5 Ways to Stretch Your Grocery Budget

With food prices set to rise again in 2012, here are smart ways to keep your budget in check.

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[See How to Eat for $7 or Less a Day.]

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.

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