His system puts food savings in his back pocket

In a way, Chris Willis, 33, has been preparing for the current economic downturn much of his life.

A general manager of a specialty tea shop in Charlotte, Willis said he's always been frugal, watching for sales and clipping coupons.

But two years ago, when he left his roommates and moved into an apartment on his own, he had to learn to save more.

Now, Willis has a system which, he says, takes about two hours of his time a week but can shave $100 off his grocery bill.

“I've always been poor,” said Willis, who has a degree in clarinet performance. “But now I have less money than ever because the things I buy cost more now.”

To start, he knows how prices vary from store to store. This allows him to decide whether advertised specials are a bargain.

He keeps coupons in a thin plastic organizer in his back pocket. He writes his shopping list in a spiral notepad – and includes if he has a coupon or if there is a special and at what store.

Bulk shopping isn't always best for him, but he's learned the value of freezing. He'll buy vegetables on sale, such as broccoli, cook and blanch them, then store them in a plastic bag in the freezer. He'll cook chicken, cut it up and freeze it for when he needs a meal-on-the-go.

He'll bake and freeze bread. Each week, he places four slices in a plastic container along with a hot dog bun and a hamburger bun, which will last him the week. He returns the loaf to the freezer so there's no waste.

He doesn't eat out. His diligence, he says, helps him keep his grocery and meal bills to between $40 and $80 a week.

Kerry Hall