5. Think beyond the grocery store. Nowadays, big-box stores, drug stores, online retailers, and even gas stations offer sales on food items. According to Lal, buying nonperishable food online is a particularly attractive option when you combine online coupon codes with free shipping offers and cash back. "Most people don't tally up their total when they shop in a store, but shopping online keeps you true to your list and you can see your total as you go," he says, adding that the convenience of ordering online could save time.
If you're buying fancier food for a party, Gault suggests hitting off-price retailers like Ross or T.J. Maxx, which often carry gourmet chocolate or balsamic vinegar. "The labels don't always look so great, which is why they're so cheap," she says, "but I've found the contents to be really good." Arrange in a nice bowl or platter and no one will be the wiser.
Prices at all of these grocery-store alternatives aren't always the best deal, though, so it pays to run the numbers before hitting the checkout line (or button). Experts also caution against buying food at dollar stores, because some offer smaller sizes to compensate for the lower price, and freshness can be an issue.