If your grocery receipts have you doing double-takes lately, you're not alone – those higher prices aren't just in your head. Food prices – along with gas and many other necessities – are going up, much like they did back in 2008. While we can cut back on fuel costs by driving less and adjusting the thermostat, we can't exactly stop eating. But when you can't buy less, you can still buy smarter, say Chicago bankruptcy attorneys. If you want to win in the supermarket battle, you need a good offensive and defensive shopping strategy. Offensive If you want to save money, you've got to put in the effort. And for many of us, that means clipping coupons. Now, that doesn't mean you have to track down every single sale – just look for discounts on the things you need. If you buy cereal and milk every week, look for offers on those items – or simply choose the brand that's currently on sale. In addition to the coupon ads in newspapers, many grocery stores and online services will send you e-coupons if you sign up online. Don't be afraid to make substitutions based on sales. If you were planning on whipping up a pork stir-fry for dinner but chicken is on sale, swap out the pork for poultry. And generally any generic brand is a cheaper sub for a name-brand – and often of almost identical quality. Defensive If you plan your meals around what's on special, you can significantly slash your bills. But there's one more hurdle – your grocery store. Supermarkets set up appealing aisle displays and specials to get you to make impulse buys, erasing all those savings you earned on your coupon search. Just this week, my store was offering a free gourmet jam if you bought a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. Sure, it sounded like a good deal. But if I bought cinnamon bread in addition to my normal sandwich bread, and a jar of jam even though I'm already stocked up on fruit spreads, I would have gone over budget. The best defense? Having a list – ideally one you made based on current sales – and not budging from it, no matter what the temptations. FYI, you'll do a lot better job of sticking to your guns if your stomach isn't grumbling, so try to shop for food after you've eaten. Speaking of defending your finances, how about lowering that debt? Carrying debt is hard enough as it is, but when prices jump unexpectedly it becomes even harder to pay the bills – and to keep growing debt in check. By lowering your balance, you can free up more money for rising costs like gas and groceries. Wondering if you have too much debt? Try our DebtStoppers Budget Challenge. And find out if bankruptcy is your chance to take back control of your financial future with a free one-on-one debt analysis with a Chicago bankruptcy attorney.
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