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Four Questions to Help Save Money on Meals

Last week, a reader asked if it's more cost-effective to plan meals around what's on sale or based on the coupons you might have in hand. If you stock up on foods that you eat regularly, you'll soon find yourself "shopping" and meal-planning from supplies in your pantry and freezer versus limiting yourself to what's on sale at the store any given week.

Whenever a great sale comes around on an item that I consider a staple – chicken breasts, pasta sauces, frozen vegetables, side dishes – I ask myself the following questions:

1. Is this the lowest price I'm likely to see for the next twelve weeks on this product?

Prices at the supermarket range high and low over the course of a cycle that lasts, on average, twelve weeks. Chicken breasts may range in price from $1.69/pound to $3.99/pound. As you start monitoring the price variation on products you buy, you'll begin to notice when prices dip. Keep these benchmark prices in mind and you'll be able to spot a deal.

In my area, $1.50 or le ...

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