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6 big ways to save on infant formula

Consumer Reports News: March 03, 2008 11:46 AM

If your baby is on infant formula exclusively, you’ll shell out about $1,500 by her first birthday on the stuff. Of course, “breast is best” not only because it’s healthier for your baby, it’s also a bargain. But infant formula has its place. Here are six big ways to pay less:

Shop at mass merchandisers. Formula sold by mass merchandisers, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sam’s Club, cost 16 percent less than formula sold in supermarkets, according to a USDA report. And formula sold in drugstores cost 19 percent more than in supermarkets, so shop there only as a last resort. Generally, milk-based formula tends to cost less than soy-based formula, so don’t buy soy or another type of specialized formula unless your pediatrician recommends it.

Join the club. Some formula companies, such as Similac have a membership club you can join for free by filling out an online form. After you enroll, you’re eligible for exclusive offers and savings.

Buy online. Many retailers, including many mass merchandisers, don’t sell formula through their Web site, so you’ll have to go shopping, and then schlep the stuff home. But you can purchase formula online at www.amazon.com. The site offers Enfamil, Similac, and Nestle Good Start, with free shipping on some quantities. The site also has organic formulas from brands such as Baby’s Only and Bright Beginnings. You can also sign up for Amazon Prime, which entitles you to unlimited “free” standard and two-day shipping on eligible items as well as other benefits for an annual membership fee of $79. Another option is to buy formula online from the manufacturer’s Web site. Enfamil (www.enfamil.com) and Similac (www.welcomeaddition.com), for example, offer this convenient method. If you buy three or more cases at a shot from the manufacturer, you may find reduced prices. By checking around online, we found that this option can be a competitive deal, and unlike Amazon, there’s no membership fee.

Prefer powder, if possible. Powdered formulas are the least expensive option in the formula lineup. The USDA reports that liquid concentrate formulas, though more convenient and easier to mix, than powder, tend to cost more.

Buy big. Across brands, larger cans of formula, whether it’s in powder or liquid form, cost less per reconstituted ounce than smaller cans. Buy the largest cans you can find.

Consider a store brand. You’ll find store brands of formula at major retailers such as Kmart and Wal-Mart and the savings can be substantial. We found that the store brand of formula at a local Wal-Mart (Parent’s Choice) cost 50 percent less per ounce than a leading national brand (Enfamil). According to the FDA, all formula marketed in the United States must meet the same nutrient specifications, which are set at levels to fulfill the needs of infants. Although infant-formula manufacturers may have their own proprietary formulations, brand-name and store-brand formula must all contain at least the minimum levels of all nutrients specified in FDA regulations, without exceeding maximum levels, where those are specified. Safety note: Always take special care with baby formulas. Check the “use by” date; follow preparation and storage instructions exactly; and pay attention to recalls. It is generally recommended that parents not switch brands once baby has gotten used to one.

For more information, see our report on baby formula.


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