Recession Eating: How You Could Save $180 a Month in Groceries

By , SparkPeople Blogger
According to the U.S. Food Cost Average Report for October 2008, a family of four with two elementary age children can cut about $180 per month from their grocery bill simply by adopting some lower cost shopping habits.

Over the last few weeks we have looked at different ways to save money on food during a recession. We have learned that we can save money by planning ahead, cooking and eating at home, and moving away from soda.

Did you know that you can save money AND still include higher nutrient items in your diet? Here are some shopping strategies to help cut your budget while maintaining a nutrient rich pantry.

Knowing how to make smart choices when shopping will allow you to get nutrient rich foods at lower prices. Here are some specific strategies that are pretty easy to adopt for immediate savings.

Breads and Grains
  • Look for bargains at your local bakery for day old whole grain breads, buns and rolls. Be sure to store in the refrigerator for longest shelf life.
  • Many grocery stores have reduced sale on whole grain breads, buns and rolls that need to be moved from the shelves. Learn where your store generally puts reduced sale baked goods and check there first for what you need. Be sure to store in the refrigerator for longest shelf life.
  • Select regular grains like rice, oatmeal, oats or grits instead of the instant or flavored varieties.

  • Select large bags of frozen vegetables for those favorites that are out of season.
  • Many stores have reduced produce sections for ripe vegetables that need to be moved quickly. If you tend to use fresh vegetables frequently, be sure to check for very ripe vegetables reduced for quick sale.
  • Always select fresh vegetables that are in season. Use this Month-by-month guide to help you know which to include in your meal planning.
  • If canned vegetables are the best option, avoid buying low sodium varieties and simply rinse canned vegetables in a colander with cold water prior to use to remove excess sodium. Microwave in a very small amount of fresh water to retain the maximum amount of nutrients versus boiling in water on the stove which will leach nutrients into the water and be discarded.
  • Consider using the salad bar at your local grocer for food items that are needed in smaller portions for recipes such as lettuce for tacos or red cabbage, onions, carrots or peas for recipes. If that you will only use a small amount but must buy in larger amounts, it will likely lead to waste from non-use so are better bought at the salad bar then in bulk.

  • Always select fresh fruits that are in season. Use this Month-by-month guide to help you know which to include in your meal planning.
  • Many stores have reduced produce sections for ripe fruits that need to be moved quickly. If you tend to use fresh fruits frequently, be sure to check for very ripe fruits reduced for quick sale.
  • Select canned fruits that are not in season. To save the most, select fruits packed in syrup versus juice. Simply rinse the fruit completely in a colander using cold water for a few minutes and pat dry before use to remove unnecessary syrup.

  • Nonfat dry milk is the least expensive way to purchase milk. Consider mixing a half gallon of liquid milk with a half gallon of reconstituted nonfat dry milk for the same nutrition at a lower cost. This can also be a great technique if you are trying to switch from whole milk to low fat milk. If members of the family notice a taste difference try adding a few drops of baking vanilla to the gallon and stir.
  • Typically, larger containers of milk (gallons) provide the best price per ounce. However, be aware of specials that may be offered on half gallons. Just last week our store had a sale on half gallons of skim milk for $1.00 each whereas the gallon was still priced at $2.39.
  • Select 1% or Fat Free/Skim milk for family members over the age of two. (Note that children under 2 years of age should be given only whole milk.) Use the mixing tip above to move in that direction if your family uses whole milk for those over the age of 2.

Meat and Poultry
  • Be sure to look for and select meats on sale at the meat counter or local butcher.
  • Select chuck or bottom round roasts instead of sirloin. These cuts require moisture, time and to be sealed during cooking so the meat can tenderize.
  • Look at the price of ground turkey compared to ground beef. Many times the price will be slightly lower and ground turkey can easily be substituted in recipes to provide a lower fat meal as well as cost savings.
  • If you have the freezer space, select the “family size” package and divide at home into appropriate portion or meal sizes for your house and freeze. If you do not have the freezer space and don’t wish to eat the same meat every day for the rest of the week, see if a friend or co-worker will split the pack with you to still be able to take advantage of the savings.
  • Purchase a whole chicken or turkey and bone, skin and cut it into appropriate meal serving sizes yourself. Split with a neighbor or co-worker to share the work and for faster use if storage space is limited.

