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How to eat cheap -- but healthfully -- despite rising grocery costs.

You’re paying more these days not only at the gas pump but also at the grocery store. Blame it on rising oil prices, disappointing crop yields, global warming, or the weak dollar. What it all means is that you need to find smart ways to save. These expert tips and strategies can help you slash your grocery costs without sacrificing nutrition.

1. Plan Ahead

Katherine Tallmadge, RD, says, "Take inventory of what you have on hand so you don’t overbuy. Create a detailed shopping list based on your needs and weekly menu plan, and take into account how you plan on using leftovers."

Have a light snack before you go shopping, and stick to your grocery list to help avoid impulse purchases or costly mistakes like falling for the displays at the end of the aisles.

Before you plan your weekly menu, check the ads to see what’s on sale and use coupons to take advantage of sales and money-saving coupons. You can even sign up online to receive coupons and email alerts from your favorite grocers.

2. Make Healthy Choices -- They’re Cheaper

Eating healthier foods can actually save you money, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The researchers found that when families went on weight loss diets, they not only lost weight but reduced their food budgets.

The savings came from reducing portion sizes and from buying fewer of the high-calorie foods that tend to increase the amount spent at the grocery store. People tend to spend a lot on those "extras" -- foods that add calories but little nutritional value, like sodas, bakery items, and chips.

You can get more for your money if you consider the nutritional value of food for the price. For example, sodas and flavored drinks deliver mostly empty calories and could easily be replaced with less expensive sparkling water with a splash of a 100% fruit juice like cranberry.

"When my clients start eating more healthfully, their grocery bills plummet," says Tallmadge, author of the book Diet Simple.

She recommends comparing food prices based on the number of servings you'll get, along with the food's nutritional contribution. For example, a pound of peaches yields three to four servings. So when you divide the cost per pound, the cost is usually quite reasonable.

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