While there isn't much you can do about lowering your rent or the price of gas, you can lower your grocery bill with a bit of planning. Brand flexibility, eating what you buy, and combining savings opportunities slash grocery bills and leave you with more money at the end of the month.
Question Your Loyalties
Sticking to one brand or one grocery store means you'll miss some great money-saving sales and deals. While you should never buy a brand that you don't like, if there is a major price disparity between two brands, or between a brand-name item and a store brand, give the cheaper item a try, particularly if you have a coupon. If it works for you, you can save a lot of money. The same goes for grocery stores: Watch all your local stores for sales on the products you need and use, and go to the store that has the week's best deals.
Shop with a List
You've probably heard the old chestnut about not shopping while you're hungry, as you'll always buy too much expensive junk food. Yet you've probably also found yourself throwing out rotten veggies because you never got around to cooking them. Eat healthy food inexpensively by planning your weekly menu before going to the store. Decide what you plan to cook each day so you can make out your shopping list to include all needed recipe ingredients. If you plan your meals, you're more likely to cook what you buy and not waste any food.
Clip Those Coupons
Your Sunday paper usually includes both national coupons and local grocery store sale advertisements. Use these circulars to help you plan your meals -- many grocery store ads even include free recipes -- and clip and organize coupons for items that you like and use. Don't forget to check out printable online coupons as well. Combine or “stack” coupons and sales for the best deals by saving your coupons for when an item goes on sale, and do your shopping on “double coupon” days. If you pay for your groceries with a debit or credit card that offers cash back or reward points, you'll save even more money. Be sure to check the coupons for expiration dates.
Freeze and Store
Some of the best grocery deals are on bulk items or 2-for-1 deals. If it's just the two of you at home, you'll have to come up with efficient ways to store all those extra groceries. You can store non-perishables just about anywhere: your pantry, basement or an extra closet. Freeze meat, bread, and other fresh foods and thaw them when needed. Divide, wrap, and freeze bulk meat purchases immediately after you get home from the grocery store. Be sure to label your frozen food containers with the date it went into the freezer.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.