If you’ve felt like your grocery expenses have increased in the past few months, you’d be right on the money. Food prices have been on the rise worldwide. Affording the same groceries without increasing your spending is getting more difficult — but if you’re willing to be flexible, there are ways to reduce your grocery bill. All it takes is some planning, self-control, and careful shopping.
Before You Go to the Store
1. Make a Budget
If you have a clear idea of how much money you have available for one month, you’ll be able to set firm limits on how much you can spend on groceries weekly. Come up with a weekly menu: Plan how many meals you’re going to need and what you’re going to eat for each one. Buy everything you need in one trip to the store so that you aren’t tempted to add extra expenses throughout the week.
2. Always, Always, Always Make a List
Before you set foot in the grocery store, make a list of the groceries you need to buy. Put the list in your wallet so you won’t forget it, and take it out once you get to the supermarket. Refer to it as you shop, crossing out or checking off items as you put them into your cart. This will ensure that you stick to the meals for which you budgeted and aren’t over your budget by the time you reach the checkout counter.
3. Opt for Fruit and Veggies Instead of Junk Food
If your weekly meal plan includes bags of Cheetos or Pop Tarts, consider replacing these junk food items with fresh fruit or veggies. In most instances, opting for fresh food guarantees you more sustenance and higher nutritional value for your money. The average price for a 16-oz bag of potato chips was $4.78 in September 2012, while the price for a pound of bananas was only 50 cents at the same time of the year.
4. Clip Coupons
With shows like Extreme Couponing on major networks like TLC, this might seem like a no-brainer: If your local store offers either a coupon booklet or online coupons, be sure to check them out. You can plan your weekly meals based on the available discounts. Check your grocery store’s policy on accepting coupons; not all supermarkets require you to print out your coupons — some may allow you to use your mobile phone.
5. Get a Membership Card
Many major food chains offer loyalty cards. Most of them are free and easy to sign up for — normally just requiring your name and phone number. Cardholders are frequently entitled to great deals and much lower prices.
Once You’re in the Store
6. Shop Generic
Major grocery stores often offer a “store brand” version of popular products. Generic brands of staples like paper plates, napkins, and shaving gel tend to be on-par with brand name products. Store brand medicinal and food items are also often on the same level as brand-name options. To double-check, read the back label for ingredients and nutritional information.
7. Compare Prices
Comparison shopping is one of the best techniques to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Check out the unit price — listed on the shelf sticker right next to the product price. You want to pay the lowest price per unit, even if it means buying a larger amount.
8. Buy in Bulk
Because you can often get a lower per-unit price on bulk products, sometimes it’s more cost efficient to buy in bulk. Staples like beans, rice, pasta, flour, and frozen vegetables are often much less expensive in large amounts. Just be sure you can properly store bulk products; your savvy shopping investment will go to waste if the food spoils before you can eat it.
Whether you’re shopping for yourself, a house full of roommates, or your family, it’s likely that the increase in food prices has put a pinch on your wallet. Combat increasing food expenses by planning out a monthly budget and a weekly menu. Lower your expenses further by making smart decisions while shopping: opt for generic brands and bulk items with a lower unit cost.
PF Wilson writes articles about online commerce, responsible borrowing, investment, and budgeting.
 “High food prices top UN agenda on World Food Day.” gulfnews.com. 16 2012: n. page. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/high-food-prices-top-un-agenda-on-world-food-day-1.1090271 >.
 “Average Prices.” United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. n.d. n. page. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.bls.gov/ro3/apmw.htm>.
 “Grocery Shopping 101: Unit Price.” Carrots ‘n Cake. 06 2011: n. page. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://carrotsncake.com/2011/01/grocery-shopping-101-unit-price.html>.