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9 tips to cut your food bill by up to 50 percent

Tired of your wallet taking a beating at the grocery store? Here are some creative ways to save big on food costs.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 24, 2014 12:39PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyFood is one of those variable expenses that can definitely hit your budget below the belt. I mean, have you seen the price of beef lately?

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spent about $4,000 on food in 2012.

The good news is that couponing, shopping sales and making a list aren't the only ways to save a substantial amount of money on your grocery bill.

1. Do your own slicing and dicing

Prepackaged products are convenient for the consumer, but they also come with a much higher price tag. Although it may be a tad bit time-consuming, buying whole food products, such as fruit from the produce section, whole chicken, block cheese and fresh vegetables, will save you a substantial amount of money.

In other words, put your hands to work and stop paying others for something you can do on your own.

2. Buy generic

What's the point of buying the high-end version of the product if the generic one is comparable in both quality and taste? That's exactly why you should give those generics a shot, and save between 20 and 50 percent on your grocery bill while doing so.

I was once a Froot Loop junkie until I discovered that the Walmart brand not only tastes better, but is half the price.

And with store brands, you can also rest assured that you're not wasting money, as most grocers offer a money-back guarantee on their products if you are not satisfied. So why not give it a shot? You may just be in for a treat.

3. Seek alternative sources

Be sure to check out alternatives to the major grocery chains to substantially reduce your grocery bill. And, no, I'm not referring only to warehouse clubs, such as Sam's Club and Costco, but local meat markets, fruit stands and salvage grocery stores. The latter stock dented cans, closeouts and items with torn packaging -- at rock-bottom prices.

Please note that dented cans have the potential to be hazardous to your health. Check out this document (.pdf file) to learn more.

Dad and daughter at grocery store. © Katrina Wittkamp, Lifesize, Getty Images4. Store food properly

Storing your food in the most effective manner possible will extend the food's shelf life and significantly reduce the number of trips you make to the grocery store each month. You can butter cheese to prevent mold, store perishables in smaller quantities in durable, air-tight containers, and freeze meats.

Also, take a look at this list of optimal storage times from

5. Shop strategically 

Just like everything else in life, saving big bucks on your grocery bill requires that some sort of strategy be implemented.

For instance, you should never go to the store hungry because you will be tempted to buy all sorts of junk food and other items that look good. Instead, fill up your food tank before heading out so you don't need to resist the urge to give in to your cravings.

If you're a member of a warehouse club, take advantage of the bulk offers on the items that you consume frequently. The Sam's Club in my neck of the woods offers a jumbo box of oatmeal for $8.99, which is what I used to spend for two small boxes each month. But thanks to what I like to call the "mega-pack," we are still eating away three months later.

6. Look forward to leftovers

There's nothing better than a good old-fashioned family feast that provides plenty of leftovers, enough to last for several days. In my home, after a holiday meal or other special occasion I know I'll be spared from cooking duties for a few days.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you cook a Thanksgiving feast for a family of four in an ordinary week, but it's not a bad idea to prepare a large enough meal to yield leftovers that can be consumed for lunch the following day.

7. Set boundaries

The ultimate goal here is saving, correct? That's why your needs must supersede your wants. Isn't it funny how we all of a sudden crave items that we hadn't thought of before we spot them in an aisle at the grocery store? You must not give in to your cravings, but be disciplined enough to stick to your grocery budget and list.

8. Check the bottom racks

Manufacturers pay for shelf space, and they sometimes cover the cost by passing it on to the consumer. When you're grocery shopping, take a moment to look at the lower shelves for the cheaper products that you may have been overlooking in the past.

9. Plan ahead

It's important to plan ahead if you want to cut your grocery bill in half. For instance, you won't spend money on items you already have in your home.

I'd also suggest creatively combining the food products already at your disposal and preparing meals with items that have been collecting dust on the shelf. In other words, be wise with what you already have, and don't let food go to waste.

