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Savings squad: How to shrink your grocery bill

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(PIX11) -- It is far too easy to fill up a shopping cart and empty your wallet at the same time, but there are ways to cut your grocery bill and put $1,000 back in your bank account every four months.

The average U.S. family of four spends about $800 a month on groceries, according to recent surveys and estimates. To shrink those costs, start by packing every store’s loyalty card -- worth about $40 a month.

Mother of two Valerie Cadet said she searches online for coupons and uses stores’ apps to scan barcodes looking for deals.

Coupons are a start -- worth about $40 a month -- but Cadet knows she needs to get beyond that.

Lynnette Khalfani Cox, the Money Coach, said to start by leaving the little ones at home because kids are easily lured by packaging that’s often price.

“The tradeoff is time versus money they cut it up,” Cox said. “And if you’re willing to cut it up yourself, it’s going to be cheaper.”

Avoid pre-cut fruit, which is typically twice as expensive as the whole produce. The pretty brand-name boxes at eye level also ring up much higher than those on the top of the shelves or down low, where store brands and generics usually hide. Changing up from which section of the shelf you pluck your products is worth the money.

The biggest way to save is to focus on unit price, which even the savviest of shoppers don’t know about.

Unit price is the cost of one unit of measure of an item. For example, the same brand of almond butter in a smaller size container is nearly double the price of its larger counterpart when the unit prices are compared -- $14.99 for the larger container versus $26.30 for the smaller jar.

Even bottled water can clock in at nearly seven times more expensive, allergy medicine at 20 times more expensive when comparing unit price. Paying attention this often-ignored number can save about $80 a month.

Knowing your seasons also will keep you from spending too much at the market. Fruits and vegetables are cheaper when they’re in season. For example, don’t buy berries in winter whent they’re out of season and more expensive.

As for organics, the Money Coach follows the “Dirty Dozen” rule: only buying organic fruits with thin skins, which can make it easier for pesticides to seep into the produce. Skip going organic when it comes to fruits and veggies with thick skin or skin that gets peeled.