Dry Beans and Peas
  • These staples provide a cost effective and healthy option to meat, poultry and fish. Try including entrees using these staple items at least twice each week.
  • Soak dried beans (such as kidney beans for chili) in water overnight or during the day for faster cooking time in recipes. Buying dry and softening before use is more cost effective than purchasing canned many times.
  • When using canned beans or peas, be sure to rinse with cold water for several minutes in a colander before use.

Bulk Foods and Warehouse Shopping
  • Buying bulk foods can help you get the exact amount you need and reduce waste so be sure to check out store bulk options.
  • Warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club can provide great cost saving options if you have the storage space and will be able to use larger quantities. Consider working with a neighbor or co-worker to split larger packaged items if space or pace of use are concerns.

Learn from Others
  • Do you have any cost saving strategies that help you continue to select nutrient rich foods while saving money?
  • How much have you been able to cut from your food budget over the last few months?

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To get use to skin milk over the whole milk I first had to mix whole milk with the powdered. Eventually you can get use to powdered milk only doing this too if you needed to. We no longer use whole milk. 2% for coffee and almond milk for me. I like it better than milk. I think that I may have over the years gotten an allergy to milk products. With asthma it's not a good thing. Report
Great Info!! We are going through about a gallon of milk every couple of days so I think I am going to try the milk idea. We buy whole milk for my 1 year old, 1% for everyone else (4 people) - so I think we might be able to stretch our milk budget a little further by using dry milk and a little bit of vanilla. What a great idea. Report
Lots of good ideas , I'm looking forward to putting to use. Report
Thanks for the info! Report
Another way to save on milk is to buy ultra-pasteurized milk-- the shelf life is usually 2-3 weeks depending on the fat content (more fat = quicker spoilage) Report
I have a neighbor with a garden ,who's generousand I volanteer to help.Also you can barter with friends and neighbors to exchange jobs and and erands and make use of your hidden talents to save money. Report
Great info Report
I live in a small town where to food prices are 3 times higher than anywhere else. My biggest savings comes from spending $15 in gas to drive 90 miles away. I save over $300 in groceries every 2 weeks this way. I am down to $100 a week for 3 people. I don't use coupons because we don't eat the food on most coupons. I stock up when I can but I need to get a deep freezer. It was my biggest money saver back in the day. Report
When boneless & skinless chicken breast goes on sale here at 50% off I get as much as I can to store in our freezer in the garage. I use coupons and double our savings when the items are on sale. My son has been taught for special "treats" to look for sales and to compare prices from 1 brand to another. We are trying to teach him young good shopping habits. Since we are all trying to eat fresh fruits as healthy snacks or additions to meals I find shopping at SAMS Club to be our best bet until the farmer's market opens around here. I have finally got my husband to realize you don't need brand names for food to taste good. Report
Wow! There are some great tips here. I going to put them to use very soon.
Thanks Report
I am one of those shoppers who clips coupons and keeps an eye on the sales flyers. Whenever possible I try to match coupons with sale items (thereby reducing the bottom-line price even more). Because I basically shop the same store(s) every week, I am familiar with the prices and sales, and am usually able to organize my shopping purchases based on featured sales. Report
I menu plan and that has saved us a ton of money. One way I save is by planning at least 2 meatless meals a week. Also if you get the grocery store advertisements you can plan around that. Also when making a recipe I either use exactly the amount of meat that is stated or l cut the meat by (depending on recipes) as much as half as much. Be sure to look at the recipe portions and make the amount that yields one portion per family members. My husband and I will eat more if there is more - no good for our waist or our wallets since we don't like leftovers whatever is left get tossed. Report
Having always been a frugal shopper, I always check the sales papers every week. Unless something is an exceptional price, I always buy only what is on sale and stock up. Luckily I have the space in the kitchen and basement pantries. I also always buy large packages of meat when on sale and cut them myself for different meals.

