Eight strategies to cut the cost of your monthly food bill

Will Hamilton writes about smart money management, financial literacy, and lifestyle topics.

If you haven't taken the time to add up your monthly grocery expenses, give it a try. If you're like many American families, the sum total is probably going to come in right behind your mortgage payment or monthly rent as one of your most costly bills. Think about it - when you search for that mortgage or apartment rental, you do some serious comparison shopping to find the best possible rate. So, why not do the same for your groceries? Here are eight strategies for cutting the cost of your monthly food bill.

1. Research Competitors
Do you simply shop at Publix or Kroger just because you always have? Different grocers charge different amounts for the same items, so you may be able to get a better price from a competitor. If you have an Albertson's, ALDI, or Walmart Supercenter near you, give them a try. Discount grocery stores are a great option, too - just pay attention to the expiration date on anything you consider buying.

2. Become a Loyal Customer
Many grocers offer customer loyalty programs. Sign up in-store, or online if your grocer has a website, and you may be able to get instant discounts on food just by swiping your card. You can also typically build up rewards points which can be redeemed for future purchases.

3. Prudently Use Coupons
Coupons are a tried and true way to reduce your food bill. You can clip them from the Sunday paper or download apps to your mobile device to get them on the go. Try Favado or Grocery Pal to start. Just remember that grocers offer coupons to get you to purchase items you don't typically go for, so be sure you use yours judiciously - otherwise you're just spending extra money.

4. Buy Produce in Season
A lot of produce is seasonal, so adjust your purchasing habits accordingly. Apples and pears are typically better bets in fall and winter, and save your berry purchases for when it warms up. You can find out the best time of year to buy your favorite fruits and vegetables by researching the Internet.

5. Stock Up on Sale Items
Whenever pasta, rice, dried beans, or any other staple goes on sale at your preferred grocer, load up. Just make sure you consolidate your pantry beforehand so you know you can store the additional food effectively. The last thing you want is to have to throw something out because your storage area isn't organized.

6. Forget About Bottled Water
Bottled water may seem like a great idea, but in many cases it offers little to no advantage over tap water. Water straight from your sink is safe and healthy as long as you add a filter, which costs much less than bottled water over the long haul. Plus, you're being a lot kinder to the environment buy avoiding plastic bottles.

7. Shop Less Often
This one is simple - try to shop less often. If you get out of the habit of stopping by the grocery store several times per week, you can reduce your chances of spending unnecessarily. Commit to shopping once per week or less, create a list, and buy in bulk. Fewer trips to the grocery store usually means spending less money since you reduce the possibility of impulse buys.

8. Inventory Your Kitchen Before You Shop
The statistics may vary, but it's not an exaggeration to say that Americans throw out a lot of food. One of the biggest culprits is overbuying. Before any shopping trip, inventory your fridge and pantry for all perishables. Note what you have plenty of and make sure you don't buy it until you need it.

Once you institute some of these tips, you should see more money left over in your bank account every month. Tally up your savings by examining your receipts. Compare them to your prior grocery bills and then divert the difference to any trouble areas in your personal financial picture. Cutting your grocery bill is important, but so is using your hard-earned savings effectively.

What ways can you think of to reduce your monthly grocery bill?

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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