SAN ANTONIO — It’s not in your imagination: You’re likely spending more at the grocery store. The price of food is expected to jump about 3% this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Saving money starts before you even get to the store.

“Even before you plan your meals, do a refrigerator and pantry check,” said Andrea Woroch, a money-saving expert. “Open up your refrigerator, look in that produce drawer. How often do we just shove it full of different vegetables and fruits and we never check to see what we have? So you may end up doubling up on your ingredients or you may forget that you have something that’s about to go bad. You should cook it and then you can look for a recipe based on those ingredients and then go to the grocery store to find complementary ingredients for your meal that day.”

Coupons can be a great way to save but avoid the hassle of clipping them with an app like Dosh.

“You pair your credit card with the app and then when you pay with that same credit card, any available savings will be automatically credited to you,” said Trae Bodge, a smart-shopping expert. “So it takes all the work out of saving at the grocery store.”

Make sure you are using a credit card that will give you the best deal on points for food.

“I had my spending analyzed last year with GigaPoints and I found out that the majority of my spending is in the food category,” said Bodge. “It was recommended to switch to a card that gave really great benefits for food.”

You can also save if you buy groceries online.

“I recommend using a free browser extension,” said Bodge. “There’s one called Sidekick by Simply by installing this free tool, as you browse around online, you’ll be automatically alerted to available savings.”

Sure, food is essential, but not everything you buy at a grocery store is a necessity.

“That bag of chips, the box of Oreos, all those extra goodies that you’re buying, those extra snacks for your pantry, first of all, they’re oftentimes not healthy,” Woroch said. “They’re adding extra calories and extra cost to your monthly budget.”

Finally, the most expensive food is any you throw away, no matter how cheap you get it.

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