Saving Money at the Grocery Store

Watch the cheese! Cheese with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) stamp or label costs 20 to 50 percent more than similar cheeses without it. These cheeses are required by the European Union and specify where and how an item is made. For example, a 6-ounce wedge of PDO-stamped Parmigiano-Reggiano might cost $16.99 but similar cheeses produced outside this region of Italy may be sold under the generic name Parmesan - for a much lower price.

Invest in a water filter pitcher (about $30) instead of buying bottled water and pocket the savings.

How much are you paying for coffee? If your daily commute includes a $2 coffee, your habit is costing you $500 a year. Buying a pound of coffee every two weeks and brewing it at home could save you about $300 annually.

The bulk section is handy for buying small amounts of key items. Think candy for cake decorating, specialty flours and dried fruits.

Always do the math. Look for the unit cost of an item, typically found on the price tag attached to the shelf.

If you regularly shop at a certain grocery store, sign up for its discount card. It will allow you to take advantage of specific deals when using the card.

Do the math. Generic brands are not always cheaper than brand name items. Always check unit price.

You might assume that buying food from the salad bar is tossing your money away, but that's not always true. At a $5.99 per pound bar, you may find that chicken strips, feta cheese, nuts and fresh spinach are cheaper per pound than they are on store shelves. The salad bar is also helpful for when you need to pick up veggies in small amounts.

Grocery stores are designed to get you to buy more. A savvy shopper understands the concept of sensory overload. Sugar-laden cereals and snacks that appeal to small children are typically placed on lower shelves - to appeal to the children with whom you are shopping. And some companies pay a premium price to get their products displayed at your eye level, too.

End caps are the shelves at the end of aisles used to display popular sale items. The prices on end cap products, however, are not always be the best. It's often worth a trip down the aisle to scout for cheaper selections.