If you learn how to properly bargain hunt and work the system, you'll start finding that many of your purchases are practically steals.

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We've probably all chuckled a little when someone exclaims that a growing teen or robust houseguest is eating them out of house and home. However, if your family spends too much on groceries, you may be doing the same thing -- with a less humorous effect. In tough economic times, any money you save is money that could be going toward living expenses, such as mortgage, rent and utilities -- or any other cost important to your family.

The average American consumer spends more than 7 percent of his or her annual income on food eaten at home, and that statistic doesn't include other grocery expenditures, such as cleaning products and toiletries [source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]. This is more than that same person spends on health care in a year's time.

Fortunately, grocery spending is an easy place to save money. Unlike insurance premiums or mortgage payments, there is no fixed amount you must pay when you arrive at the checkout counter. Prices vary from store to store and week to week; with a little savvy, you can reduce costs further.

There are several components to saving money on groceries -- budgeting, couponing, cost comparing, waiting for specials, buying in bulk, store memberships, sampling, buying generic, growing your own food, making substitutions and meal planning -- and any combination of them can help you find significant bargains that can dramatically cut your spending.

Now if you're already worrying that these steps will be overwhelming or that they'll turn you into one of those obsessive families on TLC's "Extreme Couponing," don't. Millions of families use money-saving grocery strategies and never resort to extreme or complicated behavior like rummaging through Dumpsters for coupons. All you need is a little planning and organization, and soon you'll have extra money in your family's budget to put toward both necessities (bills) and fun stuff (family vacations). So keep reading, and we'll introduce you to the variety of ways you can cut your household grocery expenses.