By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan: Clipping coupons can be a chore, but there are secrets to slashing grocery bills without using coupons. The April 2015 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, uncovers ways to track supermarket sales cycles and other special discounts for big savings, plus food storage tips so shoppers can stock up on items when they are on sale.

To maximize savings, ShopSmart recommends using timing strategies to buy and store family favorites and pantry staples.

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1. Meat and poultry. They’re usually the priciest items on a grocery list but can last for months in the freezer. Stock up on birds, cutlets, roasts, ribs, steaks and chops when deals are at least 50 percent off; supermarkets typically offer barbeque specials, including meat and poultry, in July. Meats and poultry can be frozen up to nine months to a year depending on the item. And sliced deli meats are freezable for one to two months when well-sealed.

2. Cheese. Snatch up cheese favorites when sales reach up to 57 percent off. Unopened blocks of hard cheese such as cheddar and Parmesan can last six months in the fridge; sliced and shredded cheeses can be frozen up to four months. For the lowest price per ounce, buy cheese in blocks, shred it, then freeze. Price cuts on cheese and other dairy items typically occur in June.

3. Baking supplies. Most baking items are often steeply marked down in December around the holidays. And a once-a-year sale is all shoppers need for most ingredients. Some, like sugar, never go bad. Cool, dry, airtight storage is a must to preserve quality; freeze anything that doesn’t contain oil or a leavening agent to extend its life even longer.

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4. Bread, cereal, and granola bars. There are often great discounts in this category that can top 50 percent. Sealed boxes of cereal and granola bars will keep in the pantry for at least a year. Many breakfast favorites are on sale in September. The bread aisle usually has buy-one-get-one-free offers, so freeze spare loaves for three months’ worth of sandwiches. To avoid freezer-induced dryness, work the air out of the bag before freezing.

5. Condiments and pasta sauce. The best sales on mayo, ketchup and salad dressings – 40 to 60 percent off – happen during the summer months because of picnics and barbecues for summer holidays. Unopened containers last at least six months. Tomato products last up to 18 months. Also look for soups on sale during the cold months.

For the complete list of ShopSmart’s top 10 groceries to buy on sale, along with a calendar of what to buy when, pick up the April 2015 issue on newsstands now.

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