First off, you should know that my mom isn’t the most Internet-savvy person. “Blog” is something unpleasant you find in a garden and tweeting is what birds do.

But when it comes to consumer safety and wisdom, she’s better than any Wikipedia. That’s why I asked her to help me out by giving me some tips on being a thrifty and educated shopper.

Her credentials? My mom is the woman who won’t buy anything full-price. Her psychic Mom Powers let her know when things will run out weeks before they actually do. Her book of coupons is bigger than her address book. She keeps a half-dozen reusable tote bags in each of the family cars. She can handle Costco on a Friday afternoon like a boss, and she’ll decline making that trip unless she has other stores to shop at in the area that she can check off her list. Her shopping lists are written down on the backs of junk mail and she checks her receipts before leaving the store to make sure she got every discount she anticipated.

So what is her advice when it comes to keeping the family fed and healthy without blowing the budget?

1. Use coupons, but be organized. Mom says to have coupons organized by store and only take coupons that you plan to use during that particular shopping trip. That way, you’ll know what to buy and where to buy it without getting confused or losing future deals in the shuffle.

2. Plan ahead. “Read the weekly grocery ads when they come out, see what’s on sale and then plan your menu around those items,” she says. Doing this will save you stress during the week and it will also force you to think about whether or not you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

3. Pay attention to prices. Mom tells me that a lot of “sales” aren’t actually that great of deals. She references pork shoulder for her delicious pulled pork recipe: For example, “Buy one get one free, at $4.49 a pound. That makes each pound $2.25. Not bad, except that you’ll often see it for $1.99 a pound. Start remembering what good prices are.”

4. Be cautious of the health-craze. “Just because a drink product says it contains real fruit juice, read the ingredients, at least the first two or three.” Mom says to red flag corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and sugar as ingredients that are “questionable.”

5. Avoid precooked, packaged food when possible. Frozen dinners are okay in a pinch, says Mom. “But really, when you can cook a dinner with five or six ingredients, it’ll go further, cost you less and provide good nutrition.” I can practically hear her scolding me for the frozen orange chicken dinner in my freezer right now.

So there you have it. Five tips from the grand master herself. But don’t be shy about your tips- we want to hear how you save money and also about any shopping tricks you have.

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