CAMDENTON, Mo. – You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to save money on groceries.

University of Missouri Extension family financial education specialist Rebecca J. Travnichek offers tips to save you about $200 a month without spending hours clipping coupons.

• Plan meals, make a shopping list and stick to it. Avoid impulse buying. Get in, get out. Research shows that unplanned purchases add an extra 20 percent to your grocery bill.

• Paper or plastic? Choose the bags you prefer but use paper to pay for your groceries. If you do use plastic, stick with one card that offers cash back, rewards and instant discounts. Pay your balance fully each month to avoid interest charges that cancel out savings. Research shows that shoppers who pay with cash spend 12 percent less than those who pay with plastic. Take only enough cash to cover the items on your grocery list.

• Snip and save. Coupons save you money, but spend no more than 10-15 minutes a week thumbing through weekly ads or cruising websites. Only use coupons for items that you would normally purchase or use. Don’t buy an item just because you have a coupon.

• Shop around. Use grocery ads to make your weekly menu and shopping list, but don’t drive around to 10 different stores to save, however. Driving to different stores may end up costing you more and be time-consuming.

• Go generic. Store brands have improved over time, Travnichek says. Sometimes store brands are produced by brand-name manufacturers and may cost 20 percent less. Buy or at least try generics.

• Avoid gimmick pricing. Don’t fall for 10 for $10 sales. Compare prices to make sure they are a good value. Ask yourself if you will use all of the items before they expire.

• Think big. Buy larger quantities and divide. Check the nutrition label to decide portion sizes. Check unit prices to make sure the larger quantity really is a better buy.

• Time is money. Convenience foods save you time but cost more than fresh, unprepared items.

• Stores may offer rewards or loyalty plans. These plans advertise and offer a lower price on specific items each week  or offer savings at the gas pump.

• Old adages still ring true. Stockpile staples such as paper towels, toilet paper, tissues and nonperishables. Don’t go to the store when you are hungry. Leave the children at home.

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