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.