Having a garden is also a plus for organic produce and fruit trees, which we never spray, give us lots of fruit(apples, peaches and pears). Makes for a lot of work, but so worth it. This year we put in more potatoes and had a bumper crop. They taste so much better than store-bought! And when we have too much, we always share with family, friends and neighbors.

I love the in season list and the tip that you save money when you buy in season. I never knew that! Plus there is the added benefit that if you try to buy from the in season list you will have a lot of variety over the year. Report
I buy my rice in bulk at an asian market. When there I also purchase dried mushrooms, canned water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. I also get tofu much cheaper 0.99-1.39 vs 2-2.50 at Walmart. I also purchase fresh produce, like eggplants, bean sprouts and bok choy...much cheaper there.
I buy meats in bulk....but, check the price of the container you are seperating the meat into. I discovered that I didn't really save any money on my discount family pack of meat once I had divided and packaged it in smaller portions. I use the ziploc bags that you can "vacuum" seal. Well the cost per bag ate up all my savings, so must rethink this one.
For months now, I have been purchasing whole milk and "doctoring it." My teenage son hasn't noticed the difference. I remove 6 cups of milk from the gallon and replace it with water. The 6 cups that I removed goes into the nearly empty gallon along with about 1 1/2 cups of water. This gives me almost one extra quart of milk per gallon. Report
Some of those stats are only true in the US. Ground turkey (or chicken) are always much more expensive than ground beef here in Canada, and more expensive if available at all in other places where I have lived.
And powdered milk is ONLY cheaper than fresh if bought in extremely large bulk quantities, enough that you have to worry about storage and keeping times.
That said, I agree with the other tips and have always followed them, whatever my income level at the time.
And I have NEVER bought chicken broth--I always simmer my chicken bones or carcass for "free" stock that is much tastier and lower in salt. Report
I have cook days where I cook several items at the same time. I'll cook different meats different ways and different vegetables. I'll load the oven including corn bread muffins and freeze everything in glad containers of various sizes. I make sure that each container includes enough to serve 4 people.
Example: I'll bake a complete box of 12 fresh turkey patties and separate them with 4 each in a container.
I'll bake 18 silion burgers and separate.
Chicken breast split into strips and bar-b-qued, bake, and prepared on top of the stove with onions and bell peppers and separate into containers.
Cook greens, cabbage, and other vegetable and separate into containers.
The freezer in the kitchen houses items that are cooked and the freezer in the garage houses other items.
Therefore on the days when I'm not feeling well the food is there. Lunch time I can reach into the freezer container, pull out one baked turkey patty, thaw it and cut it on top of my salad mix.
This saves on the electricity and it saves time. No one has an excuse to go out for fast food. Report
Isn't it amazing that a lot of these tips are the same as how people did it back in the old days: growing gardens, storing up for the winter (no, wait, that's a squirrel) just kidding. I am 41 and was raised by parents who were a generation older than my friends' parents. The suggestions with the dry milk, the gardens, the shopping for generics, the not buying juices and sodas, all of those, they did. I was NEVER overweight until I started eating out, eating packaged foods, and straying away from fresh fruit and vegetables. Got my head on straight now, and because of my upbringing, most of the good-for-you foods and practices just bring back fond memories (and a healthy and inexpensive way to eat). Report
Celery if wrapped in aluminum foil will last a lot longer than in plastic. I bought a lettuce bag at one of the home stores, it is kind of like a microfiber thing. I pulls extra moisture out of the lettuce and it lasts longer. I always buy family packs of meat and separate into smaller portions for the freezer. We live in Maine so when blueberry season comes around we buy lots of them and freeze them, they usually last until the next season! Report
Pick you're own produce - A LOT of it, then freeze enough for the year. Report
So much good information here. Thanks! Report
Some of the cost effective things we have done are:
1. Never buy prepackaged foods. Buy it without the packaging and do it yourself. Make Jello yourself, put in the Gladware, and it will not leak in the kids lunches. Buy a jar of applesauce, or make your own, put in gladware and go. Cookies in wrap or in a small Gladware.
2. Don't buy any drinks other than milk. Juice, and soda are more expensive and are both bad for your teeth. The dentist doesn't even recommend children having any juice at all for their teeth, and yet parents feel the need to get their children to drink it for their fruit portions. It is better for fibre and nutrients to eat it than drink it.
3. Whenever you can make it from scratch the cheaper.
4. Allow your family to have one box of cereal a week or one 2L of icecream or 1 or 2 bags of chips a week, and then when it is gone, they have to go to oatmeal, fresh fruit, homemade muffins etc. It will keep them conserving the good things instead of binging on everything at once.
5. Go back to the serving sizes, and allow only that much for meals. One of the problems with out-of-whack grocery bills, is out-of-whack diets. Instead of having 2 Oreos, we always feel like having 4 and then add one, thinking we're not going over TOO Bad. Report
ALDIS is the best store ever!!! I get all my fresh produce and canned items here, and they cost tons less then they do at other grocery stores. Report
I use beans (legumes) every day. I only eat beans with no-salt-added, and I've only found one canned brand that uses those. They are about $2 a can! It's amazing how you have to pay more for fewer ingredients. In any case, I keep cans around just in case, but now I soak beans every week so I can buy them dried. Saves a bunch of money, since we were going through 1-2 cans per day. Report
I have just discovered the dollar store supermarkets and will stop there first to pick up whatever I need for a buck. I have also started going online while making my list to check the local stores' sale papers- they have the full saving paper online now. I have also started buying the family packs as stated in the article- I put them in freezer bags by serving and take out only what I need.

