07/24/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

4 Ways To Save Money On Food

All of the sudden, it feels like every time I go to the supermarket, I'm spending more and more. The sticker shock at the check-out nearly matches the pain at the pump. I will admit, I hardly ever make a list and I end up shopping throughout the week because I always forget that one thing I should have picked up yesterday. So when Aviva Goldfarb, founder of The Scramble, a weekly dinner menu planner, offered to share some advice on cutting back and organizing, she caught my attention.

She says there are three reasons food prices are escalating at such a frightening pace. "Experts point to more meat eaters and a growing world population, the high and ever growing price of oil, and bad weather and drought in key crop producing countries, exacerbated by global warming," explains Goldfarb, who also authored the cookbook, The Six O'Clock Scramble. Luckily, the Maryland mom of two says there are many ways that families can combat skyrocketing grocery prices and actually save hundreds of dollars on food. You'll also help save the planet by using less gas for those last minute purchases and those take-out delivery drivers.

Here are 4 easy ways to cut back:

1. Eat in. Americans spend some 50% of food dollars on out-of-home meals, snacks and beverages, according to Goldfarb. This budget item, she says, is the first area that can be cut way back. Cooking at home is almost always cheaper than going out to dinner, ordering takeout, or buying prepared foods - and healthier! Plan for a week of meals so you don't waste food.

2. Use up food in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry before shopping. Stretch your budget by making a meal at the end of the week out of ingredients you haven't finished. (Omelets, quesadillas, stir-fries and pasta sauces are flexible options.) Many people are sitting on hundreds of dollars of food that they've forgotten is in their freezer until it's freezer burned beyond use. Defrost and use something each week. Make a list of what's in there and label and date the containers.

3. Shop with a grocery list so you remember to get what you need, and you don't buy things you already have. Goldfarb says you should keep the list on or near the 'fridge so the whole family can add to it-this also avoids wasted gas on extra trips to the store.

4. Use less meat. Cooking with non-meat proteins like beans, tofu and eggs is very economical and healthy. You can often substitute boneless chicken for expensive fresh fish in recipes, or use less expensive frozen or canned fish (canned salmon is a very healthy choice). Check out this popular recipe for a simple and fast meatless meal here.

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