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If it seems to you that groceries cost more these days, it is not your imagination. Nearly every category of food has become more expensive since February, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, with beef seeing the steepest price spike (20.2 percent), followed by eggs (10.4 percent), poultry (8.6 percent) and pork (8.5 percent).

While there’s not much consumers can do to improve the supply chain or limit price hikes, there are many things you can do to help stretch your grocery dollars.

  1. Make specials work for you – Build meals around the store’s weekly sale circulars, starting with the proteins. Look for sales on beef roasts, pork shoulders or whole chickens that can provide multiple meals. Choose seasonal produce and buy only featured sale shelf items.
  2. Redefine dinner – You can save big by realizing that dinner doesn’t have to be traditional. Try breakfast for dinner, or fill up and save money by thinking quiche and salad or soup and sandwiches—even cleverly stuffed baked potatoes.  
  3. Shop smarter – Keep your spend under control while shopping by sticking to a shopping list and keeping a running tab on what goes into your grocery cart. Leave the kids or other over-spenders at home.
  4. Skip eye-level items – That’s where the more expensive attention getters reside. Look up or down for less expensive and typically comparable counterparts are shelved. Buy generic when possible.
  5. Don’t buy anything pre-cut – Cut-up fruit platters, bagged salads and meats pre-packaged with veggies look tempting, but are rarely worth the price tag. You will save big by doing it yourself.
  6. Shop dairy, not deli – Most of the meats and cheeses sold at premium prices in the deli can be found pre-packaged in the dairy section at a much lower cost. 
  7. Use what you buy – Tossing unused food is throwing money away. Freeze whatever you can, even milk or half a loaf of bread, so they stay fresh until you need them. Make wilting veggies into soup. Use about-to-expire lunch meats in a salad. 

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