I'm going to start a spreadsheet (I did this before in college) and show how much I save by shopping sales (shown on the bottom of your regular store receipt), using coupons, and estimate savings on dollar items- this keeps me motivated to looking for more ways to save! Report
Those of you in CA, the 99 cent store has great deals on produce. They have blueberries, blackberries and strawberries by the pint for .99. In the stores they are 3.00 and up. They have organic mixed green salads in 2 lb. containers for .99 I stock up on those and bring them to the girls in the office. They have the Wish Bone Salad Spritzers in every flavor for .99 I've gotten a 1 lb. deli fresh shaved turkey lunchmeat by Oscar Mayer for .99. They also have name brand frozen food (Lean cuisine, boca) I just loaded up on Boca chicken sandwiches and chili at .99 each. The best time to hit them is in the early a.m. when they get their deliveries. Also if you go to ethnic markets, Vallarta, Superior, International foods, their produce is inexpensive. I found cucumbers 6 for $1.00. You'll always end up paying higher for produce in your mass supermarkets. Explore your neighborhood, it'll help you eat healthier and be easier on your pocketbook!! Report
Planting a garden--even one crop on the patio or roof of your apartment building/condo like fresh tomatoes can make a difference--more if you own your own home. Report
A note about ground beef: You can save quite a bit by purchasing the higher fat ground beef, browning it until no longer pink, then draining the meat and rinsing it under warm water for 1 minute. This is a trick that my mother (a Ph.D. nurse who specializes in geriatrics) teaches to older adults who are on a tight budget but trying to cook in a healthier manner. It changes 85% lean to about 93% lean. Report
I save money and increase my nutrition in how I approach the grocery store. By focusing first on the more nutritious and frankly for me better tasting unprocessed or minimally process foods first I am both eating better and saving money.

First I put fresh fruits and vegetables which are seasonal and/or on sale in my cart. I then add dairy and meat items, focusing on variety, taste, preparation. As far a price goes, I get what I need but choose the lower priced of food I eat similarly: e.g. Pollock vs. tilapia, and broccoli vs. cauliflower.

I rarely make purchase from the middle isles from the store, usually when they on my pantry list or for a specific pre planned meal. I keep a basic "pantry/freezer" of items which I make sure I top off on every time I go to the store. If I still think I want a treat, I get it but I am often happy with my items at this point and rarely buy junk food any more.

