You hear people talk about burning through money, but eating through it is more like it. A Gallup poll finds that Americans on average spend $151 a week on groceries.* These ideas can help you trim the fat from your grocery bill.
Choose the right store.
Prices at one store may be lower than the competition on some items but higher on others. The key is to find the store that has the lowest prices on the items you buy. Take your shopping list to two (or more) stores and do a direct price comparison. Is it worth the effort? Consider this: if you spend $150 a week on groceries, that's $7,800 a year. You'd do some comparison shopping if you were going to spend that much on a single big-ticket item, wouldn't you?
Stock up during sales.
If you have enough storage space and the sale item has long shelf life (or can be frozen), buy multiples of items you know you'll use. Stores routinely have sales on items related to holidays: picnic/barbecue necessities around Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day; baking supplies around Thanksgiving; etc.
Watch out for budget busters.
Examine your supermarket receipt closely and circle the most expensive items, then consider lower-cost replacements for them in the future. Think about generic brands, substituting chicken or turkey for beef (or get more of your protein from beans!) and making gourmet cheese or ice cream occasional treats rather than everyday groceries.
Do it yourself.
Save big by cutting up your own veggies or assembling your own cheese cracker combos. Warning: if not having convenience items on hand means you'll eat out more, this may not be a good tip for you.
Buy a reusable water bottle.
Filling your own is far cheaper than buying bottled water. If you don't like the quality of your tap water, buy a water filter that mounts on your faucet or a pitcher model to store in the fridge.
Don't assume bigger is better.
Always check the unit price (cost per ounce or other unit). Sometimes it's a better deal to buy several small packages instead of one big one.
Know what to buy where.
Personal care products, cleaning supplies and paper products are usually cheaper at a discount or dollar store than at the supermarket.
Eat what you buy.
Plan meals around what you have on hand and grocery shop based on menus you know you'll prepare. Don't let veggies rot in the crisper or cheese mold at the back of the shelf. Keep produce dry; moisture promotes mold.
Understand coupon policies.
Find out if your store offers double (or even triple) value for coupons on certain days, accepts competitors' coupons, takes coupons on your cellphone or has a grace period for coupon expiration dates.
Get in and get out.
Shopping as quickly as possible can help you avoid adding unneeded items to your cart. Make a list, stick to it and never shop when you're tired or hungry.
Grow your own.
Having fresh and tasty veggies, fruit and/or herbs right outside your door can not only save money on your grocery bill, but it may also inspire you to do more cooking, which can add up to even bigger savings.
*Source: Gallup.com, "Americans Spend $151 a Week on Food; the High-Income, $180," July 2012.