How To: Save money on groceries.

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When I first moved to San Francisco, I was somewhat in denial that living in the city would drastically change my living expenses. Soon the bills started to pile and that denial turned into reality. One of the first things I needed to evaluate was eating out every night. To no surprise it was the first thing I had to change, so I made a commitment to start cooking dinner at home at least three nights a week.

Surprisingly, out of all the expenses we incur, food costs are one of the most flexible.  Even if food costs are flexible, how is it that groceries can cost a fortune?  If you spend as much time as I do shopping for food, you'll notice that the cost of items is directly related to how much time and energy you spend to find the best deals.  The more convenient and accessible, the more it costs.    But saving money on groceries doesn't have to be less convenient; you just need to do a little research and planning.  You'll find you can save money on groceries without sacrificing too much time or energy.  

Here's five ways to save money on groceries...

1) Plan your meals. If you know some important factors- what you're cooking, how many you're cooking for, and what ingredients you'll need- you're less likely to buy items you don't need and you'll buy the right amount of food, which in turn results in less waste.

2) Don't get attached to one grocery store. Yes it's easy to shop for everything at once, but often times you can find certain items cheaper and of a higher quality at another store, versus buying everything at one location.  For example, you can buy produce at one store and meat and seafood at another. And if you go to a place that specifies in a certain food product not only will you find the better deal, but you'll get a higher quality product.

3) Buy fresh and buy often. Refrigerating food for no more than 2-3 days is good for food safety, helps you cook more often and prevents you from wasting food. Although buying groceries for the whole week is easier, you're more likely to waste food and your dollars if food goes bad or if you don't use it.

4) Resist the urge to buy pre-packaged or pre-washed items. These can be convenient, but are often more expensive. Buy from bulk allows you to buy exactly what you need at a cheaper price per pound or kilo.

5) Set a budget for every meal. This helps you stay conscious of prices and options, instead of buying ingredients on impulse.  A budget will encourage you to compare brands and focus your money on what's needed.

No matter how complicated the dish or how many people you need to feed - with these five tips you're sure to save money on ingredients.