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Slash Your Food Bill

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exclusively for readers of AARP The Magazine Online

Clear some storage space Stockpiling items when they go on sale can multiply your savings by however many you buy—but those dozen boxes of 25-cent pasta are only a bargain if you can eat them all before the bugs set in, notes Shel Horowitz, author of The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook. So check your pantry to get a sense of how much of something you have on hand, and clean out your fridge and cupboards to make room for bargains before you buy.

Choose the ideal day Hitting the market on the right day of the week is key to snagging the best sales, so don’t toss the grocery store sales circulars you find in your mailbox and newspaper. Typically, flyers that arrive in your Tuesday mail run their sales on a Wednesday to Tuesday schedule. However, you might find a coupon in the Sunday paper that would make a sale item look even better. “If your sales week is Wednesday through Tuesday, you’ll want to shop Sunday through Tuesday, so that you have all of the coupons available to you for that sales week,” says Gault. If you’re shopping the night before a sale expires, take the circular with you: the sale tags might already have been moved in anticipation of the next day's sales.

Eat before you go It’s human nature to buy more food when you’re hungry, and supermarkets can use some sneaky strategies—like parking mouthwatering items just inside the entrance or at the checkout line. To avoid blowing your budget (and your diet) on food you just don’t need, shop just after breakfast or dinner, suggests Steinback. And if you can’t sync your shopping with mealtime, at least have a filling snack before you head into the store.

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