The cost of grocery shopping continues to climb. Prices are increasing across the board, affecting both staple items and impulse purchases. Individuals and families alike find their budgets stretched thin, yet their pantries and freezers are less stocked than before. It's a stressful time to make a grocery budget, and saving money is at the top of the list for everyone.

Fortunately, even in times of recession, when money doesn't seem to stretch as far as it used to, there are things you can do to cut back on the grocery bill. Sometimes, it takes a bit of meal planning and sitting down with the numbers and grocery store ads. This article aims to help you make the most of your next grocery trip so you can leave with everything you need and a bit of money in the bank.

Make a List

Many people are already very familiar with making a grocery list, but if you're the type of person who roams the aisles and grabs things that appeal to you - it's time to get more purposeful with what you buy.

Sit down and lay out what you're going to eat and what household items you need between each grocery shopping trip. You can use the old standby of pen and paper or get a little more tech-savvy.

There is a multitude of other apps that do the same thing, including apps that the whole household can share and access (like OurGroceries). They're the perfect way to let other people add necessary items as they think of them or ensure everyone is looking for the right things when they go shopping.

Regardless of how you keep track of your list, the most important thing to remember is that you must stick to it.

Meal Planning

If you're not used to planning each meal, start small. Plan one meal per day for a week and add all those ingredients. The next week, plan two meals per day and do the same thing. You'll quickly be planning a week's worth of meals and not wasting money on things you won't use.

Meal planning is particularly useful if you're short on time as well as money. You can set aside one day each week to prep all of your planned meals and store them for the week. Spend a Sunday (or whatever day works for you) cooking up batches of the food you've shopped for. Freeze it or store it as necessary. You'll have it readily accessible for the whole week, and you don't have to worry about any of the usual food waste.

This type of planning can be combined with other tips on this list, like list-making, tracking sales, and clipping coupons. For the best results, use several practices at once!

Track Sales

Most grocery stores run weekly (or even daily) sales. These are some of the best ways to save money on groceries, as they give you discounted prices on things you might already be looking for.

Typically, you can find sale items listed on fliers and ads in-store or online. Grocery apps are a great way to track upcoming sales. Set aside some time each week to check those sales out. If you notice that one store has ground beef coming up at a low price, you can do some meal planning that incorporates it. Likewise, if you had an idea for pork roast but nobody has a good deal, you can set aside that recipe for a later date.

Keep in mind that not every sale is worthwhile. Sometimes, comparing prices will show that the item is still cheaper elsewhere or less expensive if you buy a different brand. Don't be drawn in entirely by the ad or sign unless you have to purchase that specific item or brand anyway.

Join a Loyalty Program

Most grocery stores have loyalty programs you can join. Most are easy and free to sign up for (though some might have a fee). They're typically accessed with a physical card, through an app, or online, so you can use them regardless of your shopping preferences.

Loyalty programs offer things like lower grocery prices, extra coupons, special discounts, grocery delivery services, and even points toward other purchases (like gas visits). They essentially reward you for shopping at a particular store.

You can join more than one loyalty program at a time, too. If you have multiple grocery stores in your area with programs, sign up for all of them to maximize your benefits!

Clip Coupons

Coupons are some of the best ways to save on the items on your grocery shopping list. You can do it the old-fashioned way and sit down with paper ads and coupon books or even use digital coupons found on brand websites and grocery store apps. Some people are so efficient with coupons that the store ends up owing them money!

But you don't have to be an extreme couponer to save. Check the available coupons, compare other brands, and use them to plan your meals. They often result in a mountain of savings that you can apply toward other purchases on your list. Clip digital coupons or paper ones and make the most of your food budget.

Shop Wholesale

If you have a warehouse club or warehouse stores in your area, such as Sam's Club or Costco, buying certain items in bulk saves a lot of money. The unit price for the items will be lower and you'll shop less often, cutting down on the chances of buying things you don't need.

Household items, like paper towels and cleaning products, are often much less expensive in wholesale clubs. If you have a large family and buy a lot of meat or perishable items like fruit, they can save a considerable amount of money in that area, too.

There is an annual membership fee for these places. A basic Costco membership is $60 per year, for instance, but the savings quickly pay for the membership cost for most families.

Buy Store Brands

Store brands and generic brands can be substantially cheaper than name brands. There's often little difference in quality between them, especially when you're purchasing things like frozen fruit or canned food. Even if you only buy a few items as the store brand, you'll be saving money!

Shop Local

Shopping at your local farmers' market for fresh produce and other items (like honey and bread) can be less expensive than at your local grocery store. This isn't a year-round solution in every area, as the markets likely only operate during summer and fall, but it's worth checking out!

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Don't let the cost of groceries stress you out. There are options to help lower your bill, cut back on food waste, and even take home some cash. Be deliberate in your choices, do some planning, and you'll be ready to take on the grocery aisles with confidence.

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