving a bad review on Yelp or Google doesn’t help the restaurant get better in the moment. What if you’d said something and they went above and beyond to fix it? Give them the opportunity.

 

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Most kitchens can accommodate food allergies and other dietary restrictions, but a little notice helps them do so more efficiently. Some servers will ask you shortly after greeting you if you have any special dietary restrictions. But if they don’t ask and you do have a special need, go ahead and let them know as soon as possible. They can help make recommendations or plan with the kitchen to ensure your needs are met.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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