If you’ve noticed your grocery bill creeping a bit higher lately, you’re not alone. The rising price of gas means that many other products are being marked up a bit, too, in order to cover transportation costs. Which, sure, makes sense—but doesn’t make it any less painful for your pocketbook.

So we’ve pulled together some easy ways to help you stick to your grocery budget. Just a few simple steps and some shopping savvy, and you can trim that grocery bill back down in no time.

1. Timing is Everything

Plan your weekly shopping trip on Wednesdays, when new store coupons are usually released. Grocers should still honor last week's deals along with the new sales, so there are double the opportunities to save.

 

2. Go Paperless

Speaking of coupons—thanks to technology, you’re no longer required to pour through the Sunday circulars and show up with a binder full of clip-outs to get good deals. Try downloading the Coupon Sherpa mobile app, which offers mobile coupons to many different retailers. You can use the app to save coupons directly to your supermarket loyalty card—and then save just by swiping the card at the counter. Also check out sites like GiftCardGranny that offer grocery gift cards to popular drugstores, supermarkets, and warehouse stores like Costco for immediate savings of up to 15%.

3. Shop Drugstores

Next time you visit your local drugstore, see if they sell fresh food like eggs and milk. It seems counterintuitive, but these retailers often offer them for up to 20% less than supermarkets. You can also pick up name-brand cereal at drugstores, often at a larger discount than grocers.

4. Consider Store Brands

If you’ve been buying the same brand for years just because, consider trying the store-brand alternative, which is typically offered at up to 30% less than name brands (check out this guide from Consumer Reports). The store-brand product may taste just as good, and you’ll only know for sure if you try.

5. Look Closely

Don’t trust just the sticker price to get you the best deal—look closely and compare the price-per-unit cost of similar products to determine what’s really the best price. The same logic applies to multiple-item sales, i.e. “buy three, get one free”—sounds like a deal, but a competitor brand could still be cheaper without a discount.

6. Beware of the Bakery

That devil’s food cake may look irresistible, but beware: Pre-baked goods are marked up 100-300%. If you’re hankering for a sweet confection, buy the basic ingredients and bake it yourself. You can also find deals on bread at the end of the day—ask your bakery manager to determine the best time to score these savings.

7. DIY for Savings

Same goes for dinner. Prepared foods may be convenient, but buying basic ingredients and making them yourself can save you up to 40%. If time is an issue, spend one hour each week chopping up fruits and vegetables, so you’ll have them ready to go when you need them. Or, on Sunday, cook a large meal like pasta or beer-can chicken, and use leftovers for lunch and dinner during the week. Gojee.com is a great resource for recipes, and even tailors its offerings around what you already have in your pantry.

Tell us! What are your favorite tips for budget shopping? 

For more in this series, check out: Personal Finance Week

Photo courtesy of David Prasad.