NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Americans seem to have a love-hate relationship with their grocery stores. They don't like to shop, but do gain satisfaction from getting a discount on favored foods and household products.
And while they do spend an average $150 per week on food, according to a 2012 Gallup poll, 40% of all food bought in the U.S. goes uneaten, according to data from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
That's a big chunk of change to the average family, up to $2,275 annually for a family of four, the council says.
In tougher economic times, who can afford to dump more than $2,000 down the drain every year?
That's why it's helpful to plan ahead before grocery shopping, solving two problems in the process -- saving money on groceries and using all of the food you buy, which maximizes the value of your household budget.
With planning, "families can save money on groceries every single week," says Robert Drescher, CEO of Cellfire, an online grocery coupon downloading service.
Some of the site's tips are creative, and some rely on good-old common sense:
Think ahead. Cellfire says you can save some big coin by planning your meals, because then you're buying only the ingredients you need and you have ample time to look for coupons. Springpad has a good line of food planning tips on its website. Find it here.
Buy fruits and veggies "in-season." When you buy produce in season, you're getting a huge price break, Cellfire says. Here's a good list of in-season fruits and veggies by month, from Wisebread.com.
Go online for coupons. Of course, Cellfire is in the business of providing consumers' grocery coupons, but they do have a great list of coupons to choose from. If that doesn't float your boat budget-wise, try Coupons.com, which had $612.90 in total coupons savings available on Friday.
Use everything. When grocery shopping, make sure to eyeball all expiration dates and buy the items with the "latest date possible," Cellfire says. When you do have leftovers, freeze everything -- even fruits can be frozen, to be used for healthy smoothies at a later date.
One last tip: Feel free to buy in bulk, but do it smartly. Make sure to focus on nonperishable items such as laundry detergent and plastic bags, and avoid buying too much food that can spoil if you're not careful.
There's big money in the household budget to be saved if you're a smart grocery shopper. And it's easier to cook up than you might think.