However, this comes at cost in terms of preparation time. As buying this way most often leads to cooking from scratch.
I buy store brands because our local bulk food store was actually more expensive! I compared about 40 items, two or three times, and the bulk was significantly more expensive. I make my own flatbread, much cheaper. I also stocked up on store cupboard items, and in the same week switched to much more fresh veg and fruit intake, so now I'm still stocked and can spend more on produce in the following weeks, rather than waiting for a week I didn't have to 'stock up' to buy more fresh stuff. Report
I keep bread in the refrigerator because one loaf lasts two people a long time. But I have read repeatedly that bread deteriorates faster in fridge. Any thought on this? Report
vcurvycute is correct -- this is not the time of year for oranges if you're buying Florida fruit. Kumquats, tangerines, clementines, YES -- but give oranges another month at least, as they're picking now for juice, not for eating out-of-hand. And give grapefruit another month or so even after that. Although I'll have to say, I got a wonderful pomello a few weeks back (the new politically correct name for uglifruit), but it was from Venezuela. The very best fruit is that found on the ground, having just fallen off the tree by itself. Wash off the peel and the fruit inside is sweet and perfect.

Also, look into AngelFood and SHARE. Both allow anyone to purchase, and you can buy all you want. And some of the sites (organized by state) have meal plans and recipes for their menu that month.

And I agree wholeheartedly with redneckmom2 -- the scratch-n-dent grocery stores are true money savers. I don't like buying prepackaged food, as I'd rather cook and eat from scratch. But we do stock up on (dented soup, applesauce without the label, etc. etc. etc.) for hurricane season, and then, if we don't need it, we eat up our stash throughout the year on camping trips. Report
I agree totally. I am a bargain shopper. There are also discount canned good stores that will save you a ton of money. I am all about the reduced or clearance sections in the grocery store. Report
Great advice (and thanks for including the seasonal produce info - this is totally news to a lot of people I talk to - how sad we've moved so far from the earth!) - so pleased to see you emphasizing whole foods that are close to the source! I'm sick of people complaining about food prices and yet when you look in their carts, it's 80% processed "food".... Report
I buy when two for ones are on sale and freeze one. I also make a lot of soup to use vegies that were once fresh and are getting wilted. Report
1. Menu plan
2. Seldom by prepared food!
3. Buy a lot of the meat that is on sale-I shoot for 1.00/pound..,unless it is a treat.

We get 3 dinners out of a chicken for our family of 4. Roasted or grilled the first night. Stir fry or enchiladas the 2nd-and soup out of the carcass and any remaining meat.(Add beans etc)
4.Homemade bread is great and isn't hard. Make it on the weekend when you are doing chores around the house. Report
I make a menu when I make my grocery list but I go to the store with an open mind. If I get to the store with Pork Chops on my menu list and find that chicken is on sale instead I'll change my menu accordingly. There are so many good SP recipes that I can always find something to make with whatever is on sale. Report
Thanks SP_Coach_Tanya,

I was a little paranoid there. :)

I wish I knew though if rinsing removes enough sodium from canned beans to safely serve my Grandmother. Because she has CHF she is very sensitive to sodium. Until I can find out for sure I’ll just have to learn how to cook dry I guess. It probably wouldn’t seem that much trouble if I was used to doing it. There are some great no-salt added beans in the health food section at the stores but the price is really up there.

My Dad eats a lot of Randall’s beans. They are wonderful but very high in sodium. He has high blood pressure and I’m trying to get him to start rinsing them at least.

Speaking of cream corn I found some without added sodium at Kroger once but haven’t found any since. Grandma loves the stuff, I really need to learn how to cook that myself too.

I will add that in order to get some of the vegetables in the salt-free cans, especially at the sale prices, you have to snatch them up when they are available because the stores don’t always stock the beets, carrots, and spinach. I can always find the corn, peas and green beans at Save-A-Lot tho and that’s also where I get our no-salt added Ketsup. It’s 99 cents at Save-A-Lot and I had been paying almost 3 bucks for the same size bottle at other stores.

I think it’s really important to check stores like Save-A-Lot and Aldi. Not all their products are off-brands and even the off-brands are worth checking out. I just got stocked up on enough brand name potato buds to last us ‘till spring and at almost half the price I paid for the same size box, on sale I might add, a couple weeks before at another store.
making a menu is the best way i have found to save money. But i plan 3 weeks of meals over 2 weeks and that way i can decide to cook what i am in the mood for instead of feeling like i am stuck with what i planned. Report
Great article!

