The average American family spends $4,300 per year on food, according to the National Grocer's Association (NGA). This may seem like a lot, but don't worry: There are ways to cut down on spending and make healthier choices when grocery shopping.

First, you need to be prepared. Keep in mind that grocery stores are not laid out for your convenience--the goal is to keep you in the store for as long as possible. The longer you're there, the money you're likely to spend and, oftentimes, the poorer the choices you'll make.

Follow these easy shopping tips to help slim your grocery bill and your waistline:

  • Shop the perimeter.

    Healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fresh meats and fish, and fresh whole-grain breads are located around the perimeter of the store. Pre-packaged and unhealthy foods and snacks are often in the aisles.
  • Don't shop when you're hungry.

    When you walk into a store, you're often immediately hit with the smell of delicious food. That's why baked goods are usually at the front of the store. It's hard to be a smart shopper when everything makes your mouth water.
  • Look high and low.

    The most expensive items are usually placed at eye level: 5 feet 4 inches from the floor, to be exact. If you're looking for less-expensive options, you're going to have to work for it, reaching high and bending down low to the less accessible shelves.
  • Forget what you think you know.

    Don't assume that items are on sale just because they're at the end of aisles. Oftentimes, grocers do this to catch your attention, not necessarily to give you a good deal.
  • Don't get distracted.

    Staple items, such as dairy, meat, and deli products, are placed at the back of stores. It's no coincidence that you have to walk through several other departments to get to the things you need. Grocers know you're likely to stop in the other departments and make purchases.
  • Compare unit prices.

    Contrary to popular belief, larger-size products are not always a better buy. This often holds true for items such as peanut butter, tomato products, cottage cheese, and tuna fish.
  • Avoid the crowd.

    If you get flustered or annoyed by crowds, you may be likely to buy the first thing you see just so you can get out of there. By shopping early in the morning or late at night, you can avoid the tendency to impulse shop.
  • Clip coupons.

    Check to see if your local grocery store accepts competitors' coupons. Every little bit helps, right?
  • Don't forget your supermarket brand.

    Often your supermarket brand's products are cheaper, even if you have a coupon for a name-brand product. You and your family likely won't notice a difference in taste.
  • Make a list and stick to it.

    If you have an itemized list, you'll be less tempted to spend money on unnecessary products--or to let the sweet smell of cinnamon buns lure you to buy one...or a dozen.