Step 4: Beat your supermarket at its own game.
Grocery stores mark down products at regular intervals; the trick is to figure out and then follow stores' sales cycles so you know when prices hit rock bottom. For example, don't buy orange juice just because the flyer says it's "on sale"; wait until you can get two for $5, or whatever the best deal is that the store usually offers.
When you see ten jars of spaghetti sauce for $10, don't feel compelled to buy all ten: the price often holds if you buy only five. Save even more money on sale items by throwing in a coupon.
Beware of shrinkage! According to a Consumer Reports study, many food producers are shrinking container sizes but leaving prices the same (for instance, a "half gallon" of ice cream may be only one and a half quarts). "You have to compare the price per ounce," says Susie Lancaster of Meridian, Idaho. "For example, once I noticed that a five-pound bag of flour was less expensive per ounce than a twenty-five-pound bag! And the five-pound bag was so much more convenient."
Step 5: Cook smart.
The number one tip from our grocery-saving moms was to cook double or triple the recipe, and freeze what your family doesn't eat. Stocking the Frigidaire saves money because you're less likely to shop impulsively -- or spend $30 on takeout -- if you can defrost a meal.
Step 6: Shop outside the box.
These days, there are a number of money-saving alternatives to regular grocery stores. See what works for you and your budget.
- A rapidly growing number of local farms can supply you with fruits and vegetables (which are often organic) at a modest price compared to your supermarket. Learn more about community-supported agriculture (CSA) at Localharvest.org/csa.
- "Find 'pick your own' farms in your area," says Rachelle Kobilarov of Irmo, South Carolina. "Paying only a dollar a pound for the fruit, and enjoying wandering through the fields, provides both food and entertainment!" Locate a farm near you at Pickyourown.org.
- Try ethnic markets. "I shop at a Mexican grocery store because the meats are cheaper," says Rocio Luper of San Antonio. And Asian stores often have the best prices on Asian cooking staples such as fish.
- Finally, think carefully about buying in bulk. Limit purchases at warehouse clubs to items that are nonperishable, and pay attention to prices; sometimes you can get a better deal at a supermarket sale.