By Susan Flynn
Food is the biggest regular expense for families, second only to rent or mortgage.
"It's the highest unfixed item in your budget," says Jonni McCoy, author of Miserly Moms and Miserly Meals and founder of www.MiserlyMoms.com. "This is where people can find hundreds of dollars in savings."
Frugal living experts say the secret to saving money at the supermarket lies not in clipping coupons, but rather in creating a weekly menu and a shopping list.
"It's just ridiculous how much you can save," says Steve Economides, author and founder of The HomeEconomiser Newsletter, with his wife, Annette. "Just a little bit of planning will limit your trips to the store, and the more you stay out of stores, the less you spend."
LaSonja Jubert used to head to the grocery store every day. She routinely found herself tossing expired food that her picky daughter wouldn't eat. By creating a list of what her daughter actually ate, and building her menu accordingly, Jubert now saves money and eliminates stress.
Laurie Gelsomini has another strategy, she deliberately shops the perimeter of the grocery store - where you typically find the healthiest foods. This way, she's not tempted to buy items that her family doesn't need. She uses coupons, but only for sale items. Coupons in the Sunday paper very often correspond with what's on sale, she says.
Gelsomini also looks over receipts and heads to customer service if she notices a mistake. "Many times, I have been right and they give you the full amount (of the item) back," she says.
McCoy's best advice: Plan the week's menu by what's listed on sale in supermarkets flyers. "That simple step will cut 30 percent off the cost of your groceries," she says.
- Cut back on juice, soda and bottled water. Instead, buy cool character sport water bottles for the kids and refill them at home, Andrews recommends.
- Shop dollar stores for household cleaners and paper products.
- Resist cut-up vegetables and bag salads. "If you have to slice it yourself, it's usually cheaper," says Kimberly Danger, founder of www.MommySavers.com.
- Pack school snacks into plastic bags yourself. Try to avoid the expensive prepackaged snacks.
- Buy generic. Gary Foreman, founder of The Dollar Stretcher newsletter and Web site, which is packed with ideas for "Living Better … for Less," says he knows of production plant workers who stop the assembly line midway to change labels from name brand to generic. Often it's the same product at a lower price.
Check out more money saving tips below...
The Frugal Philosophy