No matter how many coupons and deal-stacking tactics you use, it probably feels as if prices at the grocery store just keep getting higher. That's because they are: Food costs are expected to rise by as much as 4 percent by the end of the year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But that doesn't mean your bills have to soar, too. The solution is to get even smarter when it comes to what you drop into your cart. For every step you take in the supermarket, there's proven tip to help you trim your costs. All together, you could whittle more than $100 off your bills each month.
- Bananas: Save $4.00. Looking for a bunch of bargains? Buy reduced-for-quick-sale bananas. They can go for up to 50 cents a pound less than full-priced alternatives. American families eat about 8 pounds of bananas per month. If you do, too, buying 2 pounds each weekly shopping trip, you'll pocket $4 a month.
- Pineapple: Save $1.50. The average family eats about half a pineapple monthly. If you expect to eat only that much, ask a manager to cut one in half. You'll pay just for what you eat. The fruit sold for about $3 last year, so you'll save $1.50.
- Applesauce: Save $1.96. A 24-ounce jar generally retails for $1.99. If you can find apples marked down to $1 per pound, buy 1½ pounds to make the same amount as in the jar. If you normally buy four jars each month, you'll save $1.96.
- Carrots: Save $1.68. Smaller isn't always cheaper in the produce aisle. To get the best deal on this veggie, don't reach for the precut baby carrots. They are $1.69 per pound; the full-sized unpeeled veggies go for 99 cents per pound. If your family consumes the average 2.4 pounds per month, that simple swap adds up to a total monthly savings of $1.68.
- Lettuce: Save $14.88. Leaf lettuce is $1.99 per pound, whereas that bagged mix works out to a hefty $5.71 a pound. Yes, the packages are convenient, but take 10 minutes to rinse and dry loose greens. If you eat the average 4 pounds per month, you'll save $14.88 in that time.
- Soup: Save $1.62. Head to the clearance bin. You might find three slightly battered cans of soup (once $1.09, now 55 cents)—and save $1.62. TIP: If cans are too dented to easily stack, pass them up.
- Tacos and chips: Save $1.43. Prepping for Mexican night? Instead of buying chips and taco shells, make them yourself from tortillas. Grab two packages of a dozen corn tortillas for $1.49 each (which works out to about 12 cents per tortilla) and make 12 taco shells by brushing them with oil, draping over an oven rack and baking until crisp. Compared with a $2.49 12-pack of taco shells, you'll save $1. Use the remaining 12 tortillas to make 48 chips by cutting them into quarters and baking on a cookie sheet. These homemade chips work out to 3 cents per chip, versus brand-name tortilla chips, which come to 4 cents each. On that batch you'll save 43 cents, bringing your total to $1.43.