7 ways to spend less on groceries

Food prices at the grocery store are projected to rise 4 to 5 percent this year, according to the USDA. Some of the factors causing this increase are higher energy prices and growing global demand for food. This comes at a time when many Americans are struggling with stagnant wages (for those lucky enough to have a job) and high unemployment. With a little planning though, you can avoid paying more at the grocery store.

1. Plan ahead. Check newspaper fliers before your trip and create a weekly meal plan based on sale items. Use your meal plan to make your shopping list. If you don’t subscribe to the paper, try Sundaysaver.com, which lists weekly sales circulars from most major grocery chains.

2. Don’t go when you’re hungry. You’ll find yourself putting more than you intended into your cart.

3. Shop at hard discounters. Aldi, Save-a-Lot and others fall into this category. You can save 40% off your typical grocery bill by shopping at a hard discounter. These stores may not appeal to some though, because they tend to have a limited selection, carry mostly store brands, don’t accept credit cards (in most cases), and you have to bring your own bags. We don’t have an Aldi near where we live, so I get a little giddy when we are out of town and find one. My wife finds humor in my excitement, but I get the last laugh after all the savings!

4. Stick to your list. You have a list for a reason. You’re on a mission — don’t allow yourself to deviate from what’s on your list.

5. Use coupons. Sunday papers are the best source, but there are some great coupon sites out there as well. I like Coupons.com and Hip2Save.com. The latter alerts you to not only grocery coupons, but deals at other retailers and free samples as well. When combined with your frequent shopper card, using coupons will yield considerable savings.

6. Give store brands a try. If you find that you prefer the name-brand, fine. But most store brands taste just as good and are of similar quality.

7. Pay attention to unit price. Generally you’ll get a per-unit discount when buying in bulk. This is the magic of the warehouse clubs. But this isn’t always the case. By comparing the unit price of different items you’ll know if you are getting a deal. Most stores list unit prices on the shelves, which makes your job easy. A word of caution though: don’t buy a larger product just because the unit price is lower. Buy only what you will use up before the expiration date, because throwing away expired food defeats the purpose.

Budgets are tight right now. By having a plan in place you can make the price increases irrelevant in your life.

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