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19 Tricks Frugal Shoppers Use to Save Big on Groceries

Cut your grocery bill with these strategies for making food last longer, avoiding supermarket gimmicks, making the most of coupons, and more.

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Woman looking over her shopping listiStock / gpointstudio

Walk through aisles you don’t use

Every store has an aisle or two that has no temptations for you (pet food, paper goods, baby supplies, cosmetics, and so forth). Make that aisle your passageway to the departments you need at the back of the store. Why tempt yourself by using the candy aisle?

These are the supermarket tricks you probably still fall for.

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Whole chickeniStock / loooby

Buy chicken whole

Never buy chicken parts (breasts, wings) when you can buy the whole thing and make more meals from it, for pennies on the pound. Forget about fancy butchering: using strong kitchen shears, cut the chicken up the breastbone, up the backbone, and then cut those halves in half again. Cut off wings and legs, and you have the kind of pieces that you’d pay big bucks for.

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Coffee beansiStock / Floortje

Cut the cost of gourmet coffee

Even coffee made at home can be pricey, if you have expensive taste in beans and roast. Mix pleasure with savings: Combine one part of your favorite gourmet coffee with one part of a much less expensive store brand.

These simple habit adjustments will help you save even more on groceries.

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Cottage cheeseiStock / YelenaYemchuk

Turn cottage cheese upside down

It will last twice as long than when stored right side up.

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Woman at farmer's marketiStock / RyanJLane

Shop farmers’ markets—late in the day

Sellers don’t want to bring unsold produce back home, so they often sell their inventory at reduced prices before the market closes. You may find sweet savings of up to 80 percent.

Don’t miss these secrets to getting great deals at the farmer’s market.

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Woman with water bottleiStock / pixdeluxe

Pass by bottled water

Instead, buy a reusable water bottle. Assuming a store-bought bottle costs $1, you’ll recoup your costs after only eight or nine uses of the reusable bottle.

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Woman In Grocery Aisle Of Supermarket With CouponsMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Read grocery ads before you shop

Grocery stores constantly have popular products on sale as a way to lure you into the store. And to get the word out, they advertise a lot—through mailings to your house, inserts in newspapers and local shopping guides, TV or radio commercials, and sometimes even online. They are worth studying each and every week. That’s because what is on sale changes on a weekly basis. Knowing that lettuce is on sale, you might map out menus that focus on that ingredient: a mixed salad one day, as a taco topping the next day, to wrap chicken for a low-carb dish the next.

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Fruit and vegetableiStock / arekmalang

Shop the perimeter of the store

Food essentials (produce, meats, dairy, and bread) are usually located around the store’s perimeter. Middle aisles have the more costly prepared and processed foods. The more you steer clear of the inner aisles, the healthier and cheaper your groceries will be. These are the foods you should never buy again.

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Woman reading product in grocery storeiStock / 97

Outsmart this “special” sale tactic

Here’s a well-kept secret: When a grocery store advertises a special—say, buy 10 containers of yogurt for $5—you don’t have to buy the number of items they’re advertising. In this case, you could buy one container for 50 cents. Unless the store specifically states otherwise, you should buy as few as you want.

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Potato chipsiStock / john shepherd

Do the math

One bag of chips is $1.49 and a seemingly same-size bag is $1.79. The cheaper one is the better deal, right? Not necessarily, if the higher-priced bag has a couple more ounces of chips. When comparing prices, always compare price per pound (or ounce or pint). It’s the only objective way to compare costs.

These are the unhealthiest things you can buy at the supermarket.

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Woman shopping at the supermarket and checking a long grocery receiptShutterstock / Stokkete

Study your grocery store’s selling patterns for sales

Grocery store sales often occur in patterns. For example, we know of a store that puts ice cream on a “buy one, get one free” sale on the third week of every month. On the first week, it’s only a dollar off. Learn the patterns and hold off buying these items until you know that they’ll be at their rock-bottom prices—then buy enough to last you until the great sale runs again.

