Tips to set realistic goals for saving on food in 2013

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A new year often ushers in new beginnings, resolutions and renewed determination to make life changes.

One common goal for people is to save money — particularly on food costs. It's important to remember that although coupons are the key component to cutting your grocery bill, there are a couple of preliminary steps that are important to consider.

First, determine how much you are spending on groceries and household items.

Total up not what you think you spend, but what you really, really spend. Make sure to count those trips when you only intended to purchase one item but came out with $50 worth of groceries. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this!) You don't have to be to the penny; a good guess is fine.

Then ask yourself how much you spend eating out.

You could cut your grocery bill in half, but if you are still spending a large amount of money each month eating out it won't seem like it. I'm not suggesting that you eliminate eating out -- balance is key to making long-lasting changes.

Next, plan your five favorite family meals.

If I don't have a plan for dinner, we are more than likely going to eat out or order pizza. Something happens around 5 p.m. when my children and husband start asking what's for dinner -- my mind goes blank and my determination to save money goes out the window. Even if I have a pantry full of food, I tend to get overwhelmed by the possibilities. Instead, I think about my family's five favorite meals and instantly have a dinner plan that stays within my budget.

Finally, set realistic goals.

Determine how much you'd like to spend on food. If you're spending $1,500 a month on groceries and household supplies, it's unrealistic to set a goal of $200 per month. Learning how to use coupons effectively is a process. You could start by setting a goal of saving 10 to 15 percent within the first 30 days. If you'd like to cut back on eating out, consider how many times per week you eat out now, then set your 2013 goal.


(For more tips on saving money, go to . Email .)

Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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