Groceries rack up a big part of your salary. In a lot of cases, food is the third highest expense in every household, following mortgage and utilities. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a family of four spends an average of $930 in food alone. Then you have to add other monthly needs you have to buy in the groceries—toiletries, laundry items and other household items—then your grocery bill will go up to over $1,000.

But there are practical ways to lower down your monthly grocery expenditures. Here are some of them:

Make a list

Don’t ever go to the groceries without a piece of paper with an itemized list of what you need. The easiest way to overspend in the groceries is by going unprepared. You see buy-one-take-one milk and buy the promo because it’s cheap without realizing you still have a gallon from your last grocery trip. So when you are planning to go on a grocery run, take the time to make an inventory of what you have at home.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, about 25 percent of food Americans buy from the groceries are thrown out. The reason for this is because the food had been spoiled or had expired because they were not timely used. So when you do the inventory, include what items you still have in your pantry or fridge which you bought from your last grocery run. Create a menu around those things so you will not waste them. When at the groceries, make sure you buy items that would expire later in the year.

Tip: There are also hacks you can do in order to ensure that food last longer, therefore, you will not waste your money on them. For example, you can wrap the part holding a group of bananas together with plastic. This will make the fruit last three to five days longer than usual.

Skip the middle aisles

There is a strategy in how items are displayed in the groceries. Notice that the most essential everyday items are situated on opposite ends. This is so customers are forced to go from one end to the other. As a result, you have to pass through the middle aisles. More often than not, you will be inclined to get something (or a lot of things) from the middle aisles, not because you need it but mostly because you want it. So unless you the list tells you to go to a certain aisle in the middle of the groceries, skip it!

Use coupons

Coupons, when you look at them individually, don’t seem to matter that much. A 10 percent off on a $3.97 detergent may not sound that much. But most coupons allow you to buy in bulk and pay next to nothing. Some could also be used with current grocery promos, which would mean double the savings. And if you use a coupon for most of your items in the cart, you could shave off 10 percent from a bill of $100—that’s already a price for a home-cooked meal for a family of four.

When you have the time, check out newspapers and magazines at home or in your office. Cut out coupons you know you can use. There are also coupons available for download online. Here are some websites were you may download coupons: Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and Redplum.com. You may also visit the website of a particular brand and see if they have coupons available for download.

Limit grocery runs

The less you shop, the less you spend. That sounds logical, right? This is why you have to plan your grocery shopping. Go once a week as maximum. If you can do it every other week, that’s even better. You don’t only save on your grocery expenses, you save on gas, too.

Compare prices

When you’re at the groceries, don’t rush it. Take your time comparing prices. Forget brand names. But don’t just trust the cheapest price either because sometimes, there are reasons why one brand is cheaper than the other. It might help if you test the product by buying just one item and trying it at home. If the cheap brand suits your taste, then go for it. Sometimes, prices are higher with popular brands because they spend more on marketing.

Also, check the weight. Then calculate the price per weight. A can of soup from Brand A may be cheaper with that of Brand B. But perhaps you didn’t take into account that Brand A is also lighter than Brand B. So take weight into consideration.

Tip: Look at the top and bottom shelves. The items that are within your eye level tend to be the priciest. See, these grocery owners have years of wisdom on them. Shoppers who are in a rush usually just get what they first see on the shelf.

Be loyal

Generally, in life, if you are loyal, you will be rewarded. Say in the office, if you’ve been in the company for 10 years, you get some reward for your loyalty in service. The same goes with grocery shopping. Be loyal to one grocery store. Choose a larger chain because they are known to have cheaper goods. Either that or chose the closest store from your house so you don’t have to spend a lot on gas. Subscribe in loyalty promos or reward cards. More often, the chain would give you points based on the amount you spend per grocery run. These points could then be converted to dollars. Wait for your points to grow before you spend it so that you can actually feel like you’ve saved a lot.

Shop alone

More shoppers mean more heads buying on impulse and more hands getting unnecessary items to the cart. The one directly involved with stocking the house and making meals should be the one doing the grocery run.

Buying the groceries is an important part of life. And because it is important, we have to spend some time on it—strategizing, planning and being practical. Groceries are important but we can’t put most of our money on it because there are other things we need to think about: mortgage, utilities, fuel, education and other stuff that are just as important. There is a lot of leeway to save in grocery shopping, you just have to be more practical; and buy smarter.

Author's Bio: 

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James Harnsberger is a finance and tax expert who can help you build more wealth. Visit his website at http://wealthandtaxgurunow.com for articles and expert coaching program.