How to Save on Your Grocery Bills

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Even if you’ve taken the time to make a food budget, all that careful planning can get knocked sideways in an instant.

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Even if you’ve taken the time to make a food budget (and if you have, here’s to you!), all that careful planning can get knocked sideways in an instant. You order in on a whim. (You’re busy!) You splurge on a pricey treat. (You deserve it!) You cave to the pressure to spend to save. (Who has time to do math?)

Money magazine has just pegged a few “food budget busters” and how to guard against them. They are …

Buying more than you want or will eat in order to get grocery store “savings.”

When you see a three-for-$9.99 deal or a buy-one-get-one offer, don’t lose your head and start heaping things in the cart. (Unless it’s ice cream. OK, even if it’s ice cream.) First ask yourself if you really want that item, then consider how much or how many you’re really going to consume. Often you don’t really need to buy three (or whatever) to lock in a deal; you can buy one for $3.33 and avoid watching food you didn’t want go bad in the fridge until you guiltily toss it. Other ways to avoid overbuying: Know what’s in your own pantry before you shop. Work from your shopping list. Use a hand basket instead of a shopping cart. And here’s one I definitely tell you from experience: Don’t shop hungry.

Shelling out for prepared or convenience foods.

Yes, it’s tempting to fork over money instead of grabbing a knife, but really, chop your own veggies and cut up your own fruit. And while you’re at it, bake your own muffins and pop your own popcorn. It could save you hundreds of dollars every year. Plus, how hard is it to do it yourself it? (Truly, it’s not that hard.)

Ordering in or grabbing takeout when you’re feeling overwhelmed (or lazy).

Those takeout meals can really dent the ol’ wallet. So plan ahead, shop ahead, cook ahead and make delivery meals, as Cookie Monster would say, a “sometime food.”

And if you’re looking at more ways to save on your grocery bill, you may want to …

Skip the brand-name grocery items and reach for the store brands.

According to the Private Label Manufacturers Association, shoppers who bought store-brand instead of name-brand food and non-food products at the grocery store saved an estimated $30 billion overall in 2015, and they typically trim their spending on grocery and household items by one-third.

Be selective about what you buy organic.

You probably already know this, but in case you don’t, the Environmental Working Group keeps an updated list of the “dirty dozen” — fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticides when they are conventionally grown, making organic versions appealing — and the “clean fifteen,” those you probably don’t have to pay extra for.

Have other suggestions? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Photo courtesy of iStock

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