grocery bagsWith grocery bills expected to rise 2%-3% this year -- due to an overall spike in commodity costs, from wheat to soybean to corn to oil -- there's never been a more important time to save.

Here's how:

Avoid impulse buys
Did you know that half of all shoppers go the grocery store three or four times a week and that more than half of all supermarket purchases are unplanned? It adds up: shoppers making a "quick trip" to a store usually purchase 54% more than they planned, according to a study published by the Marketing Science Institute.

The easy solution is to cut back on the number of times you go to the grocery store. If you go three times a week and spend $10 on impulse buys each trip, that adds up to $120 extra per month. But if you go only once a week, you'll spend $40 per month on impulse buys. That saves you $80 per month, or $960 per year. Simple as that.Trade Down
More consumers are trying private labels, and even making them their brands of choice. You should, too. After all, they've come a long way, and the savings are significant. In fact, Tod Marks, senior projects editor for Consumer Reports says that for a family that spends $100 a week on groceries, the savings could add up to more than $1,500 a year. Besides, who doesn't like Costco's Kirkland Signature Handcrafted Lagers and Ales?

Cook From Scratch
No more pricey prepared foods! Have your weekly menus laid out in advance so that you're as precise as possible when stocking the pantry (no wasting!) and make double/triple batches (freezing the rest). Sites like 5dollardinners.com make it both easy and fun.

Join Loyalty Programs
Women have been in this game for a while, and now men are getting in on the fun, too. Everyone enjoys seeing how much they have saved -- day of; the year's total -- because it makes us feel empowered, according to The 2010 American Pantry Study.

Become an Extreme Couponer
Never mind clipping every now and then. Up the ante -- and boost your savings! -- by combining store coupons with manufacturer coupons. And go electronic: register your store card at Cellfire and load it up; coupon amounts will be deducted from your total grocery bill.

Get the App
While there are numerous apps to help you save money at the grocery store, one of the best is Grocery IQ. In fact, USA Today hails it as "one of the top five iPad aps of all time." It can locate free coupons while you're roaming the aisles, and then help you apply them to your grocery bill at checkout.

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