Is your grocery bill too high?

groceries
CC BY 2.0 Martijn van Exel

Perhaps you're not yet aware of these clever tricks for bringing it down.

Keeping food costs under control can be a real challenge. Depending on where you live, how many people you have to feed, and what your dietary preferences are, grocery bills have a knack for creeping upwards and eating into one's attempts to save. Fortunately, there are some clever tricks that can help you pare it down.

1. Make a cash budget and stick to it. This is the first thing to do if your grocery bill feels out of control. Be strict about limiting yourself to the money you've brought, and using cash helps considerably with this, especially if you leave debit and credit cards at home.

2. Buy less. Americans throw away an estimated 20 percent of the groceries they buy, due in large part to impulse buying. If that sounds familiar, then you're likely buying more than you need. Start shopping for fewer items on a more frequent basis. Make a list and do not deviate from it.

3. Don't take expiry dates too seriously. Enormous quantities of food are thrown away because people read the best before/expiration dates and assume items are no longer safe for consumption. That's rarely the case. These dates, rather, are meant as guidelines. Learn to use your senses to detect whether or not a food can still be eaten. If in doubt, check out this great website that will tell you exactly when it's best to eat a given product and how long it will keep.

4. Buy fewer beverages, snack foods, and pre-packaged items. Beverages such as juice, bottled and sparkling water, soda, and iced tea add unnecessary dollars to your bill, not to mention sugar to your diet. Packaged foods and snacks are often marked up highly for their convenience, nor do they offer much nutritional value compared to their fresh or frozen counterparts.

5. Buy store-brand products. As blogger The Frugal Girl advises in an article on this same topic, "Store-brand items have come a long way, and if you only buy name brands, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to save." Go for the cheapest, most basic canned tomatoes, crackers, pasta, cheese, etc. As always, take a look at the ingredient list to ensure you're getting a good product.

6. Shop clearance. Figure out when your grocery store clears its shelves most thoroughly. For me that's Sundays, when I can always find a great number of products marked down 50 percent. Also, some stories reduce all prepared foods (i.e. salads, soups, rotisserie chickens, etc.) by 50 percent in the last hour before closing. If you eat meat, this is big money-saver.

7. Less meat, more beans. Meat can take up a significant portion of one's grocery bill, which is why cutting it out (or at least reducing significantly) can make a big financial difference. If you're used to eating it a lot, go down to every other day, then stretch it further. Use smaller quantities and mix with lentils, beans, or soy.

8. Stop buying disposable items. You might as well throw your money directly in the garbage when you buy disposable items, such as paper towels, Ziplock bags, dishwashing sponges, and paper napkins. All of these items have reusable alternatives that you can reuse for years without incurring additional cost.

Is your grocery bill too high?
Perhaps you're not yet aware of these clever tricks for bringing it down.

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