By Ed Runyan

People plan their chores and make their choices more carefully now that prices are up.

AUSTINTOWN — Nicole McBurney says she and a couple of co-workers in the English department at Fitch High School believe today’s food and gas prices demand a new approach from young parents like themselves.

The women hope to go beyond the coupon-clipping and flier-watching techniques their moms employed to something that makes use of technology and their common desire to find the best value.

One of the women began to catalog all of the products she buys for her home — around 400 so far, McBurney said. Those items were entered onto a spreadsheet on her computer, and eventually the document will contain the average prices for all of those products at several area stores.

With that information, the women hope to fine-tune their shopping habits and stretch their dollars.

“We just want to look at a price and know it is a good price,” she said recently at Giant Eagle on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown.

McBurney shops at Giant Eagle for most of her food. She said the savings she gets on her gasoline — by getting 10 cents off a gallon for every $50 of purchased goods — makes Giant Eagle a good choice.

But she and her relatives have had some debates on what constitutes the best deal.

For instance, some stores offer double coupons. But does a shopper need those types of items? McBurney said it’s been difficult for her to find many coupons of value.

Then there are issues of whether driving around to various stores saves money when the price of gas and the shopper’s time are figured in.

Shoppers interviewed at the Aldi’s store on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown said they shop there because of the low prices, and they don’t care that Aldi’s doesn’t accept coupons.

Sam Owen of Lordstown, who’s been retired from General Motors for 10 years, does most of his shopping at Aldi’s.

He raved about a $3.99 bottle of Carlini olive oil that he uses for cooking. He said the price is about half of some other stores’.

Looking across the selection of wines, Owen pointed to a bottle of Chateau Les Tour De Rouane wine for $7.99 and said he prefers it over “any $20 Bourdeaux.”

He pointed out grape tomatoes and boxed cereals and many other items that he said were half the price of other stores’.

Manager Rob Andrews, busily stocking shelves, thinks the higher food prices in recent months have been good for Aldi’s, “especially on Saturdays.” He has noticed that items such as 99-cent spaghetti sauce and canned vegetables have sold really well lately.

Candy Sarisky of North Jackson, shopping with her husband, Bill, was typical of many of the Aldi’s customers. Most are shopping at a number of stores with coupons when they can.

“I came here first,” Candy said. But she also planned to hit Rulli Brothers, Wal-Mart and Giant Eagle. Candy said she hasn’t changed her shopping habits much because of the higher prices. “I’ve always been frugal,” she said.

Debbie Andio of Austintown, shopping at the Austintown Giant Eagle, said she uses coupons regularly, thanks in part to Giant Eagle sending them to her in the mail.

The higher cost of food has caused her to simply avoid going down certain aisles.

But she and many others noted that they try to plan their chores more carefully now that prices are up. On this day, Giant Eagle was her seventh stop in the car, with others being to places like the post office and bank. She planned it so she would finish at Giant Eagle, near her home.

Larry and Patricia Dunn of Austintown said they are shopping at the discount stores more these days and reducing the number of trips to Virginia to visit their daughter.

Larry estimates he is also driving locally less, with 50 miles a week being the average this time last year and 15 being the average now.

Tania Gorrell, shopping with her 17-year-old son, Zack, said she’s a “coupon queen” who has space in her basement and recently purchased a second freezer so she can “overstock” on low-priced and large-quantity items.

Since food and gas prices went up, her family’s meals have been dictated more by prices than by what her family thought they wanted on a particular day.

“What’s on sale that week, that’s what’s on the menu,” she said. She’s also making meals a bit less complicated and a little less expensive. “More burgers, less steak,” she said.

Nick Kruse of Austintown, shopping with Madelyn McGhee, said they debate a bit on the best way to shop: She thinks one should make a list, and he relies on making good decisions at the store.

“I’m looking for sales,” Nick said, “especially milk. You can get a dollar difference by shopping around.” By sticking to a list, you might lock yourself into buying something that costs more, he reasoned.

Paul Wargacki of Canfield said he has used his motorcycle to get to work in recent months to save on gas. His motorcycle gets 42 miles per gallon, his car about 20.

A man wearing a Harley-Davidson shirt slowed down to talk for just a second on his way into Giant Eagle. When asked whether his family does anything to save on gasoline or food, he said: “I don’t know. You’d have to ask my wife. I was just sent here to buy steaks.”

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