Do you have any additional cost-cutting tips you'd like to share on reducing grocery bills?

More on Money Talks News:

Feb 24, 2014 10:34PM
Are you kidding me, our family rarely goes out to eat, maybe once every 3 months, I cook almost everyday or make a sandwich and we still spend $120-- $160 a week in groceries.  I make a list and stick to it, never put on my list what we don't need or use.  Has anybody out there noticed that everything is getting smaller?  No one mentions this on these articles.  In the last two years, we have been comparing the number of ounces, weight, etc of the products that we use and they have shrunk more in the last 2 years than they have in 10 years.  Not only that, but has anyone noticed the quality of the products?  They have gone way down.  Soap doesn't clean like it used to, almost every brand name product I have used for many years is not the same quality or quantity.  We are paying more for less and we are paying more for less quality.  Funny thing, wages are not rising as fast as the quality and quantity of products is rising.  No inflation, really, I thought inflation meant prices are higher for the basic things that we buy?  Is that not true?  Fuel, healthcare, food, are basic necessities, but I keep reading that things are okay?:  Our income since 2008 has not rise more than 5% and we worked harder but our  basic living expenses are going up triple that in  5 years.  Oh and by the way, the taxes, add-ons and extras to all of our basic utility bills, cell phone bills, etc has gone way up to pay for, what, people who don't pay and the government programs to help them.  When are the American peasants going to wake up?
Feb 24, 2014 4:05PM
Love this What about those of us that already do all of these things and have for years...Best tip is not in there STOP buying all the pre-made food that only need to be heated and ate. Learn how to cook from scratch America!
Feb 24, 2014 10:48PM
    We could also dumpster-dive behind the grocery stores every other day! Funny how these articles are always about helping us learn to make do with less. We should start eating Congress!!
Feb 24, 2014 1:24PM
Want to slash your grocery bill by 50%?  Eat 1/2 as much.  Problem solved.
Feb 24, 2014 4:00PM
don't buy "empty calorie" foods such as soda, chips, and other junk foods. In that way, you will be able to concentrate your food budget on fresh, rather than packaged foods.
Feb 24, 2014 1:51PM
All good ideas, but even worse case, you are not going to cut your spending in half.
Feb 24, 2014 8:46PM
People would not be strapped for cash to spend on food if Obama would leave the middle class alone.  He keeps saying he is trying to help that middle class but he exacts more taxes from us, he has devastated us with Obamacare and his economic policies are making inflation of our foods a reality.  This President is totally focused on politics.  He hands out billions to the wealthy (his friends, contributors, bundlers and the communist, nut-case nature-lovers), throws a few crumbs to the poor and takes as much as he can from the middle class.
Feb 24, 2014 2:29PM

I stopped shopping at a local grocery store because if they had a sale such as 2 for $5 where you can save $1 on 2, you had to buy 2. A differennt grocery store would have the same sale but I could buy 1 and still get the $0.50 savings. Sometimes I don't need 2 because the 2nd would spoil.

Feb 24, 2014 8:50PM
If you can help it, don't bring your kids to the store. You will spend a lot more if you start taking their requests.
Feb 24, 2014 10:59PM
Take cooking for leftovers to the next level.  Certain dishes like chili freeze well. You can double, even triple the recipe. You  might want to freeze some before you add the beans for that nights dinner. Freeze the rest.  When you come home and its late and you're tired, you can go to your freezer and heat up your own home cooked meal.  You can add a can of beans at that time. Other dishes also freeze well.  Also, leftovers can be made over into another dish.  Last nights leftover chicken can become tonight's chicken pie, chicken a la king, etc.  Then you don;t have to eat the same thing 2 nights in a row.  Leftover baked potatoes can be made into mashed potatoes another night.  Leftover vegetables can be made into a frittata for another meal.

