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Savvy Shopping

Cut Your Grocery Bill Without Sacrificing Meals

Smart Shopping Tips Can Keep Your Wallet and Stomach Happy

Feeding a family isn't cheap these days, but if you're smart about what and how much you buy, where you buy it, and how you store and use it, you can see considerable savings while still eating well.

Here are seven ways to save on groceries while keeping your family well-fed.

1. Get Social

Follow the social media accounts of grocery stores, supermarkets, and other retailers where you purchase food. Many businesses are aggressively building their social communities.

In fact, says Nicole Piering, who runs social media and content promotions for retailers, “some special promos, coupons, and giveaways are offered solely to social communities on Facebook, Twitter, etc.," and you'll sometimes find savings that are greater than what's available from newspaper coupons or other traditional channels. “I've given away a year's worth of products to social media winners," she says.

2. Look for Manager's Specials

When items are close to their expiration dates, managers often slash prices in an effort to sell them quickly. Scope the supermarket for these markdowns of food that's still OK to consume and can, in many cases, be frozen for future use. You can even find top-tier brands at sale prices.

3. Pick Produce Wisely

Buy fresh produce when you can, but go for what's in season to ensure taste and savings, suggests food-marketing expert Phil Lempert. And don't ignore the freezer case. “Frozen fruits and vegetables are packed at the peak of freshness, nutrition, and season," says Lempert, who calls himself the "Supermarket Guru." And when fresh produce is in season, its frozen counterpart will often go on sale.

4. Don't Toss the Scraps

Use vegetable bits, tips of steaks, or crimped-off pie crust to create an entire new snack or meal. Blend veggies into pasta sauce to create a depth of flavor and added health benefits. (The kids will never know!) Use leftover meat to pack extra protein into stews and soups. Stale bread makes for yummy croutons or French toast. Crumbled pie crust and cookies can be sprinkled on yogurt, and over-ripe fruits can become a nutritious smoothie.

5. Rethink Protein

Hearty meals don't necessarily need to contain beef, chicken, or fish to be rich in protein. Try beans; they're filling, tasty, and chock-full of protein. Buy them canned or cook them yourself, and you'll find the variety and menu options to be never-ending. Lempert suggests opting for the supermarket brand to save even more – oftentimes up to 20 percent off name brands, he says. Mix them into salads, soups, casseroles, or with pasta. Puree leftovers to make dips and spreads.

6. Shop for Baked Goods in the Evening

Go to bagel stores or bakeries late in the day, when many will give you goods for free or at a discounted price. The breads, bagels, and other treats are perfectly fine and would otherwise go to waste. You'll save money and you'll have baked goods for breakfasts, sandwiches, and snacks. Just freeze 'em 'til you need 'em.

7. Dine From the Dollar Store

Look for deals beyond your local grocery store, says Lempert. “Dollar stores often have upscale items for savings," he says, everything from pastas and cereals, to canned goods, sandwich meats, and more. Some stores accept coupons as well, so the savings can be two-fold.

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