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10 Easy Ways to Save On Groceries This Week

If you’ve ever gone grocery shopping only to wind up with a full cart and an empty wallet, you know how expensive it can be.

In fact, the average American spends between 12.4% and 33% of their household income on groceries each month, according to the USDA.

An additional survey conducted by GoBankingRates.com revealed that this amount fluctuates based on age and gender. For example, women spend more on their monthly grocery bill than men, as do middle aged people with families.

Anyway you slice, it, groceries eat up a major portion of our budget. But with a solid strategy, you can save hundreds on groceries starting this week. Here are 10 easy ways to save more at the grocery store:

1. Take stock before you shop

Americans are notorious for wasting food — sometimes we buy too much, and sometimes we just plain forget what’s already in our cupboard.

In order to avoid buying duplicates of pantry staples, take stock of common recipe items before you head to the grocery store.

Chances are you might already have olive oil, spices, baking necessities, or a can of broth already tucked away. Just remember to check the expiration dates!

2. Make a list

Once you know what’s in your pantry, make a grocery list of only items that you need or plan to use within five to seven days of purchasing.

Shopping with a grocery list can reduce extra purchases or impulse buys — plus, it really makes you focus on foods you have a plan for cooking and eating.

By cutting down on food waste and impulse purchases, you’ll save big.

3. Join your store’s discount program

If you never signed up for your grocery store’s loyalty program, now’s the time. Loyalty cards can save customers money at checkout, often providing deeper discounts on sale items and additional perks.

According to The Boston Globe, grocery retailers are also making discounts more personal by tapping into each customer’s data.

“The offers are based on past purchases, meaning that someone who regularly buys Cheerios might get offers for that cereal, as well as for milk and other related items,” explains Globe reporter Candice Choi.

Sometimes it pays to be loyal.

4. Start clipping coupons

Does your weekly grocery store circular wind up in the recycling bin? Plenty of customers have a love-hate relationship with coupons, but these weekly offers can save you a bundle at the grocery store.

There are also plenty of online resources, like The Krazy Coupon Lady, Coupons.com, and SmartSource.com, where you can scout out the best deals and find the grocery stores near you that offer the items you need on sale.

Depending on which day you shop, you may even be able to double your savings with coupons, according to Business Insider.

“Shopping on a Wednesday instead of a Thursday, for instance, could save you a lot of money,” reports personal finance expert Paul Michael. “About.com has a list of "double coupon" stores by state that is very handy.”

5. Split up your shopping

While it’s satisfying to shop at one store and call it a day, you might find better deals by comparison shopping and hitting multiple locations.

Apps like Basket and Scanbuy will help you comparison shop across major retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon, in addition to large grocery chains.

The average American shops at more than five different grocery stores to snag the best deals — now you can do it just by looking at your phone.

6. Put down the name brands

Brand loyalty is a tricky thing. We get so used to buying name-brand items like Kleenex or Kraft that we forget how much money we can save simply by switching to a store brand.

But store brands have gained in popularity over the past few years, and there are plenty of reasons why.

“Consumers have also gotten clued in to the fact that many ‘generic’ store-brand foods are actually made by the same companies that produce the higher-priced name-brand stuff,” explains personal finance reporter Brad Tuttle at TIME.

“The foods have been known to come out of the same factories, with the same ingredients inside and everything, with the only difference being the label,” he adds. “The result is that often, switching to a store brand is an easy way to save 30% or so, without sacrificing quality.”

When you’re spending as much as 30% of your take-home pay on groceries, 30% saved is a big deal!

7. Eat a snack

You’ve probably already heard that you should never go to the grocery store hungry, since you’re guaranteed to spend more money.

But a surprising new study from the University of Minnesota shows that not only will you spend more on food, you’ll also grab other items you might not need.

“Hunger makes us want to eat, which means that we think about seeking, acquiring and consuming food,” Alison Jing Xu, one of the study’s authors, explained to Forbes. “Those acquisition-related thoughts may spill over and put consumers in the mode of getting more stuff in general, even stuff they can’t eat, such as binder clips in our studies.”

8. Shop the perimeter of the store

Nutritionists have long begged Americans to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s because your average grocery store shelves necessities, like fruits, vegetables, and dairy, around the perimeter. More expensive packaged items — the ones that are also usually bad for your diet — take up the middle aisles.

These reminders have worked so well that major manufacturers have seen record drops in sales as more customers than ever turn to fresh fruits and vegetables and stay out of the center aisles.

Shopping the perimeter also forces you to rethink which fruits and vegetables are in season. Buying blueberries in December might be possible — but it’ll cost you a pretty penny. For more guides on buying seasonal produce to save, check out SeasonalFoodGuide.org.

9. Use the scales

Rather than relying on grocery store packaging to determine how much to buy, use the scales in the produce and bulk goods aisles to weigh out only the amount you need.

“According to the Bulk is Green Council, bulk foods can cost up to 89 percent less than packaged foods,” reports Sara Bir at Today.com. “But even if the savings aren’t always that high, they’re significant enough to merit adding the bulk aisle to your routine.”

New to purchasing whole and bulk foods? Read this guide from the Food Network before you head to the store.

10. Head to self-checkout

Checking yourself out at the grocery store might help you save money, according to TIME.

“Impulse purchases dropped by 32% for women and about 17% for men when shoppers used the self-checkout line instead of a staffed checkout,” reports Kerri Anne Renzulli, citing a study conducted by IHL Consulting Group.

Between shorter wait times — and fewer opportunities for impulse buys — you’ll save big by resisting temptation as you head to the car.

You don’t need to make more money in order to defray your grocery bill — just shop smarter. Our 10 tips will help you save big, even if your grocery budget is still plenty small.

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