Times are tough in the food sales business these days. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that food prices as a whole rose 3.9 percent in February 2011, which was the largest monthly increase in 36 years. Meat prices alone went up 6.2 percent. And if stores have to pay more for food, guess what? So do you.
If you're trying to save money (and who isn't these days?), walking into a grocery store can feel like stepping into a minefield. Between the outrageous markups -- 50 to 75 percent on produce, according to MSNBC.com -- and sneaky marketing tricks, you need to stay informed and on your guard to avoid blowing your budget.
But even if you do make it through the supermarket without breaking the bank, that's only half the battle. To make the most of your money, you have to use everything you buy, which means good menu planning and actually eating those leftovers you throw into the fridge after dinner.
So, you have to be a strategic shopper and a careful cook to get the most bang for your buck. Yes, it all sounds exhausting -- and it is, sometimes. But you can do it! Here are 10 steps you can take, both in the store and in your kitchen, that are guaranteed to whittle down your grocery bills.