I do not use many coupons, because the items I normally buy {generic whenever possible} "generally" cost less than the name brand item - even with the coupon! I also find that if I have a coupon for a name brand {$$} item, I am more likely to buy it even if there is a "just as good but cheaper" version because I get sucked into the MUST BUY BRAND NAME mind vacuum! But, I cut any potential coupon from the Sunday paper anyway - just in case the item is worth it, then I'll have the coupon...if not, I wasted 5 seconds of my life clipping the coupon.

I do check the sales ads weekly, but the one thing that has opened my eyes the most is having a price book - thank you Tightwad Gazette for teaching me this one! In my area, Wal-mart is *usually* cheaper than Save-A-Lot of pretty much any canned item...who woulda guessed? I use the price book to record dates, prices & sizes of some of the items I purchase most frequently {toilet paper, milk, bread, chicken etc..} and then when something goes on TRUE sale...I'll have written proof that it's a good buy - and not just my sometimes not quite accurate memory to go on!

I have also found that dried milk is very expensive in my area too - so Ancilladomini you are not alone in thinking that!

As for buying low sodium versus regular sodium veggies? Low sodium veggies are MUCH more expensive here - more than just a few pennies - so I do as Tanya suggested and buy the regular sodium kind - rinsing them thoroughly. Hey - at least I'm eating veggies of some kind! A high sodium can of green beans is better for me than a bag of fries from Mickey D's any day!

For those that say this frugal living stuff is hard when you don't have a large family - for us, it's just my husband and I and we live in a tiny apartment with a tiny freezer...think creatively! Small kitchen? Store oatmeal in your hall closet...cans of food can fit under your one ever said that the kitchen is the ONLY room for food storage!

I'm striving to go to the store only one time per week, which saves gas, time and my sanity. I also shop at the local farm market once per week {yay Florida weather!}

I also realize that since losing weight and becoming healthy is {to me} my absolute #1 goal right now, to not necessarily be so frugal when it comes to the food I buy - but to cut down on expenses in other areas of my life so I can afford to buy the foods I need. I can spend a little extra on "better" foods now, or I can pay for knee surgery later. I can keep buying super expensive "fat girl" clothes now or I can spend a little bit of money on gas to drive to the gym so one day I can buy the "normal priced" skinny girl clothes! *lol*

My #1 piece of frugal advice? If you smoke...QUIT!!! I quit smoking COLD TURKEY in August {after 15 years} and my quit meter tells me I've saved about $600.00 already! Report
BLUEJEM if you are not paying more for low sodium vegetables it is certainly great to purchase them. My point was don't worry if the sale is on regular canned or you have to pay more for low sodium and don't want to - I was just offering a technique to rinse that will work for any canned veggie accept creamed corn. :-) Report
I purchase items in bulk, use coupons and take advantage of stores that offer double coupons. Report
A few questions...

Why are you supposed to avoid buying low-sodium canned vegetables? I’ve never had to pay more for no-salt added than what the regular salt-packed stuff costs. I buy them at Save-A-Lot, Meijer’s and Kroger’s. (corn, green beans, peas, spinach, beets, and carrots) Is there some other reason to avoid low-sodium canned vegetables that I’m not aware of? This advice really puzzles me.

Also, in general does rinsing really remove a substantial enough amount of sodium? Does the sodium work into the food itself in canned vegetables and beans at all? Beans I can never find at a reasonably priced low-salt option. Not in cans anyway.

The reason I ask is that when you’re truly serious about knowing how much salt you’re eating, as in prevention for someone struggling with congestive heart failure, you don’t really want to just take it for granted that rinsing is good enough.
I also practice consumer self defense as much as possible and I never trust the word ‘sale.’

If you watch prices like I do you may have noticed that “regular” prices sometimes get jacked-up before they are put “on sale.”

Also, sale prices on some items cycle between a high sales price and a low sales price. The store brand of ice cream will often go on sale the past year or so 2.50 each, but a few times a year it goes on sale for 2.00 each. This cycle has held for years and years. Same goes for cheese and pop and meats and several other things I always buy. Though the prices have gradually creped up with inflation over time, the cycle still holds.

