Grocery stores are among the most challenging retail environments for shoppers. Food is something we need, we crave, and we love so not only is there a physical attachment, there’s also an emotional attachment. We not only need it, but we want it. Those two factors can cause us to make poor decisions when it comes to buying food.
Not only that, but price tags are often absent from individual items, so you must rely on shelf tags to determine prices, which reduces cost awareness and makes price comparison more difficult. On top of this, it’s not always obvious which shelf tag matches which item. Additionally, when price discrepancies occur at the register, it’s a pain to correct them (if you notice the problem at all), because someone has to walk back to the aisle to determine the price.
Coupled with the rising costs of food staples, this confusion and inconvenience can lead to significant overspending on groceries over time. Moreover, grocery shopping is also an area prone to extraordinary waste. People frequently buy more food than they can eat before it goes bad or spend too much on the items that they purchase.
Grocery Saving Tips
Try the following methods for reducing your grocery spending:
- Make a list: Make a shopping list in advance of every trip you take to the grocery store. Outline the meals and snacks that you plan to prepare in the coming week or month, and figure out in advance which ingredients you’re missing. Purchase only the items on your list.
- Clip coupons: Read your local paper and use online tools to find coupons for items that you purchase regularly. These savings, combined with in-store specials such as double coupon days, can make a big difference. Newspapers seem to have fewer and fewer coupons for food these days so you may need to check out couponmom.com (free) or the grocerygame.com (membership).
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry: You’re almost guaranteed to spend more on impulse food purchases that you don’t really need if you shop when your stomach is grumbling.
- Join store loyalty programs: Many grocery stores offer discounts and other ben-efits to customers who sign up for their frequent-shopper programs. Use the loyalty program offers in the same way you use coupons.
- Keep a running tally: Take a calculator with you to the grocery store, and add up each item that you place in your shopping basket to avoid a nasty surprise in the checkout aisle. Seeing how the expenses add up may prompt you to make adjustments as you shop. If you know that you’re halfway through your allotted grocery money when you’re only a quarter of the way through the store, you’ll know you need to put some items back on the shelf or buy less expensive options during the rest of your visit.
- Note prices: Take a second to jot down the price of each item that you put in your cart. That way, when you come across a comparable product in another area of the store—say, paprika that’s sold in the international foods aisle rather than the traditional spice section—you’ll be able to judge which item offers the better deal.
- Manage your cash: Another way to stay within your budget is to pay for groceries with cash and carry only the allotted amount of cash into the store with you. Without credit, you can’t help but spend within your means.
- Pay attention: Don’t rummage through your wallet or read a magazine while your items are being scanned. Watch the cashier and keep an eye on the screen to make sure the quantities and prices of your items are entered correctly. If there’s a discrepancy between the amount you calculated while shopping and the amount you’re charged, check your receipt before you leave, and point out any errors.
- Use your freezer: Take advantage of deeply discounted meat, bread, and other perishable items by storing them in your freezer until you’re ready to eat them.
- Cook less than you need: If you’re like me, you frequently find your refrigerator is full of leftovers that most in your family won’t eat. Cook less than you think you need so that you don’t end up throwing it out.