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Ways to Spend Less at the Grocery Store

Amber Sager

Not so long ago, extreme couponing started trending in the United States. People became obsessed with spending little to nothing on a stockpile of groceries. The idea of extreme couponing is attractive, but who has the time or space? For those of us who don't have the time to coupon, here are five tools you can use to save some cash at your favorite supermarket.

1. Make a list.

If you're like me, you have a habit of leaving the grocery store with way more than you need. It's so easy to throw extra items in the basket when you don't have a plan in place before you make that trip to the store. You end up with more food than you can eat, and some of it gets wasted. You might as well throw your money directly into the trash bin. This situation is where a list comes in handy.

A list has a positive impact on much more than your wallet. Of course, you'll spend less by sticking to what you need, but there are other benefits too. Taking a list to the store helps me buy healthier items. Writing down the items that I need requires having meal plans for the week. I don't know about you, but meal planning keeps me from throwing convenient, unhealthy items into my cart.

2. Use a junk mail account.

Couponing doesn't have to be a long, drawn out process. You can simply check the websites of your favorite products for coupons. It doesn't take much time, and a junk email account will help you keep everything in order without interrupting your personal or professional emails.

Check out the websites of your favorite grocery stores and food brands. If the site offers an email subscription, use your junk email address to receive daily or weekly emails about the latest deals and promotions. If there isn't an option for an email subscription, simply save their coupon page in your favorites, and check up on the sales right before you head out to the store.

3. Check out expiration stickers.

You can save a bundle buying items that are almost expired. Many stores use a "sell by" date on fresh products to help when moving their inventory. Most products are good a week after the sell by date. But, in many cases, those items are cheaper because they aren't the freshest available. Next time you're shopping for an upcoming dinner, ask the baker or butcher if they have any deals on products that are nearly expired. You'll save a few bucks and take food that would otherwise be thrown away.

4. Bring a calculator.

I know going to the grocery store is enough work as it is, but you'll save big bucks if you take the time to compare prices with a calculator. Some products are packaged to look like you're getting more for your money, but that isn't always the case. Do some simple math to figure out how much you're being charged per unit, and pick the option that costs less. (If you use your smartphone, no one will even know you're being a penny-pinching mathlete.)

That strategy also works for prepackaged fruits and veggies. Just because packaged lettuce looks more appealing doesn't mean it's cheaper. You'll often pay up to twice as much on pre-packaged fruits and veggies than if you buy them individually or by the pound. Whip out your handy dandy calculator and figure out if the convenience of pre-packaged foods is really worth the extra cash you're spending.

5. Use a small basket.

The smaller the basket, the less you'll put in it. This connection has actually been studied. The bigger the shopping cart, the more you'll spend. We don't think about the size of our cart when we're walking around the store, but we should. If a store has rather large shopping carts, you won't realize how much food you have until you get home.

If your favorite supermarket has different sized shopping carts, opt for the smaller one. It will help you buy only what you need and stick to that list.

I think the trick to the grocery shopping game is strategy. Plan out your meals, look for opportunities to save, do the math and be aware of how you're shopping. It might seem like a lot of work, but once you fit it into your schedule, you'll be saving money with minimal effort.

Amber Sager is the PR Girl for Offers.com. She prides herself on leading a fun, frugal lifestyle.

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