1) Watch for sales and use coupons.
I'm not a big coupon-using person. We don't get a regular newspaper and we live in such a small town that there aren't many stores to put out ads anyway! But there are sales every week and often the weekly fliers contain coupons. Plus, a lot of stores will have coupons in the checkout lane--I just picked up a packet of them the other day. Please note, however, that the only way to really save money with coupons is to use them only for items you would normally buy. Even if a box of name-brand cereal is on sale for $1.00 off, I wouldn't be saving any money by buying it because I wouldn't get it in the first place!
2) Compare, compare, compare!
Prices, ingredients, and package sizes, that is. Often store-brand products are the cheapest. However, that does NOT always mean they're the best deal! I always check these things:
-price per unit (ounce, pound, whatever. Also, if you shop at multiple stores, compare prices on the things you buy most often, such as milk and eggs, and see which store has the better overall deal.)
-ingredients and nutrition facts (does the store brand have the same ingredients and nutritional value as the name brand? Which one is the most healthful?)
-package sizes/serving sizes (this one is tricky! Sometimes something is cheaper because it contains less product. Packaging companies like to play visual tricks on consumers. Just because two packages look like they're the same size doesn't mean they contain the same amount.)
3) Eat less meat.
Meat is EXPENSIVE! Ground beef prices just make me shudder. We eat beef MAYBE once a week, if that. Otherwise it's chicken, fish, or vegetarian options! We're not vegetarian, but we've been eating like it because it's cheaper AND much healthier. Also, I'm very careful to pay as little as possible for the meat I do buy. I buy whole chickens for roasting (and get at least three meals out of them, between meat and making stock from the bones), or I buy bone-in, skin-on thighs or leg pieces. It means a little more work to prepare, but the price difference is so worth it.
4) Make the food you have last longer.
For those of you who have starches (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice) as a main part of your diet, this is the best way to make food stretch. For example, I made homemade refried beans and mixed in some rice. Voila: twice as much food for pennies.
As another example, I bought one pound of ground beef the other day (for nearly $4.00!) and am making it stretch through THREE meals. Meal one: meatballs with cream-of-mushroom-soup-and-sour-cream sauce (it is SO good) with mashed potatoes and a green salad. Meal two: macaroni and cheese from a box (on sale for 50 cents!) with three of the leftover meatballs cut up and mixed in, as well as some leftover crm-of-mushroom soup, with green beans on the side and berry muffins for dessert. Meal three (coming soon): beef-and-bean quesadillas with broccoli or salad on the side. (P.S. Homemade tortillas are yummier and cheaper than the store-bought version.)
Also, another way to make food last AND keep it interesting is to vary the way you prepare it. Instead of plain white rice, mix it with various herbs and spices (a cheap, calorie-free way to add tons of flavor to dishes), add it to beans like I did, stir in some shredded cheese, put it into soup, etc, etc. Potatoes are just as versatile: add to soups and casseroles, bake, mash, fry, or shred them; roast alone for oven-fries or with other root vegetables; etc, etc. Chicken can be prepared in a myriad of ways.
I realize many of these tips and ideas are ones you've already discovered for yourself...but perhaps one or two things here will be of use to you! Now I'd love to hear your ideas. How do you eat well while spending little?