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Saving On Groceries

So you've found yourself in a financial pinch. You need to save money, and you've gotta start somewhere, and you can't make your house payment go away. One of the MOST variable expenses in anyone's budget is groceries. But you've got to start by first looking at the habits you're used to, and start changing them one at a time.

Before you can make a realistic budget of what you need to spend, you need to be able to figure out what you have been spending, and why. The simplest way to do this is to collect the last month's grocery receipts and analyze them. Then, make two lists: One list of NEED items and a list of WANT, or IMPULSE items (aka items you don't have to purchase) and list the brand and price you paid for that item. Add your totals. You need to see what your habits are.

Look at your wants list, and the total cost. You are already going to save that much money.

Now, look at your needs list, and go ahead and make some notes on the items you have no problem buying generic. You can save as much as $2 to switch to a generic in some cases. You now have your realistic grocery list.

Here are some tips to get started, for the rookies:

1. Shop Weekly. I can hear all the frugal moms saying "huh?" out there, but believe me, this is the BEST way to save. If you shop bi-weekly or monthly, you may save yourself some time and extra trips, but you will only be able to take advantage of one or two sales and may wind up having to buy certain things for a higher price. By shopping weekly, you're able to take advantage of the lowest prices on a larger variety of items.

2. Make a List and Stick To It. This has always been said, but it is always true. Plan your list around your sales ad, and vow to buy the lowest priced items possible.

3. Weigh Your Produce. If the item is priced individually, say, Oranges 2/$1, this doesn't matter. But if it is priced per pound, you need to weigh it, know what you're spending, and ONLY buy what you will use before it goes bad. Also, when buying bagged potatoes, they can vary by 1/4 pound. Weigh a few bags to get the most for your money. And when buying bagged apples, remember, you are getting the good and the bad. It's better to hand select and weigh slightly pricier apples to avoid having to toss half of them because they are damaged.

4. Leave Your Cards At Home. If your weekly budget is $80 and you have only brought $80, you can't spend more.

5. Look for discount meats. My store unfortunately doesn't do this, but several I have shopped at before do. The last day that meat can be sold, it's often put on a discount (usually about 50%). This is the time to buy up and freeze. If you aren't sure if your store discounts meats like this, ask the butcher.

6. Check the dollar section or clearance rack. My main grocery store has a killer clearance shelf--right in the middle of the frozen foods. I have found some of the greatest deals to be there, as you can of course use coupons with these items. My second store has a Dollar Section with a lot of household items, food items, dishes, school supplies, and pet food. It changes from time to time so I like to check every time I am there.

Now, by applying these tips, you should notice a significant savings on groceries, and once you'd mastered these concepts, you are ready to begin couponing.