5 tips to stretch your grocery dollar

(NC) Food is one of the largest consumer spending segments, so being a savvy grocery shopper is key to managing your budget. In addition to finding a grocery store with fair pricing and good value for money, it's important for individuals and families to cultivate smart shopping habits in order to get the best bang for their buck.

To help stretch your grocery dollars, here are five tips from frugalista Amrita Singh, the creative mind behind the lifestyle blog Pretty Frugal Living.

1. Pay attention to the before and after. Although this might sound like a daunting task, create a simple meal plan before you go to the grocery store. You don't have to create it for the whole week; try doing this for just two days' worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. For the rest of the week you can rely on mixing and matching leftovers. For the after part of your grocery trip, make sure you take time to store your items properly so food stays fresh and usable for as long as possible.

2. Get Comfortable with basic math. Understanding unit pricing will help save you money. Calculate the cost for each item in a pack and then determine whether it makes sense to buy that one or if you would do better by choosing a smaller, larger or different brand.

3. Go easy on the frills. Make sure you have a plan and a list, and treat your grocery shopping like a job. Be budget savvy and be aware that stores that offer fancy displays, extravagant signage, entertainment and food sampling may charge more. Singh shops at No Frills because she knows she's only paying for the quality and fresh food but not the extras you find in other grocery stores.

4. Channel your inner Julia Child. The best way to stretch your grocery dollar is to learn how to master big batch recipes like lasagna, casseroles, chili and meatballs. The best big batch recipes are easy to assemble, easy to freeze and can be served in multiple ways.

5. Play to save. It really does pay to know how much stuff costs, especially items you buy on a regular basis. So drill average costs into your head. Pay attention to pricing, study the cost of things you use often, and arm yourself with wisdom. Also, be mindful of stores that offer a price match guarantee to save even more.

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