When you're pushing the cart

Even in tough economic times you can find deals at the grocery store. With these tips and tricks, you'll be a super saver when you hit the supermarket:

  • Consult your list and coupons. Don't let your prep work go to waste. Be sure to take your grocery list and coupons with you to the store. Then stick to your list.
  • Look beyond the big brands. Store brands are 25 percent cheaper on average than are comparable brand-name products. And in many cases, you won't be able to taste any difference.
  • Be smart about organics. Organic often means expensive. So opt only for organic produce that tends to harbor pesticides when grown traditionally, such as celery, peaches and strawberries.
  • Can it or bag it. If fresh produce threatens to bust your budget, try canned or frozen alternatives. And when you find a sale, stock up. Also check out bagged produce, such as potatoes, which are generally cheaper per pound than are their loose counterparts.
  • Steer clear of junk food. Empty calories from chips and sweets are no bargain. Use your food dollars to buy nutrient-rich food to fuel your body.
  • Pop over to the bakery. Store-made goods are often cheaper — and fresher — than are commercial brands. You can also save by buying day-old bread. If you can't use the whole loaf, put half in the freezer for later.
  • Look high and low. Retailers typically put items they want you to buy on the premium eye-level shelf, but you can find less expensive items on the shelves above and below. In addition, some grocers sell the same product at different prices in different parts of the stores. For example, you may find that a cheese featured at the deli counter is available pre-sliced in the refrigerated case for less.
  • Check the tab. Don't leave the store until you review your receipt. Six percent of shoppers report being overcharged at the supermarket checkout.
  • Think seasonal. Check farmers markets for fresh, local produce. By buying in season, you get food at its peak and sometimes save money. Consider canning or freezing items for off-season use.

Long-term savings

Following these tips can help you save on food bills while still eating a healthy diet. But did you know that eating healthfully can also help you avoid expensive medical care later? A healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet — which is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and also limits red meat and emphasizes "good" fats — can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. It's hard to find a bigger bang for your buck than that.

Aug. 13, 2011 See more In-depth