How to save $$ by picking the right foods

Most grocery stores are a haven for shoppers on the hunt for basic ingredients, household supplies, and some great deals on brand-name products. However, there are a number of things that are always overpriced at the grocery store. Hardware, cookware, toys, and even some basic household supplies are usually marked up because supermarkets consider these to be specialty goods; they’re hard to sell, so the stores typically carry a very low inventory.

Still, there are a handful of items that you’ll usually find at your local grocery chain priced at their lowest. If you want to save money on your grocery bill and stretch your grocery budget, make sure you always buy these six items from the local supermarket:

1. “Clean” produce. The Environmental Working Group has identified the “Clean 15″ vegetables and fruits that are safe to buy without going organic. The organization found that these 15 items typically have little to no traces of pesticides and are among the safest to eat. Feel free to load up on non-organic onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mango, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, and sweet onions. [of course, some of these are going to be GMOs]

2. Generic goods. When it comes to stocking up on basic ingredients like flour, salt, sugar, rice, and milk, you’ll barely notice a difference in taste between the generic and the brand-name equivalent. In many cases, the only real difference is the colorful packaging and presentation of the product. You’re buying the exact same item with virtually the exact same composition of ingredients whether it has a fancy label on it or it’s the supermarket’s own brand. Make the switch to more generic products and you’ll be able to shave a few dollars off your grocery bill. [this one is kinda of a "duh", but good advice.]

3. Bulk items. Whether you’re buying lentils or fresh peanut butter, stock up on basics from the bulk bins and you could end up saving a significant amount of money. Buying in bulk is a cost-effective way to stock up on the basics and might also reduce those extra trips to the grocery store. Whether you’re buying simple cereals, baking ingredients, dried beans, or coffee, plan ahead so you can make a bulk purchase and you’ll be getting a much better deal. [We love our Costco membership, but you can actually buy these online and save the trip to stock up.]

4. Gift cards. Use your grocery reward credit card to purchase gift cards at the grocery store and you’ll earn points or cash back for each purchase. You can use the gift cards to purchase groceries yourself and end up saving some money off the total cost of your groceries on future trips. This might take some planning, and you will need to make sure you pay off that credit card balance right away to cash in on the savings. Doing this several times a year could add up to a significant amount of money back, discounts, or points you can redeem for something else. [Recently King Soopers/Kroger upped their gas program and saves us a ton every fill up.]

5. Survival food. Staples like rice, flour, bread mixes, and other basic items are usually readily available at most grocery stores and in generic form when you want to save even more on your purchase. Avoid buying these types of items at convenience stores, drugstores, gas stations, or even at the dollar store because you’ll either pay too much for them or will end up with a very low-quality product. Consider buying in bulk when you can so that you don’t have to keep running to the store when you run out of the basics. [Not sure I agree with his definition of “staples”, since we don’t eat much carbs. This is what’s better for survival: canned and dried foods or Mountain House survival foods – Costco carries them.]

6. Imported fruit. It’s not always easy to track down the best prices on imported fruits like bananas and pineapples at local gourmet food stores. You’ll find that most chain grocery stores offer the best prices on these types of fruits and on exotic fruits. Bananas and pineapples are protected from pesticide residue, so they’re fine to buy non-organic. When you’re buying bananas, make sure the tips are still slightly green to ensure they ripen slowly for a few days after purchase. Avoid buying an overripe pineapple by avoiding fruit that has any damage to the rind or smells excessively sweet. You can store the pineapple in the refrigerator as-is until you’re ready to slice it up.

Sabah Karimi is a top Yahoo contributor and a Wise Bread guide to best grocery credit cards and food shopping tips.