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The average American household spends more than $7,200 a year on food, including restaurant meals and food eaten at home, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That's a lot of money, and remember: That's the average. Your family could easily be spending much more, particularly if you're buying pricey name brands at the supermarket and picking up takeout several times a week.

Spending too much on meals is easy. But saving money isn't as difficult as you might think. Read on to see how you can slash your food bills with a few simple tips that can quickly become habits.

1. Plan for the sales

supermarket discount sign with copy space
gowithstock / Shutterstock

Pick up a store flyer, or look at your grocery store's website, and plan your meals for the sales –-- don't just shop for the ingredients in your recipes.

It seems obvious, but many people just show up at the grocery store with a set list of items to buy.

You can save a bundle of money if you plan ahead and shop smart. Buying things on sale will save you money on everything from staples like eggs and butter to perishables like fruit and meat.

2. Try new things

Fish in a display case
Jacob Blount/Shutterstock
Seasonal fish can be less expensive because of their abundance

If you are a bit timid when it comes to new ingredients, then stop being so shy!

When it comes to cooking with exotic ingredients, everyone starts at the bottom –-- so be brave and try new things.

Search online for recipes that use any items that are currently on sale at your local grocery store and expand your cooking repertoire while you save.

3. Buy generic or store brands

Generic store brand canned goods
Niloo/Shutterstock
Quality product is most often just as important to store brands

Smart shopping is all about getting the most value for your money. Don't be afraid to try new brands and generic brands.

Generics — or "store brands" — can save you thousands over your lifetime. At the same time, you should learn which products are worth splurging on.

Some medicines and specialty name-brand cleaning or home maintenance products are often worth the extra cost. Discover what products work for your needs, and don't let marketing and blind brand loyalty cost you in the long run.

4. Freeze your perishables

Ground beef ready to be frozen
Ozgur Coskun/Shutterstock
Frozen meats can last for many months in your freezer

Freeze your perishables long before they go bad.

It's tempting to load up on cheap vegetables in season or to buy that discounted herb bundle at a bargain, but the savings often disappear if you let 90% of the product spoil before you eat it. So, be realistic and plan ahead.

No one eats that much oregano before it turns to mush. Chop and freeze your herbs, vegetables, fruit, and other things that spoil. They'll taste just fine even if you keep them frozen for a while.

5. Plan to fail

Expensive food
Stokkete/Shutterstock
Your grocery bill may be more expensive than you planned if you choose a few items on impulse

Plan to fail when it comes to meal planning. If you don't have a few easy backup meals for those long days at work, it's easy to cave when your hungry brain starts calling the shots.

Even the best intentions for eating at home can fall prey to a tired mind and a glowing fast-food sign. If you have a couple quick at-home meals in your back pocket, you are much more likely to cook at home.

Soup and a grilled sandwich takes less than 10 minutes to make. Breakfast for dinner? Bean salad? Frozen leftovers? All are easy and quick to throw together, even at your hangry-est.

6. Use a slow cooker

Slow cooker
lighttraveler/Shutterstock
A simple a delicious way to prepare a meal

Slow cookers are extremely affordable, especially if you're keeping an eye out for a sale. (Back-to-school time is always a good bet).

With a handful of recipes and a simple meal plan, you can stretch your food dollars to new heights with a slow cooker. The total cooking time is minimal –-- you fill it in the morning (or night before) and let the programmable timer do the work.

There are thousands of slow cooker recipes you can find for free online, and most of them use simple ingredients that become absolutely magical when given the time to cook and meld together.

7. Avoid prepared foods

Expensive prepared foods in a lunch counter at a grocery store
Mattia B/Shutterstock
Prepared foods are usually sold by weight and therefore are difficult to budget for

Prepared foods are a big money-maker for grocery stores. If you compare prepared food prices with the cost of the raw ingredients, it's easy to see why these items get the most prominent real estate in the store.

Don't be afraid of a little chopping or food prep at home after the store. Chicken breasts are much more expensive than buying a whole chicken and cutting it into pieces after roasting it.

If you aren't confident with your knife skills, take some time to learn the proper techniques. YouTube and online tutorials can be massively helpful here! Mastering some basic chopping and carving moves will save you thousands over your lifetime.

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