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Have you been shocked by your grocery shopping bills recently? You’re not alone. Across the board, we generally see an annual inflation rate of about 3%. This may not seem like much, but there are times when items such as food and groceries increase at a much faster rate. Most families find that when creating a budget, more effort is being made to save money on gas and groceries. Here are some tips that can help you keep your grocery budget under control.

Don’t Shop Hungry

You’ve heard this a million times before, and it’s just common sense, right? Even so, people still do it. Maybe it is because the only time you have available to get your grocery shopping is at six in the evening after work, but it really does make you spend more. If you have to do your shopping at a time when you’re likely to be hungry, try to have a snack or something before going.

It doesn’t have to be much, but just taking the edge off can help keep your impulse buying under control once inside the store.

Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

One of the worst things you can do is head into the store without any sort of game plan. You will walk aimlessly up and down the aisles trying to put meals together in your head and grab whatever you come across that could work. This usually results in buying items you don’t need, or buying too much of something that ends up going to waste.

Take a few minutes the night before heading to the store and plan out what you’ll need for the week. If you go into the shopping trip knowing what you’ll be making, it will help keep you from making the extra purchases that aren’t needed.

When you make your list, you then have to stick to it.

Scout Deals Before Hitting the Store

Most grocery chains will include their weekly ad in the newspaper, and some are featuring their ads right online. If you take a few minutes to find the good sales before reaching the store, you can use this information to help you create your shopping list and keep costs down.

Try Different Cuts of Meat

Keep in mind that the more refined and convenient the cut of meat or poultry, typically the more it costs. For example, take the common chicken. When you’re at the store, compare the price of boneless and skinless breasts and thighs with the pieces on the bone and with skin. You may be shocked to see that buying boneless may easily cost double or more per pound. Buy with the bone, and spend 5 minutes removing it yourself at home, or better yet, try some new recipes with the bone-in varieties. Using cheaper cuts of meat can still create a tasty and healthy meal.

Stock Up on Good Deals

When you do come across a good deal, consider stocking up. This works especially well with regular necessities such as paper towels, toilet paper, and other items you go through regularly. If the price is right, pick up an extra pack since it could be another month before they go on sale again.

Stocking up works with food as well. If you are excited to see that boneless chicken breasts are on sale for $3.99/lb. compared to $6.99/lb., it might be worth buying a little more than you need. You can either freeze what you won’t eat right away so you can have chicken in the coming weeks when it isn’t on sale, or you can create a weekly meal plan that uses chicken a number of different ways to stretch through the whole week.

Don’t be Afraid of Store Brands

A lot of people are hesitant to swap out their favorite name brand item for a store brand, but a lot of store brand products are just as good, and cost less. I’ll be the first to admit there are some things I wouldn’t swap, but for a lot of staples, you won’t even notice a difference.

Don’t Fall for All of the Multiple Item Sales

One of the best marketing strategies stores use to entice you to buy something is by labeling a product “3 for $6.99” or “5 for $5”, or some other amount. A lot of times, if you take the original cost of the product and multiply it by the number they tell you to buy, you might buy three of something and only save 25 cents. If it isn’t something you need a lot of, you just bought two extra items you didn’t really need just to save 25 cents, yet you actually spent a few dollars than you had intended.

Take the time to do the math behind these multiple item sales. There are certainly times when these can be great deals, but you want to be careful that you aren’t buying more than you need just because the sale sign makes it sound like a great deal.

Don’t Ignore Coupons

For whatever reason, the idea of cutting coupons has escaped many people today. I don’t know if it is because it takes a little extra time, or if it is perceived as being cheap, but there are a ton of opportunities to save money with your weekly coupons. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to flip through your local newspaper and see if there is anything you can use, and chances are, there will be. Just a couple coupons can save you a few bucks each shopping trip.

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