Eating is an expensive habit. And if you're anything like me, then food probably consumes a significant portion of your budget. On average, American families spend $9,478 a year on food alone -- that's 13.3 percent of their total household budgets, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
To help you get a grip on this tasty but often expensive cost-of-living, here are five ways to cut the fat from your grocery bill.
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1. Make a grocery list and check it twice. Going through your kitchen before hitting the supermarket is free, and planning ahead can fatten your wallet by preventing expensive impulse buys. You might even save on gas by being organized because you won't need to make a second shopping trip to buy those forgotten items. Use this Free Printable Grocery Shopping List to help you plan your next trip to the market.
2. Stop clipping crappy coupons. Take a good look at the grocery coupons you're clipping before getting excited about the deal. Many coupons offer deals on highly packaged foods low in nutrition and high in unpronounceable ingredients. Skipping the crappy coupons and opting to pay a little bit more for whole foods may be a better deal for your health in the long run.
3. Watch the price scanner. Mistakes on price scans are common at the grocery store and can cost you additional dollars. A Consumer Reports survey found that 6 percent of respondents were overcharged at the grocery checkout, and no particular chain stood out as more or less accurate. Watching while your grocery prices scan and verifying their accuracy at check-out can save you money and may even score you free food -- many grocery chains will give you the item for free if it scans at the wrong price, but it's up to you to spy the error.
4. Buy generic items over big brand names. Save a huge 10 to 50 percent on every shopping trip by switching your brand name buys for generic items. It costs big bucks to market brand name products, and you’re paying for that expense when you buy a food item with a recognizable label. Compare many generic items to the brand name equivalent and you'll find that the brands are not necessarily better than their less-advertised alternatives.
5. Skip the cans, buy dried beans in bulk. Why are you buying beans canned in captivity? Buying dried beans in bulk and soaking them overnight is a frugal way to add protein to your diet without paying for the high cost of meat. Besides, dried beans are extremely cheap and expand when soaked, so your family gets more meal for every dining dollar spent by forgoing the canned variety. Check out 10 Reasons Soaking Dried Beans Can Change Your Life for some tasty instructions.
Finding simple ways to cut your everyday food expenses takes a bit of practice, but the payoff can be huge. Keeping track of your budget using this Free Household Budget Spreadsheet can also help you save money on all your other living expenses.
Kerry K. Taylor writes at Squawkfox.com, a blog where personal finance and frugal living are sexy, delicious, and fun. Kerry is the author of 397 Ways To Save Money: Spend Smarter & Live Well on Less.