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As the price of groceries has inflated recently, thousands flocked to a TikTok influencer's videos of how to shop for and cook cheap dollar-store meals.

Those social media ideas from account @dollartreedinners struck a chord after the cost of food rose 11.4% last year, the biggest annual jump in nearly 50 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. Some of the TikTok influencer's most viral videos show her shopping at Dollar General — a prolific discount store that's not just accessible cost-wise but also for those living in food deserts or with limited transportation — with a $35 budget for a week's worth of food. Her meals — everything from beans on toast to taco soup — included breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus snacks and drinks.

"I hate it that groceries got so expensive," said Betsy Enstrom of Bloomington. "I feel it every time I shop, even online. But to save a little bit for other things, that means a lot to me."

What's ahead is murky. According to the USDA's range of estimates released in July, the price of food could fall almost 7% or rise as much as 9% in 2024.

Enstrom and others shared five creative ways they're cutting down on grocery spending to help you save money without going hungry.

Leverage food-delivery apps

Instead of using her DoorDash subscription for takeout, Enstrom estimated she saves $200 a month on food by using the app for grocery shopping and delivery.

"Back in the old days, my grandpa would drive my grandma around for the loss leaders," she said. "Now, you can go to several grocery stores to get their good sales, and you don't have to leave your house. It jut comes to your door all bagged up."

DashPass costs her about $100 a year, and she has to spend more than $35 per order to unlock free grocery delivery. She uses the app to find sales at various stores, including Aldi, Hy-Vee and Lunds & Byerlys. Other apps like GrubHub and UberEats also offer similar grocery/convenience delivery and premium subscriptions.

"I do a lot of Aldi, but Aldi isn't fun for me to shop at [in person] because it feels like shopping at Sam's [Club]," Enstrom said. "But you can do Aldi on DoorDash and let someone else navigate the chaos."

Enstrom typically spends $100 to $150 a week at a couple of stores to feed her family of three, including her fiancé and stepson. She is sure to leave her deliverer a tip, thankful she doesn't have to drive herself.

Financial experts also tout delivery as a way to cut out spontaneous buys, since you're less likely to add an off-list item to your cart if you don't physically walk by the nice display. But that doesn't always work.

"Sometimes, I see good deals on something I wouldn't normally buy, so you can never get away from impulse shopping," she said. "But I don't buy a lot of junk foods."

Meatless somedays

Ruth Hoekstra's family loves her black-bean soup. She also turns to meatless options like pancake nights or grilled cheese and tomato soup at her Northfield home to cut costs.

Fresh fruit and raw veggies are often the sides to these meals.

"Meat is one of the more expensive things you can buy at the store, especially if it's been processed," Hoekstra said.

Breakfast for dinner is especially popular with her husband and children, a treat she said she has "thrown into the mix, maybe a few times a month."

Bruce and Mary Kelley took that concept even further, going vegan in the past year and cutting their grocery budget by 40%.

"We did it because we had been making continuing efforts in recent years to go green," she said. "We weren't looking to save money. It was a happy benefit."

The Kelleys live in downtown Minneapolis and frequently walk to the Minneapolis Farmers Market for fresh produce, hit Costco for bulk items and buy tofu inexpensively at Asian markets. They stock their pantry and freezer with canned and frozen veggies and beans.

Mary Kelley has adapted recipes, such as her meatball soup, using plant-based replacements for meat.

"It's not hard at all to veganize your diet," she said.

Don't overlook discount stores

Walmart, the nation's leading grocer, attracts consumers who are on tight budgets as well as the affluent wanting deals. Costco, another top national grocer, draws regulars who purchase memberships to buy in bulk for less.

Meanwhile, Aldi is growing in popularity for its low prices, private brands and smaller stores, especially compared to big-box competitors.

"Sale prices on produce and regular prices on staples can't be beat," said Hoekstra, who makes a weekly stop at Aldi as her main grocery run.

California green grapes recently ran $1.49 a pound, and Washington Bartlett pears cost $2.69 for a 3-pound bag. Hoekstra said prices at her nearby Cub and Family Fare are sometimes double what she'd pay at Aldi.

Hy-Vee and Cub sales don't even tempt her.

"Sometimes those are really great deals," she said. "But the smart shopper would just go for those deals, and go to Aldi for everything else."

Summer garden turned winter pantry

This fall, Jordan Mesenbourg is busy preparing for her family's weekly spaghetti and taco nights in her New Brighton kitchen and garden.

"My goal this summer with my vegetable harvest was to can enough salsa, bread-and-butter pickles, crushed tomatoes and marinara sauce that we would have a year's supply," she said. "We also buy very few vegetables in the fall and winter because of the beans, kale and zucchini I've frozen and the squash, potatoes and carrots in storage in the basement."

Once bread prices rose, she started making her own.

"I think my bread is better," Mesenbourg said. "But I'm still mastering the perfect bread."

As a part-time art teacher and with her 4-year-old son in preschool, she has time to invest in home economics, a trend in her family. Her sister also is moving toward more self-sufficiency.

"I can make our life less expensive, and I can make it nicer," Mesenbourg said.

Sale before craving

To be on top of sales, download the apps of the stores where you shop and base your meal-planning on the deals available. You can also clip coupons the old-fashioned way, out of the print newspaper.

"Find the meat that's on sale, and plan a couple of meals around that," Hoekstra said.

Mesenbourg bought end-of-season specials at the Minneapolis Farmers Market last year and scored a 50-pound bag of onions for $25 that lasted all winter.

Besides shopping sales, Lin Nelson-Mayson of Golden Valley followed her mother's lead and buys store brands and compares prices per unit.

"I shop the sales so I look for things I know that we can stock up on that will last," she said, "and I know that we will use."