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Groceries can get expensive.  Statistics Canada shows that the average household spends around $8,000 per year on food alone.  Saving just 25% adds up to $2,000 per year, enough to go on a nice vacation or to pay off a credit card bill.  But how do you cut costs on something that is such a necessity?  Here are five easy ways to save:

Use What You’ve Got:  Think about how much food you throw away on a regular basis because it has expired.  It’s the same as throwing money right in the trash can.  To keep this from happening, make sure you use what you have in your pantry and fridge before you go grocery shopping.  Check the expiration dates and eat what will go bad first.  Also, take stock of what you have on hand.  Use this inventory list when making your shopping list so you don’t buy double.

Don’t Go Hungry:  You’ve probably heard this a lot, but it really is sound advice.  Shopping for food when your stomach is growling is a guaranteed path to impulse purchases.  You’ll spend more money (and possibly more calories) on quick snack foods that will satisfy your cravings.

Coupon Wisely:  Many stores give you the option to download your coupons onto a loyalty card, and you can print them off at home as well.  While this saves time clipping them out of newspaper flyers, remember that a coupon will not always save you money.  The store brand of an item may still be cheaper than a brand name item with a coupon.  Also, buying an item that you wouldn’t normally get anyway will only cost you more.  If you can, wait until the item goes on sale so you get the savings of both the sale and the coupon.

Check the Unit Price:  It doesn’t always pay to buy items in bulk or even the ones on sale.  Check the unit price to make sure you’re getting the best deal.  Some stores actually have the unit price right on the labels, but carry a calculator with you (odds are there is probably one on your phone) to make the math easy.

Visit Your Farmer’s Market:  Produce can be costly at the grocery store, but you can save a bundle at the farmer’s market.  Local growers have lower overhead costs, plus the food doesn’t have to travel long distances.  Many farmer’s markets are also expanding to include local meats, giving you yet another opportunity to save money and eat healthy.

It makes sense to save money on groceries since it’s such a regular expense.  All it takes is some careful planning and some close observation of just how much each item really costs. For more inspiration, just think about what you can do with all that extra cash that you aren’t wasting on overpriced food or items that have expired.

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