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Save, No Matter Where You Shop

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(Memphis) "Typically, I get milk, eggs, bread, the staples," said Aldi shopper Janet Hall.

But these days, a full cart, often leaves an empty wallet.

"Prices are either rising or if you'll notice packages are getting smaller," said couponing expert Stephanie Nelson.

Believe it or not, Nelson said there is a way around it, "So you don't necessarily have to change where you shop, and you really don't have to change buying the type of food that you like."

Nelson, the founder of couponmom.com, calls it strategic shopping, "You just have to know how to work the program so you get the lowest prices."

First up, Nelson said follow the store flyer, "Everything on the first page of the sales flyer will be at least 50% off."

Nelson said shoppers should prepare their menus and grocery lists accordingly.

Speaking of, planning pays off.

"Not just meals, but knowing snacks, what you might have to bring to school for snacks, perhaps your kids have baseball practice and you're responsible for bringing food," Nelson adds.

The third rule, just because it's on the sticker, doesn't mean it's truly a sale.

"You're gonna learn really quickly as you start going to a store over and over again what to expect prices to be both at regular price and on sale," said Dawn Curtis of mymemphismommy.com.

She said grocery store prices run in cycles that change about every 12 weeks, "When you learn the rotation, then you can start preparing."

Shoppers can even keep a price book to jot down what they see on a weekly basis.

That way, you know when a product is really at its lowest price.

Another tip, stock up on freebies.

"You should never pay for toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss and believe it or not, even razors," Nelson said.

She notes that combining a store sale with a coupon will often get you personal care products for free, "That saves money so that you can spend on the things that are harder to get savings on."

Some examples are meat, dairy and produce, for which you can always search for manager's specials and clearance items.

Curtis said if you really want to stretch your dollar, it's critical to understand store policies,  "Knowing your store policies, what they'll allow and knowing if your stores have reward cards."

Nelson told us another way to avoid wasting money is to live by the five-minute rule!

She said if it takes you five minutes or less to prepare an item rather than buying it pre-packaged, it's worth the money to do the work, "Buy it in its most basic form, so in other words, buy the head of lettuce rather than buying bagged lettuce."

Finally, she told us cash is king, "If you go into a store and you say, I have no dollars, cash, you will make choices."

Some stores also offer special savings on their websites, so check from time to time to see when you can snag a deal.

Others will even email you unadvertised deals, so sign up for alerts.

Don't forget to friend your favorite brands on Facebook.

That's where companies often post coupons and rebates.