If you limit your spending to meat, produce, and dairy, and skip strolling up and down the aisles filled with expensive packaged products, you'll spend less.
Research shows that the average American spends 30% of their monthly budget on food, so even a small savings can make a difference week after week.
Americans spend 30% of their monthly budget on food on average. here are some good ideas on how to carve out some savings at the grocery store.
Cut out the following seven items and you'll see your bill go down immediately:
1. Bagged salad. These bags can be a time-saver, but they can cost three times as much as an ordinary head of lettuce. And "salad kits" -- including some greens, a small bag of dressing, and a small bag of croutons -- are even more expensive.
2. Energy or protein bars. They're often stacked at the checkout counter for impulse buyers who grab them for a quick health fix. But they are often high in sugar and fat and about as wholesome as a candy bar. They're also two to three times more expensive.
3. Spice mixes. Things like grill seasoning and rib rubs might seem like a good buy because they contain spices that you would have to buy individually. But once again, it pays to read labels. Usually the first ingredient you see is salt, followed by a few herbs and spices. Look in your own pantry; you'll be surprised to discover just how many herbs you already have on hand.
4. Bottled water. This is a bad investment for many reasons. It's expensive compared to what's coming out of the tap, its cost to the environment is high, and it's often no better for your health than what's running down your drain.
5. Boxed rice entree or side-dish mixes. These consist basically of rice, salt, and spices, yet they're priced way beyond the ingredients sold individually. Yes, there are a few flavorings included, but again, you probably have them in your pantry. Buy a bag of brown rice, measure out what you need, add your own herbs and other seasonings, and voila! You've just saved some money, and prepared something that probably tastes better than what you were going to buy.
6. Pre-formed meat patties. These are handy, but they're more expensive than buying the ground meat in bulk and making patties yourself. You can even freeze them if you must.
7. Tomato-based pasta sauces. These may run $2 to $6 a jar, while the equivalent amount of canned tomatoes is often under $1. Try making your own sauces from canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes. Put the tomatoes into a skillet, stir in some wine or wine vinegar, your favorite herbs, and whatever chopped vegetables you like in your sauce -- garlic, peppers, onions, mushrooms, even carrots -- and let simmer for an hour. Easy!
While you change your own shopping habits, think about how changing consumer habits could affect your portfolio, too.