If you think your grocery bill is getting bigger and bigger, you're not imagining things! Retail food prices rose 0.4% in March, the same as in February and the largest amount since September 2011. By comparison, the prices of all consumer goods rose 0.2% in March and 0.1% the month before, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Beef, pork, poultry, eggs and milk have had the most dramatic price hikes as drought, a virus outbreak and rising exports have thinned U.S. supplies.

What Can Stressed Shoppers Do? 

Clearly, your family needs to eat, so what can a stressed shopper do about the higher food prices? A bargain shopper mom who works with Ruth to the Rescue says a change in your thinking can help you cut your grocery bill by 50 percent. She says most shoppers only shop for the moment, or for the week.

We found many shoppers who fit that pattern at Holiday Market in Royal Oak.

"My wife texts me a list and I go to the store and pick it up," said Jim Jagger of Royal Oak.

"Usually I have a list and I come about three times a week," said Pamela Moultrup of Royal Oak. She says she like to buy her groceries as fresh

as possible.

Melissa Buckles runs her own website and teaches classes on how to live better for less. "Definitely grocery prices are going up. You have to be much more strategic," she told Ruth to the Rescue. "This is not extreme couponing. It's a realistic lifestyle change."  

Buckles went shopping with Ruth to the Rescue at a the Meijer on Rochester Road. She says the most important part of her savings program is the

decision to plan ahead.

"Instead of just going about what you need for that week, look at what you're going to use throughout a month. And. that way you're always  buying on sale and you never have to pay full price," she advised.

Buckles avoids paying full price by doing two things as part of her grocery routine. First, she stockpiles items she finds on sale. Second, she makes

specific family meal plans based around the least expensive items she can find on sale.

"Green beans are 99 cents this week on sale versus asparagus, which is $2.99 a pound. So, if you plan your meals around using green beans, your obviously going to save money," Buckles explained as she looked in the produce section at Meijer.

Buckles doesn't leave home until she's done the following four things. 

1) Sort through sales and coupons.

2) Check the supplies at home, in the freezer and pantry.

3) Make a meal plan, with an emphasis on using the least expensive items available.

4) Make a new list of sales items you can stockpile for future use through the next month.

Buckles says the planning doesn't have to take long, "I would say it takes me under an hour a week to save over 50% on my groceries," she said.

Apps Can Help Speed Grocery Planning

Buckles also says there are plenty of apps that help speed up the planning process, and they can help you save on milk and produce. Ruth to the

Rescue has a list of her favorite apps at the end of this article, the app from Meijer has caught her attention.

"Meijer has a great app called Mperks ...Where you can save lots of  money. They have a whole bunch of produce coupons this week," she said.

 

Other Money-Savers From Melissa 

Easily Find Weekly Sale Prices and Coupons That Will Save Even More - Use Favado Smart Phone and Coupon Matchups on EverydaySavvy.com to help you find coupons and determine which items are on sale this week at the grocery store. The app will even alert you went your favorites are on sale and you can search across grocery stores for the best price on items you need.

Use Less Meat & Other Higher Priced Ingredients -  Consider a few meals in a week without meat. This will save you money. Also when you have meals with meat consider proper portions sizes. It will help your meat go farther. When I buy large boneless skinless chicken breast, I cut it into thirds and each person gets just a  one third portion.

Shop at Value Grocery Stores like Aldi - Aldi has great everyday prices on basics like milk, eggs and spices. They also have great produce specials each week. 

Limit  Brand Loyalty - Name-brand items tend to be more expensive unless you have a great coupon. Be sure to consider house brands and other name brands.  These are usually placed on lower or higher shelves. So be sure to look up and down when grocery shopping. The most expensive items are right at eye level.

Check Unit Price - Most people think that if they buy the larger item that they are getting a better deal. This is often not the case. Be sure to always check the unit price when shopping.

Avoid Buying Prepared and Packaged Goods - You are almost always going to pay more when the store does the work for you. Wash and cut your own veggies and you can save.

Make a Plan and Stick to It - Grocery stores use all kind of marketing tricks to try and get you to spend more.

Don't Be Intimidated!

Buckles urges you to avoid getting intimidated by the list of changes that can save you money. She reminds shoppers, they don't have to follow every rule, every week. You can pick and choose which ones work for you. "I think that most people, once they have that lightbulb moment, realize its' not that difficult!"

Melissa's Favorite Apps and Websites

Favado

Link to an article on Melissa's site that explains the app: click here.

 

Ibotta - link to sign up for app - <http://bit.ly/1nnjMCJ

 

Link to an article on Melissa's site that explains the app: click here.

 

Checkout 51- <http://bit.ly/1k4UV35

 

Mperks