I also figure price-per-unit, even when something is marked “on sale.” For example, juice was on sale in the small bottle, and regular price in the large bottle. I figured the price in cents per ounce and it turned out that the regular price on the larger bottle was actually the better buy. But you can’t trust that the bigger container is always going to have the lowest unit price either. Sometimes it’s the smaller container that actually offers the best per-unit price. Some stores make it easy for you and list unit price consistently on those tabs on the shelf under the product, but some will try to hide this information by listing unit price in ounces on one size package and in fractions of liters on another size package. A calculator is always helpful.

You can’t always keep an eye on things as they are being rung up, so I always review my receipt as soon as possible. Because stores were found to be excessively scanning items at a higher price than they were marked, Michigan adopted a scanner law. An ‘accidental’ scanner overcharge on most product with a marked price in my state means they not only owe me the difference between the price I paid and the price the product was marked at, but they also owe me an additional bonus of ten times that difference. No less than $1 and no more than 5$. That means a fifty cent overcharge will get me a $6 refund. If they don’t pay up I can take them to court and sue them for $250.00 plus attorneys fees. I’ve never had trouble collecting right there in the store though. Never even had to raise a fuss. There’s an FAQ on the MI Attorney General’s web site.

In my experience overcharges on -marked- items are much rarer now. But sadly overcharges are still common because they can get around paying out the bonus by not marking prices on some products at all. They get an exception for a certain number of unmarked items under the law.

If the price isn’t on the product and they overcharge you they owe you the difference but not the bonus. Still money is money, and principle is principle, and if I was charged regular price for something that was supposedly on sale I want the difference refunded even if it was only a few cents. And an apology. And an immediate correction to the computer so other people don’t get ripped off too.

I also commonly enough have trouble with being charged for the free items in buy-one-get-one-free sales. I try to catch them at the check out counter because I don’t want the hassle of returning to the store later. You have to be on your guard. In my experience if you don’t check your receipts you are getting ripped off. No doubt about it.
Most of my practices have been covered by other posters. Using coupons wisely, loss-leaders, planning, using store brands wherever the quality holds up, freezing and stocking up on sales items…

Green Peppers and Onions freeze well when chopped up for use in recipes like soup, casseroles and meatloaf so I buy extra to freeze when they are cheapest.

Sometimes family on the other side of the county will buy something on sale for us that isn’t on sale locally, and vice-versa. Then we exchange the item and cash next time we see each other.
Stock up on items when they are on sale. Today I saw Cake Mix for 79 cents, and soups for $1.39 so I got a lot and put in my pantry. CHICKEN will be really cheap now, since everyone buys TURKEY for the holidays. Report
Leftover veggies can be added to an omellette with a little cheese for a delicious meal! Report
I try to buy generic brands, but sometimes brand names are actually cheaper, especially if they're on sale or you have coupons. Using coupons on items that are on sale are the best, especially if your store will double the coupon. For example, I got brand name condensed soups on sale 4 for $3, but after a $0.35 coupon got doubled, I got 4 for $2.25; so I got the $1.50 soup cans for under $0.60 a piece!

I go through my sale flyers first, and then see if anything matches up w/ my coupons, depending on what I need.

I'm also lucky that I live near an outlet for breads, so I get whole wheat bread at half price. Plus we picked a ton of fruit this summer and froze a lot of vegetables too, so we'll spend the winter finding creative ways to eat it all. Long live the deep freezer! Report
I buy our food in bulk sizes and save a lot by doing this. If I go to the store anytime, I usually have to buy milk, cereal, eggs, and etc. Otherwise I don't have to go that much. Many 1 or 2 times a month. And I use coupons frequently. Report
My folks mixed served us half liquid and half reconstituted dry milk and it wasn't bad. I could taste the difference but it wasn't that big a deal.

Best is to avoid milk all together. Cow's milk is the perfect food for calves not people. Dr. Spock in his latest book recommended not starting kids on cow's milk after weaning. Report