I agree with Dover about learning to cook from scratch.  It is cheaper.  It is also a lot easier than many people realize.  While some dishes are labor and time intensive, you can make some  very tasty meals with quick, simple preparation.  These things all but eliminate the temptation to order out  make a microwave dinner on those nights that we are tired and come home late..

Feb 25, 2014 12:56AM
i usually go to aldi and walmart and walmart has a much better selection but aldi has much better prices. i got a box of single serving oatmeal at walmart and it was $2.49 for 8 ounces and at aldi it was $1.49 for 15.1 ounces and the boxes were the exact same size except at aldi you get almost twice as much for $1 less. at walmart it was $2.78 for a 5# bag of sugar and $1.29 for 4# at aldi.  if your getting basics like bread, butter, milk, eggs, sugar, flour, cereal, ketchup, mustard aldi is much cheaper and the quality is as good or better than any of the national name brands.
Feb 24, 2014 5:19PM
Soon we won't have money to buy any food since we'll be giving it all to the government. Problem solved.
Feb 24, 2014 7:00PM
Take a look around.  75% of USAmericans are obese or overweight.  EAT LESS.  Eating less food saves money.
Feb 24, 2014 10:01PM
Your going to need to learn how to make your money go twice as far because our government is going to continue to decrease it's value probably more than half in the not so distant future. They are just trying to condition you to the impending collapse of the dollar. It's getting bad and will no doubt get worse.
Feb 24, 2014 8:57PM
Stop eating out/ordering take out so much.  Home cooked meals are much cheaper, and vegan twice a week never hurt anyone!  
Feb 25, 2014 3:33AM

....jeezz, when are they going to get writers that live in the real world? Try being among the growing numbers of diabetics in this country, 11% and growing. Can't eat the cheap carbs anymore. Froot Loops? Hahahah I've forgotten what they taste like. My blood sugar climbs like crazy if I eat anything but meats and vegetables and even some of them are forbidden. Corn is one of the very worst things you can eat as a diabetic.


....I want some mashed potatos and gravy....

Feb 24, 2014 10:42PM
i challenged myself to eat on $5 a day on average thought it was not possible.....but no problem!
Feb 25, 2014 1:53AM

Big savings, home brewing! I started brewing my own beer, If you can wait the three months, well worth it! Also the grocery store I go to, has a machine that dispenses filtered water. for 30 cents a gallon, I supply the empty gallon jugs!  I watch people buy the bottled water that is right next to the machine for about a buck for a 12 ounce plastic bottle that they only throw away adding to the massive waste. Also you could buy a home filter system. I personally never thought that drinking tap water would turn out to be bad for you, and yet we keep hearing and watching news stories about pollutants turning up in our drinking water. Another money saver for electricity, don't stand in front of the fridge with the door open trying to decide what you want! Know beforehand, have space set aside on the counter for everything you need, then after use put the rest back at the same time, not as you go. Also a big water saver is to put a bowl or pot in the shower with you, after you're done you got water for the plants.

I live on disability, in a very nice one bedroom apartment, I don't have cable TV, or a TV for that matter, just a computer for my entertainment and office needs. I only turn on the heat when absolutely needed and I save over $200.00  month. All I have for bills are my rent, my internet, and electricity and food, no car. I added dental insurance, through assistance with the military. My health bills are taken care of by social security and the veterans Admin. I know not everyone has this opportunity, which took me along time to get. I am now in my 50's and have not had a job since 1998. Not my choice trust me! I would much rather have more disposable income, I've learned to cut a lot of corners. As far as me living off the sweat of others, I worked for 25 years in the public sector as well as serving our country so I'm getting back what I put in.

Feb 24, 2014 8:55PM
Also don't forget that if you have a window with sunlight you can grow your own veggies like tomatoes and having a chicken or two will give you a constant supply of eggs and or some inexpensive meat.
Feb 24, 2014 9:52PM
Another way would be to divorce your spouse..... Oh wait that might cost you more in the long run but it would cut your grocery bill and your taxes..... 
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