Updated: August 26, 2011

As the cost of living creeps up, it's tempting to cut corners at the supermarket. But think twice before buying whatever is cheapest. "Many so-called 'bargain foods' are loaded with fat and sodium," says Helen Thompson, R.D., a nutritionist at the Center for Human Nutrition in Denver. Get relief at the register with these expert tips.

  1. Put It In Writing
    "Jot down your grocery list at home and stick to it at the store," says Thompson. Deciding what you need in advance helps you avoid pricey impulse buys.
  2. Make Your Own Snack Packs
    "Fill small baggies with 100-calorie servings of whole-grain cereal or crackers instead of buying individually wrapped packages," says Holly Scherer, R.D., a health educator at the University of Michigan.
  3. Eat Meat Sparingly
    "Beef, poultry, and fish can add up to as much as a quarter of your food budget," says Judith Rodriguez, R.D., a nutrition professor at the University of North Florida. Try thrifty sources of protein, like beans, eggs, and tofu.
  4. Divide and Conquer
    Take advantage of produce bargains at wholesale stores by splitting the bounty with friends or neighbors. "Sharing allows you to avoid waste and save cash," says Hope Warshaw, R.D., author of Eat Out, Eat Right.
  5. Stock Up On Staples
    Use coupons to stock up on nonperishable items like pasta, canned beans, and marinara sauce. "That way you'll have healthy options on hand and won't need to order in as often," says Thompson.
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