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By Stacey Wells, Freelance Writer

5 money-saving grocery tips that will slash your bill immediately

There are lots of ways to save money when it comes to groceries and cooking, yet some ways are far easier to carry out than others.

We all know about the coupon craze and how much money some people can save doing that on a regular basis, but let's face it, not everyone has that kind of time. I am speaking from experience because, being the super-frugal girl that I am, I've tried it.

I spent at least a couple of weeks trimming and printing coupons, I got the binder and the card holders and sorted everything out into perfect categories that I could find with ease, and I spent almost two hours actually browsing the grocery store isles comparing sales ads against my horde of coupons.

After all that work, I still didn't save the hundreds of dollars I'd heard about other people saving. It did pay off, but by the hour, I wasn't sure I was getting ahead. So I came up with some other ways to save, and I am going to share them with you here.

  1. Stop buying "boneless, skinless" anything. Really. All you are doing is paying someone else to do what you can easily do yourself, at home, in your own kitchen. And believe me, it takes way less time to do that than it does to clip those coupons! It might seem like a lot of work, but I dare you to try it one time and see how long it takes. Not sure how to do it? There are literally tons of video tutorials that will take you through the process, step by step. Plus, there's an added bonus to deboning and skinning your own meats. You will be able to make your own homemade broth, which is ten times cheaper and ten times healthier than anything you buy off the shelf. I have even used chicken skin and bones to make chicken and dumplings or chicken soup.
  2. Pay attention to "per pound" meat prices. I can't stress this point enough. Before I learned all the frugal secrets I now utilize, I would often look at how many pieces of meat were in a package to determine whether or not it was a deal. Unfortunately, I began to realize, once I got it home and opened it up to cook it, that they were usually very thin, meaning I had to cook more to have enough to feed everyone. Sometimes purchasing a ten-dollar pork loin that's on sale will give you more meat than a six-dollar pack of pork chops that has what looks like enough for a couple of meals. The ten-dollar loin, once cut up, may give you four to five meals, while the pack of chops might only feed the family once. As it turns out, Mom was right. I do use math more than I thought I would!
  3. Stop buying precut fruits and veggies. It's the same deal as the boneless, skinless tip. If you can do it yourself, don't pay someone else to do it for you. If nothing else, spend a few dollars on a nice food processor and, depending on how often you buy these fruits and veggies that are already cut up, you will have made your money back in just a few weeks' time when compared with what they're charging for that stuff. Here's another dare — I dare you to compare, ounce for ounce, the same fruit or vegetable whole as opposed to already cut or diced. Hang on to your cart handle, though, it will really surprise you! It really is all about convenience, and believe me, I get it. But when it comes to saving money, it's worth the extra effort. By simply trimming your own meat and cutting your own fruits and vegetables, you could easily be saving enough money for two to three extra meals that week.
  4. Save all your vegetable scraps. Once you start cutting your own vegetables, you will find that you have little end pieces here and there and you will most often just toss those bad boys right into the trash bin. But wait! You are actually throwing away stuff that you can use. Each end piece of an onion, celery, carrot or tomato can be used. Any vegetable at all. Instead of tossing them, gather them up and place them in a baggie or other freezer container. As you chop more vegetables, just keep adding to your stash until you have a couple of nice-sized bags. Once you do, you can add them to a pot of water to be boiled and made into vegetable broth. The uses for this are practically endless. Not only does it make an excellent stock base for soups and stews, but you can also use it to stir fry in place of oil. This is a great tip for anyone who has had heart problems and been told to cut back on the greasy foods. If you find you have an abundance of stock, once you've boiled it up, you can either freeze it in ice cube trays and then repack it into a baggie, or you can use the canner method and can the excess.
  5. Shop early. Depending on when your local grocer's department heads come in to work in the morning, you can usually get some killer deals between seven and nine a.m. For instance, at our local Kroger, the produce manager comes in about seven o'clock in the morning, and by nine, she has already marked down an abundance of produce that is going to pass its "freshest by" date. This doesn't mean that the produce is bad, just that they can no longer legally sell it at the regular rate. This means you can find a lot of produce marked down from 50-70% off. When I find steals like that, such as fruits and berries, I always buy extra and take it home and freeze it. There might be a bit of prep involved, but like I said before, it's worth it for the money you're saving. You'll find the same situation in the meat, dairy and bread departments. (Yes, you can even freeze bread!)

Even if you only utilize just these five tips for your own grocery shopping, I can promise you will see a difference in the first week. It may only be twenty dollars or so, depending on how much you are used to buying and how early you shop, but a penny saved truly is a penny earned and you will feel so accomplished.

Just give it a try! And let me know what you think!

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