June 20, 2011 -- Saving money on groceries week in, week out can try the patience of even the most-dedicated frugalistas. There's only so many coupons one can clip. Freshen your routine -- or start one -- with these seven tips.
1. Go to a food swap. These grassroots gatherings are often held in private homes where a dozen or more do-it-yourselfers trade homemade bread, jam and desserts. Search for your city and "food swap" to find one near you.
2. Buy in season. Produce that is in season is hands-down cheaper than imported fruits and vegetables. Let prices guide your purchases or find a guide to what's current at FruitsandVeggiesMoreMatters.org.
3. Seek out errors. If a grocery store mischarges you, chances are it won't just refund you the difference, it will reimburse you for the total dollar amount paid. That is worth the three minutes you'll spend highlighting the error at customer service.
4. Attend a grocery auction. Yes, they exist. You can find one near you on AuctionZip.com or Craigslist. Remember to download a price scanner such as RedLaser so you can price compare on the spot. And pack a cooler for perishables.
5. Avoid Amazon groceries. The online superstore may be a price leader in tons of categories, but groceries aren't one of them. A comparison of 24 common grocery items between Amazon, a local grocer and a warehouse club revealed Amazon's prices were twice as high as the others. And that didn't include shipping. Of course, if you live in Seattle and can take advantage of AmazonFresh, it's a different story.
6. Become a Flexitarian. That's when you pass over meat for protein from beans, nuts and eggs, among other sources. Nonmeat protein is kinder to the environment and a heck of a lot cheaper -- about $1 per person per meal.
7. Embrace your inner freezer diva. The trick is to preserve lots of food in your freezer without becoming a landlord unable to evict any of your oily, contents-unknown tenants. I suggest keeping a list of everything that is in your freezer to combat out of sight, out of mindness.
Want more money-saving tips? Julia shares daily updates at BargainBabe.com.