Christmas and New Year's have sneaked up on us once again. Your gifts already may be under the tree, but many of us are facing another hurdle: the holiday feast.

After a season of gift-shopping, overspending at the supermarket is the last thing you want to do. Follow these tips for saving on groceries.

First, do not underestimate the power of planning and research.

Go through all of your recipes. Scale the ingredients to the number of people you'll be serving. Write down exactly how much you'll need of each ingredient, right down to the ounces.

Once you have the master list, pull out this week's inserts from the Sunday and Wednesday editions of The Post and Courier.

Coupons run on Sundays, and it's best to keep those until Wednesday, when the grocery stores insert their weekly deals in the newspaper. That way you can compare coupons to Wednesday's deals to find out which stores will yield the best prices.

Copies of the Wednesday and Sunday editions can be picked up at The Post and Courier downtown. You also can find coupons and the weekly circulations for the stores in your area online at Sundaysaver.com.

Coupon-clipping and comparing prices are not as time-consuming as they sound. After about 10 minutes of research, I discovered where you can find the best prices on some of these holiday staple foods.

You'll probably spend the most on a holiday ham or turkey, so deals and coupons will really come in handy. Find a Carolina Pride smoked butt ($1.17 per pound) or shank (97 cents per pound) at Piggly Wiggly or a spiral sliced half-ham ($1.39 per pound) at Food Lion.

Harris Teeter has the cheapest deal with its brand of fresh turkey, priced at $1.29 per pound. If you prefer a Butterball turkey, clip the $3-off coupon from Sunday's paper and head to Piggly Wiggly for the cheapest price.

Sweet potatoes are 10 cents cheaper at Harris Teeter than other grocery stores this week, and collard greens at Publix are buy one, get one free.

For most produce, I like to check out the Vegetable Bin on East Bay Street first. Many of its fruits and veggies are locally grown and the prices are often better than in supermarkets.

As a rule, always make sure to read the fine print and do the math.

“Buy one, get one free” often means you can take half off the price of one item instead of having to take home an extra item you may not need.

And remember to read the per-unit price on the price tag. Just because a brand is on sale doesn't necessarily mean it's the best deal.

If saving more money is one of your New Year's resolutions, keep these tricks of the trade in mind. Savvy grocery shopping is a habit that's never out of season.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5581.