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clipping abstract discount couponigor kisselev/Shutterstock

Splurge on extra newspapers

If your Sunday newspaper offers a high-value coupon for an item you buy often, it may be worth the cost to buy extra copies of the paper for extra coupons, or to ask neighbors if you can have the coupon inserts from their papers. This is particularly worthwhile if you know that an item you want is a “buy one, get one free” sale; you can then get four for the price of two and have ample supplies in your pantry.

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woman reseaching on computerFlamingo Images/Shutterstock

Go online to save

More and more websites are offering coupons you can print out. Before you go shopping, log on to the Internet and, in your favorite search engine, put in the name of a product on your shopping list, plus the word “coupon.” Just be careful—some sites want lots of personal information in exchange for access to coupons or discounts. Read the fine print and be sure it is a reputable website before surrendering personal info.

These are the secrets to getting deals with online coupons.

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Coupons background. All coupons for Canadian store, they are issued by manufacturers of consumer packaged goods Canada.Shutterstock / Icatnews

Layer, layer, layer

Use a manufacturer’s coupon with items already on sale at the grocery store. Some people call this “layering,” others call it “stacking”—but it’s really a simple way of saving. Say a $1.99 package of taco shells is on sale for $1.49. If you have a 50-cents-off coupon and the store doubles coupons, you’ll pay only 49 cents for it.

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Portrait of smiling young man buying food in supermarket watching cashier scanning prices at cash desk and paying for groceriesShutterstock / SeventyFour

Watch the register

You’ve probably seen those investigative shows that uncover just how many errors supermarket scanners make—the numbers are staggering. Knowing this, keep a watchful eye on the cashier’s display as the cashier scans each product. Make sure that discounts for sales and coupons are applied. Make sure that the clerk keys in the proper codes for perishables without price tags (so you’re not paying for exotic mushrooms when you’re buying green peppers). Then, be sure to keep your receipt. This is a good practice for a few reasons. If the item is on sale but doesn’t ring up with the sales price, you can bring the receipt back to the store for a refund. If you get home and one of your items is damaged or has a broken seal, you can easily return it.

These are the things rich people won’t tell you.

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sale, shopping, food, consumerism and people concept - woman with basket buying pomelo at grocery store; Shutterstock ID 558274159; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeSyda Productions/Shutterstock

Don’t fall for limits

Keep your money in your purse when you see signs like “Limit six per customer.” Stores know that customers will buy more of an item if they think there’s a shortage—and there generally isn’t.

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Family carrying groceries to cariStock / vgajic

Shop less often

Try to stretch out the time between grocery-shopping trips. Instead of going once a week, go once every two weeks. You’ll be forced to make your current food last longer and use up the food sitting patiently in the pantry and freezer.

These are the secrets for healthier grocery shopping.

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Happy young woman choosing meat from glass cabinet in grocery storeShutterstock / stockfour

Befriend your butcher

You know that tougher meats are less expensive than tender meats. But did you know that many butchers will run these cheaper cuts through the tenderizer if you ask? Your tough cut will turn into a tender bite at no cost.

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salt, best natural cleaning productsShutterstock / Nitr

Use kosher salt

Inexpensive kosher salt is not only tastier than regular table salt, it’s also more frugal. Each flake or crystal is far bigger than its table-salt cousin, which means that a single pinch will go a very long way. This saves you money in the long run.

Don’t miss these savings secrets from America’s favorite supermarket chains.

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Reader's Digest Quintessential Guide to Saving Money: The Best Advice, Straight to the Point! (RD Quintessential Guides)Amazon / Reader's Digest

Get More Smart Ways to Save!

The new book Reader’s Digest Quintessential Guide to Saving Money offers dozens of secrets tricks to cut household bills, find unexpected sales and freebies, make the most of your healthcare and more. Learn more and buy the book here.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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