Warning! You may save lots of money and become a pro grocery shopper by the end of this article.

Did you know that grocery stores are strategically designed to target the wallets of unorganized shoppers? When you walk in, what do you see? Magazines, cookies, sodas and buy-one-get-one (BOGO) items, right? The strategy: Shoppers must walk past all of these very alluring things they don’t need simply to get to the items they do need.

Chances are you’ve fallen victim to this strategy at some point and returned home with some of these “sweet deals,” only to realize later that you don’t have the items you need for a proper meal.

What can you do, you ask? Simple!

Manage Your Money

First of all, budget how much you can spend a month on groceries. Then break down how much you can spend on each trip. For example, if you have a budget of $200 a month, you have $50 each week to spend. Stick to your budget.

Make up Your Mind

Put together a multiday meal plan. Start by asking, “What will I eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.” Knowing what you are planning to prepare will also help on those days you are too busy to think about what to make. List the ingredients needed for each of your planned meals; there are a number of nifty, free tools available to help with this task. Remember to make a mental note: “If it is not on the list, don’t buy it.” That way you won’t get sidetracked by so-called “specials” you don’t actually need.

Set a Shopping Schedule

There are several factors to consider in setting a schedule for your grocery store trips. It’s important to account for drive time and gas costs. Also, how much storage do you have available and how will it affect your ability to buy groceries in bulk? You may have to schedule more frequent shopping trips because you can’t stock up on fruit, vegetables and other perishables.
On the other hand, if storage is plentiful, make fewer trips to the store, particularly to purchase nonfood items such as paper towels and other supplies.
Keep Food Fresh Longer
In 2010, the United States generated more than 34 million tons of food waste, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. That equated to nearly 14% of all municipal solid waste. Here are a few tips on how to avoid adding to the landfill:

Don’t leave food out – refrigerate items like bread and cereal; freeze items like fruit and meat

Make sure refrigerators and freezers are set at the proper temperatures to avoid spoiling and freezer burn

Invest in freezer-safe sealable plastic bags and plastic ware

Recipe for Leftover Beer
Yeah, you read right – leftover beer. For those occasions when you have a bottle of beer sitting around unused, consider enlisting it for a batch of Prairie-Fire Beans.

  1. 1 pound dried pinto beans (about 2 cups)
  2. 8 cups water
  3. 1 small onion, peeled
  4. 4 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  5. 1 cup minced onion
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  7. 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
  8. 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  9. 2 to 3 teaspoons hot sauce
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt and  1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain.

Return beans to pan; add 8 cups water and small onion. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 hour or until beans are tender. Drain beans; remove bay leaves and onion.

Cook bacon slices in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon slices from pan, reserving the drippings. Add minced onion and garlic to pan, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add beans, bacon, beer and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Elise Redmann is currently a junior at the University of South Florida where she is earning her Bachelor’s degree in business advertising and international business. She works as a writer with the Jacksonville University School of Nursing Online RN to BSN programs where she covers topics on healthy living. You can follow her @EliseRedmann712 on Twitter.