When money gets tight, people start looking for ways to save. One of the best ways to start saving money is by reducing the family grocery bill. These savings are the best kind because they are immediate! Every dollar saved on food costs is another dollar that stays in your pocket. 

Here are 5 ways to save money on groceries:

1. Save money on groceries by not shopping unnecessarily

It may sound strange but many people have found that the absolute best way to save a lot of money on food costs is to put off grocery shopping this week. That's right. Just don't go shopping! Many homes have cabinets, refrigerators, and freezers that contain enough food to supply a family's needs for a week or so. Perhaps you do, too. You may have to spend some time going through what you have on-hand now, but the time you invest can pay off big if you can avoid (or even reduce) your need to buy new items this week.

Ways to Save Money on GroceriesCredit: By Ralf Roletschek (User:Marcela) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Plan your menu beforehand

Save money by preplanning your menu. There are many families that spend too much on groceries because they do not plan their meals for the week. Many of these families simply grab what appeals to them as they move down the aisles. This type of buying pattern is all but guaranteed to cost more at the register. A better option is to sit down before shopping and make a menu for the week that includes all meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) as well as snacks. Check your pantry to see that you have whatever ingredients you will need to prepare various meals before you just jot them down on your list. This would include things such as flour, salt, spices, etc.

Once you have your menu written down, study it to see if you find ways to save. For instance, if you have boneless chicken breasts on the dinner menu, consider buy bone-in breasts instead as this is less expensive. If you have cold cereal on the list for breakfast, consider trying the store-brand cereal, which is also less expensive that brand name cereals.

3. Check out the discount areas...

Check out the discount bin or area of your store. Many stores now have areas or refrigerated bins where they will place discounted items. These items are often in meat and poultry that is getting close to its expiration date. Buy your meats at the discount bin can save you a lot of money over the regular price. The only catch is that meat or poultry bought this way should be used quickly. For most families, that is not a problem as dinners normally include a meat, poultry, or fish entrée. On this same line, see if your store has a special area where they discount canned goods and other items. Often, stores will mark down items if cans are dented or labels are torn. Shoppers often see substantial savings this way and the food and other items are just as good as what are on the regular shelves. This is also a great time to stock up on items that you may need in the future. If you see several cans of something that you would buy anyway later on now on sale, get as many as you can afford.

and buy store-brand or house-brand products

Somewhat in line with this is to start considering buying the store-name brand of products that are now often offered in most grocery stores. Shoppers can often see dramatic savings on some items such as coffee, tea, paper products, spices, packaged sauces and soups. What many shoppers do not know is that many famous-name companies supply these stores with the products that are in the store-brand container! Why pay more (sometimes twice as much) when you don't have to?

4. Do your shopping in bulk

Whenever possible, buy in bulk. This money-saving tip has been around for ages, and it has been around for so long because it actually works! Depending on where you live, you may be able to find grocery outlets that offer bulk items. Shoppers often see a savings of between 10 and 30 percent over what it would cost to buy individual items. Even though shoppers can save money by buying in bulk, there are a few things to watch out for:

Resist the urge to buy things that you will not (or probably not) use, even if the price is low. Many families fall into the trap of seeing some item being offered at super-low prices and buy it, even though they do not really need it.

Always check the expiration date on bulk items. Many items that you find on sale in bulk may be getting close to their expiration date which may be why they are on sale in the first place!

On a positive note: consider buying your non-perishables in bulk. Items such as toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, and other "everyday" items bought in bulk can be a fantastic way to save money down the line.

5. Use those flyers and coupons!

Yes, many shoppers will groan when they see this one, but we are not talking about becoming a contestant on "Extreme Couponing". The simple truth is most shoppers can save money when they take the time to browse through flyers that their stores offer or look through the coupons that come in newspapers. These media are also great ways to learn about other store specials or offerings that one might not know about otherwise. Clipping a coupon only takes a moment, but it can (over time) add up to substantial savings. The more you use them, the more money you save. 

There are many other tips on saving money at the grocery such as not shopping while hungry, but the above five will get you started right now on keeping more money in your wallet. The best news about the five listed above is that even if you only apply a few of them to your shopping habits, you will begin to save money. Of course, the more of these tips you actually put into practice, the more savings you will realize, both now and in the long run.

Food prices will continue to go up, so the sooner you get into the habit of shopping like a pro, the better off you will be!