The last time I went grocery shopping, I was shocked at how expensive some items were. I mean $7.99 for a small package of pine nuts?

The last time I went grocery shopping, I was shocked at how expensive some items were. I mean $7.99 for a small package of pine nuts?

Eager to figure out how to cut down on my grocery bills, other than avoiding the nut aisle, I turned to Janelle Nokes, a Kansas City mother of three who has written extensively about this topic on her two blogs, The Monkey Room and Not Just Leftovers.

Here are some of the tips she had to offer:

1. Shop in the morning. You are likely to find significant mark-downs on meat, produce and bakery items that are still perfectly fine.

2. Clip coupons. Review the sale ads each week and match your coupons with the sales for the best deals. Combining your coupons with in-store specials can result in products that cost you little to nothing. But don't buy something just because you have a coupon.

3. Look outside the grocery store. Your local farmer's market, neighborhood convenience store or a bakery thrift store might have cheaper prices.

4. Buy in bulk when it makes sense. For example, yeast and flour are very cheap in bulk and can be stored for a long time in the freezer.

5. Check your grocer's bulk bins. Products such as oats, nuts and grains are considerably less expensive when you bag them yourself.

6. Shop with cash only. That will cut down on the impulse buys.

7. Plan your menus a week at a time. Look in your pantry and freezer to assess your needs. Then check the grocery store ads to see what is on sale. Buy mostly sale items, and only buy what you need.

8. Substitute ingredients. Don't have cream? Use milk. Recipe calls for an expensive cut of meat? Make it with a less pricey one. Use recipes only as guidelines.

9. Use those leftovers. If you don't want to eat the same meal, turn it into something else. A chicken breast can be shredded or cubed and used in another recipe. Pasta sauce can become pizza sauce. Bread can become breadcrumbs or croutons. There are Web sites that allow you to enter the ingredients, then generate lists of recipes.

10. Give gardening a try. You don't need a big yard. A few pots on your back patio with tomatoes, peppers, or whatever else you like will do. Not only is it cheaper than buying it at the store, but it's fresher.