DEAR SARA: No salt for five days. Help me! I am kicking the salt habit. I love salt more than anything else on earth. I carry salt packets with me, can’t eat without salt, think of salt all the time, and could use a salt lick a day! — Sinopa, Virginia
DEAR SINOPA: I don’t use much table salt, so my answer will probably sound easier said than done. My suggestion is to cut it from your cooking by increasing herbs and sodium-free spices to add flavor to your meals. When shopping, look at products labels for those that are marked sodium-free, very low or reduced sodium. It’s time to put the shaker away. Start thinking about your blood pressure all the time, instead. Cut back on canned and processed foods, and increase your fresh-food intake.
You can rinse canned foods to decrease salt, too. Start experimenting with new recipes to cook at home. Finally, talk to your family doctor about your nutritional goals. He or she can refer you to a dietitian who can help you. You’ll soon discover foods taste great without salt. .
DEAR SARA: A price book. What exactly is that? I have read several references to a price book. People say they make a price book for stores so they know the best prices. I am not sure exactly what is meant by that statement. Around here, the Prego spaghetti sauce that was $1.94 at Target yesterday can have a label of $2.04 today and $2.29 on Saturday. The labels in other stores change just the same, so I must be missing something. Are you supposed to be putting down sale prices so you know when another sale comes around if it is better than the last one, or just writing down what you paid for items so you know how much you saved for the year? I am really confused. — Shanna, Maryland
DEAR SHANNA: You create a price book with your most commonly bought items. It does take time for it to become effective. It’s simply a notebook that contains item names, prices, unit sizes, unit prices, store names and dates. It helps you compare prices on frequently bought items so you can identify what prices are a good deal. It’s better to rely on your own records than to try to remember prices or accept an advertised price as being the best deal. Your goal is to try to pay less than you’ve previously paid for items.
Once you’ve recorded prices for a few weeks, you might recognize a pattern of when your regularly purchased items go on sale so you can stock up on that product. You can also decide whether you want to pass on an item because the price is considerably higher than you’ve recently paid for it. A price book not only helps you to compare prices; it can be used as a tool to help discourage impulse buying.
It helps encourage delayed gratification, too. It won’t take long before you know which store typically carries an item at the cheapest price. You might be surprised by which store has the best deals for the items that you purchase regularly. In time, you’ll discover that you’ll have your own minimum price that you’re willing to pay.
Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village, a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., fourth floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.