You’re paying a lot more for food these days. Here’s how to save money on groceries.

If you’ve noticed your grocery bill increasing in recent years, you're not alone. U.S. households are paying about 26% more for food at home than before the pandemic, exceeding the approximate 19% increase in total consumer prices over the same period. With food spending ranking as the third-largest expense for Americans after housing and transportation, it's essential to find ways to cut these costs. MarketWatch has gathered expert advice on how to save money on groceries, even when funds are tight.

Embrace Meal Planning and Detailed Shopping Lists

- **Start with Simple Meal Plans:** It's not necessary to plan every meal every day. Begin by planning one meal each day for the week, such as dinner.

- **Optimize Ingredients:** Simplify meal planning and streamline your shopping list by using the same ingredient in multiple ways, and consider eating the same meal on multiple days.

- **Take Inventory:** Before finalizing your shopping list, take stock of your fridge and pantry to avoid overbuying and account for items you already have.

 Shop Smartly at the Grocery Store

- **Price Comparison:** Look at a product’s price per ounce or unit to ensure you’re getting the best price and avoid getting swayed by packaging differences.

- **Avoid Marketing Ploys:** Don’t fall for flashy displays or endcap promotions, as they might not necessarily offer discounts.

- **Consider Store Brands:** Opt for generic or store-brand items, which are often cheaper and comparable to name-brand products.

- **Minimize Processed Foods:** Steering clear of the snack aisle and processed foods can contribute to significant cost savings.

 Minimize Food Waste and Use Leftovers

- **Reduce Food Waste:** Americans waste a significant amount of food annually, and minimizing food waste is essential for saving money.

- **Flavor Boosters:** Keep a well-stocked pantry with items like olive oil, soy sauce, and basic spices to enhance leftovers and wilting produce.

- **Use Frozen Produce:** Frozen fruits and vegetables offer a cost-effective alternative to fresh items and can be stored until needed.

- **Extend Expiration Dates:** Utilize food past the expiration date if there are no signs of spoilage, and seek ways to reinvent leftovers in soups, stir-fries, or pizzas.

 Additional Money-Saving Tips

- **Go Meatless:** Experiment with alternative protein sources like lentils, chickpeas, or tofu to reduce grocery expenses.

- **Check Sales Flyers:** Before grocery shopping, review weekly sales flyers online, and consider using apps like Flipp to compare offers from multiple stores.

- **Grow Your Own Herbs:** Cultivating your own herbs at home can be a cost-effective way to avoid buying more than needed and reduce food waste.

- **Consider Frozen Seafood:** Opt for frozen seafood over fresh options, especially if you don't live near the coast, to save on costs.

- **Embrace Bowl Meals:** Combine rice, eggs, and various vegetables for simple and cost-effective “bowl meals”.

By adopting these strategies, you can effectively reduce your grocery expenses and stretch your budget further.  

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