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32 ways to save when grocery shopping
  • Trim your food bill by as much as 19 percent simply by shopping at a couple of different stores.
  • Don't "crisis cook." Shopping after work for the day's dinner gets expensive. Plan a weekly menu before shopping and watch your grocery bill shrink.
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  • Don't waste money on prepared foods. Instead, prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them, or double a recipe when cooking, and freeze the second for a hectic day coming up.
  • Don't be fooled by familiar products, such as cereal, that have decreased package sizes while keeping prices constant, the food industry's latest response to rising costs.
  • Take the farmer's market approach: Buy produce that's fresh, inexpensive and in season. With less middlemen involved, you get good buys and your family gets the freshest food.
  • The highest markup items on the shelves are at about chest level. Reach up or kneel down to select the cheaper house or generic brands.
  • A grocery store's main aisles, like the paths to milk and bread, are usually strewn with high-priced land mines. Avoiding those pricey areas will really help.
  • Try to shop when you're alone. Those little helpers can quickly boost your bill.
  • Shop early in the day. You get through the store faster with your list and spend less.
  • Avoid shopping for food when you're hungry; you'll buy more.
  • Don't grocery shop when you're tired, you'll buy more sweets, more high-carbohydrates. When you're angry you go for crunch food, the junk food.
  • Buy on the markdowns and save as much as 20 percent.
  • Read your newspaper's weekly food section for local grocery sales and menu ideas.
  • Clip coupons. You'll also find coupons in women's and general-interest magazines.
  • Scout coupon swap-boxes, generally found at (surprise!) supermarkets, but also at some public libraries.
  • Take advantage of in-store coupon displays and the machines that spew them.
  • Log on to your supermarket's online home page for coupons.
  • Call the toll-free numbers on your favorite products' labels and tell the customer-service rep how much you enjoy them. Some reps will offer cents-off (or even free) coupons for the product itself; if not, ask.
  • Nab a newsie. Does your newspaper vendor just dump the inserts in unsold papers at the end of the day? If so, would he mind tossing a few your way?
  • Check out the wealth of national-brands coupon-offering services on the Web. They can save you money -- even the ones that charge nominal fees.
  • Seek out supermarkets that will double -- some super stores even triple -- the face value of manufacturers' coupons.
  • Try for triple plays. That's when you use a manufacturer's coupon and a store's own coupon.
  • Some retailers guarantee that if the item doesn't ring up at the correct price, you get it for free or at a discount. Pay attention to the details.
  • Avoid purchasing nongrocery items, such as painkillers, contact lens solution, etc., at a grocery store. You usually pay more.
  • Always get a rain check if a sale item is gone.
  • Know when your store marks down goods that expire, like meat and bread. The deal: Use them that night or freeze them.
  • Check your store for a small section where they discount products that aren't as popular as the manufacturer had hoped. This area can be a gold mine for bargains.
  • Shop with a calculator. That way, you can figure whether the unit price for a case lot is really cheaper than buying one of the same item.
  • Request price matching. Find a store in your area that will honor all competitors' ads. You'll save money, time and gas.
  • Beware of "discount store syndrome." Just because you're in a bargain store doesn't mean you're getting the best price on every item.
  • Check your receipts. No matter how careful you or the store staff might be, mistakes happen.
  • Always send in for the rebate on a purchase whether it's $2 or $50. It all adds up.
  • Put your savings to work. Whether it's a trip, a car or a savings account, have some specific goals for the money you're not spending on food.
  • Bankrate.com's corrections policy
    -- Updated: June 24, 2008
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