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12 Ways to Save Money on Food Shopping

How to eat cheap -- but healthfully -- despite rising grocery costs.
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3. Buy Produce in Season

Check the food section in your newspaper to find the best buys for the week based on fresh produce in season. Food in season is usually priced to sell. During the summer months, corn on the cob can cost as little as 10 cents an ear; at other times of the year, it may cost 10 times as much. Also, shop your local farmers' market for great deals on local produce; the prices won't include shipping costs.

4. Use Sales and Coupons

Planning meals around what's on sale can lower your grocery bills, especially if you also use coupons. Just make sure they're for items you would buy anyway. Sunday newspapers are full of coupons and sales circulars to get you started. It's also a good idea to stock up on staples when they're on sale. "Buy one, get one free" is basically a technique to get you to buy twice as much as you need at half the price. At some markets, though, the product rings up half-price -- so you don't have to buy more than one to get the savings. Use your freezer to store sale items that can be used at a later date.

5. Brown-Bag It

Making lunch and taking it with you is a great money-saver and an excellent use of leftovers for meals at work, school, or wherever your destination. "Packing your lunch not only saves you money, but you can control all the ingredients so they are healthy and low in calories," says Diekman, who is nutrition director at Washington University. Pack a simple sandwich, salad, soup, wrap, or a hearty snack of cheese. Use freezer packs and containers to keep food at the proper temperature unless you have access to a refrigerator.

6. Think Frozen, Canned, or Dried

Next time you're gathering ingredients for a recipe, try using frozen, canned, or dried foods. They may be less expensive than fresh, yet they are equally nutritious. Produce is typically frozen, canned, or dried at the peak of ripeness when nutrients are plentiful. Fish and poultry are often flash-frozen to minimize freezer damage and retain freshness. With frozen foods, you can use only the amount you need, reseal the package, and return it to the freezer. If it's properly stored, there's no waste. Canned foods are often sitting in a bath of juice, syrup, or salty water and usually require rinsing. Dried fruits are concentrated in flavor and a great substitute for fresh fruit. Also consider using powdered or evaporated versions of milk in soups, casseroles, mashed potatoes, or desserts. Buy the form that gives you the best price for your needs. 

7. Save on Protein Foods

When possible, substitute inexpensive vegetarian sources such as beans, eggs, tofu, and legumes for more expensive meat, fish, or poultry. Eat vegetarian once a week or more to increase your consumption of healthy plant foods while saving money. Eggs are an excellent, inexpensive source of protein that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You could also try using a smaller portion of meat, fish, or poultry and extending the dish with whole grains, beans, eggs, or vegetables.

When you do buy meat, choose smaller portions of lean cuts. For example, lean cuts of beef are those that include the terms "loin" or "round." (You can tenderize lean cuts of meat mechanically or by marinating them.) You can also buy a whole chicken and cut it up instead of paying the butcher to do it for you or buy the cheaper "family pack" and portion it into airtight freezer bags.

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