I made a stop at the grocery store last night to pick up a few ingredients to make my famous (at least in my house) chicken noodle soup.  ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THREE DOLLARS AND EIGHTY TWO CENTS later, I was out of there.  But not before my favorite cashier noted that my haircut looked great.  My point?  I have a couple.  First, the amount of money I spent when my intention is to run in for a few things is ridiculous and embarrassing.  Second, I'm spending a lot of time grocery shopping if the cashier notices when I cut my hair.

I decided that enough is enough.  I'm tired of wasting money at the grocery store.  I'm tired of being tricked into buying things I don't need or will go to waste because the packaging is awesome, my stomach is screaming at me, or because I "have a coupon."

Here are my tips and tricks to saving money at the grocery store.

1.  Make a meal plan and stick to it.

It's hard, I know. Craft your meal plan so it includes the possibility of leftovers for a night, or sandwiches when you're playing taxi unless you know you'll be able to stick to your plan.  It will help your grocery shopping trip immensely when you plan ahead.  Check coupons (see more about my thoughts on coupons below,) ask for input from family, and check to see what you already have on hand.  Buy only what you'll need for the week.

Also plan meals around things that have multiple uses.   For example, if I decide I'm buying ground beef in bulk, I'll plan a taco night and a meatloaf night and freeze the rest.   An entire loaf of french bread can be used for spaghetti one night, and pizza loafs another.  Or if I buy a whole chicken and roast or grill it for one meal, I'll boil the carcass and use the extra meat for soup the next day.  Planning meals for a week with multiple uses for each item will save time and money.  If you need help starting a meal plan, the internet is a great resource.  Check out a great 6 week meal plan HERE complete with shopping list.

2.  Only use coupons on products you already need--and the brands you buy. 

Many extreme couponers will probably scoff at this way to save money-but it's a pretty easy concept.  Manufacturers make coupons not so you will save money--but to entice you to buy their product.  You'll most likely spend more money on a name brand product even with a coupon than you would a store brand product of comparable quality.  Coupons are enticing but use them sparingly.  I just bought a DVD of a movie I could have easily rented, only because if I bought the movie I'd get popcorn, pop, and candy for free.  It seemed like a great deal, but I blew $18.99 because I couldn't pass up the idea of getting all those products for free.

3.  Know the store secrets. 

It's a well known fact that product placement is huge.  The reason why all the sugary, more expensive cereals are at toddler eye level is because those cereals will be seen by those who love sugar the most.  The same with "non-essential" products.  They are also put at eye level so you're guaranteed to see them and make an impulse buy.  And the 10 for $10 deals?  They encourage you to buy 10 of them.  But most often, you can buy one or five and still spend a dollar on each.  If you have the room to stock up on the product and it's something you know you'll use--go for it. But don't bank on the fact that you'll eat it because it's cheap even if it's not good.  It's more likely those will go to waste.

4. Pay attention! 

How many times have you thought that an item you purchased was cheaper than the price you were charged?  How many times have you actually paid attention to the prices when you're checking out?  It's important to know (if not exactly, then pretty close) how much everything you're buying is, and watch as your stuff is getting scanned.  Mistakes happen--and chances are the cashier won't be the one to catch them.  It's your money.  Know how much you think you'll spend.  Because if you're not paying attention, who is?

5.  Be sure you know about the big "O."

Organic, I mean.  Organic food is good for you, no doubt.  Organic food is grown from farmers who don't use pesticides and chemicals to kill weeds.  Organic food farmers encourage water and soil conservation and reduce pollution.  The farmers don't use antibiotics and medication in livestock.  In order for the USDA to certify something as organic and carry the "USDA Certified Organic" label it must be  at least 95% organic.  Some manufacturers may be deceitful in their packaging--knowing that if we see the word "organic" we think it's ok to spend more--when it may not be a truly "organic" product.

6. Shop smart.

Shop full.  You know you'll buy more if you shop when you're hungry.  Don't do it!

Shop alone.  You know you'll be influenced to make unnecessary purchases if you bring your kids with.  If not, then you're perfect and I applaud you.

Shop in realistic quantities.  Don't buy in bulk unless you're having a party, you're a member of the Duggar family or a Doomsday Prepper, or you know the products won't expire before you use them.  Don't buy in bulk without doing the math to make sure you're getting a great deal.

Many of my ideas and tips are common sense, but you need to stick to your guns to make it work for you and your family.  What are some ways you save money on your grocery bill?