You have to spend money on groceries, but your grocery bill can guzzle up your money fast if you don’t plan carefully. Smart grocery shopping takes a little bit of work, but anyone can do it with some planning.
You may not think much about your grocery shopping habits because grocery shopping might be another chore for you. But not thinking about how you are grocery shopping can have you spend extra money, waste more food, and choose items that aren’t good for you.
We don’t have time to clip coupons and go to multiple stores to stock on-sale items. However, some bad habits might be increasing your grocery bill. You can easily replace these habits with good ones that’ll cut your bill down drastically.
Shopping Without a Budget
Grocery shopping can eat up a significant portion of your income, outside of bills, if you don’t have any budget in place. Throwing random amounts of money at food each week can lead you to spend too much on food or not enough.
Spending too little on food during your planned grocery shops can have you running to the store mid-week and spending more money than needed on things to get you through the rest of the week and other random items you’ll be tempted to pick up.
There are several ways to plan a grocery budget, and it can be overwhelming to pick one. You’ll have to consider how many people are in your family and whether or not they have dietary needs that cost a little more money to meet.
You can approach starting a grocery budget by reviewing your spending. This could either be through looking at your receipts or your bank statement. Consider looking at what you spend on different types of food if you have receipts on hand. If there’s anything you can cut back on, try it out. You can always make adjustments as necessary.
Another common budget tip for grocery shopping is setting your budget based on how many people you need to shop for. For example, you budget $100 per person per month for a family of four. Doing this, along with meal planning around food you already have and checking flyers for sales, can be done if you stick to it.
Shopping on an Empty Stomach
Don’t step foot into a grocery store until you’ve had either a meal or a snack. Going to the grocery store on an empty stomach can easily divert you from your original purpose for grocery shopping. You may have only gone in for a few essentials, but before you know it, you’re grabbing up everything that looks tasty.
You also might be more inclined to purchase prepared foods at the grocery store when you’re hungry in anticipation of what you can eat quickly when you get home. Unfortunately, these prepared foods tend to come at a higher price due to their convenience. The same is true with junk food that is easy to open up and devour.
You might also notice that you can smell fresh food when you walk into a grocery store. Grocery stores will often situate their fresh departments close to the front of the store to capture those hungry shoppers that are more likely to impulse buy.
Shopping Without a List
Taking a few extra minutes before you leave for the grocery store to make a list is one of the best ways to save money. This gives you a game plan to tackle the grocery store smartly and avoid spending money on items you don’t need.
Not only should you have a list, but you should stick to the list. If you don’t have any extra room in your budget for one particular shop, don’t think about trying to stock up on-sale items. It takes some discipline, but it’s worth it, in the long run, to avoid biting into extra funds for food you don’t need right now.
It can also be helpful to organize your grocery list by aisle, so you can flow seamlessly through the store without going into aisles you don’t need to. Furthermore, it can help you save time wandering through aisles searching for the things on your list. This is simple to do if you shop at the same store every week.
Shopping at Trendy Boutique Stores
Taking a short trip to a trendy health store or bulk store once in a while isn’t a bad thing. However, many of these stores hike up the prices of basics and essentials, and most of it is not worth it. You may save time by doing all your shopping at one store, but you will be wasting money.
Discount grocery stores have items that are just as good as the brand-named items – sometimes, they’re even the same product, just in different packaging. Shopping at these stores for most of your grocery shopping is the best way to not overpay for food. Food can be expensive as it is; there’s no need to pay extra for fancy labels.
Shopping Without a Semblance of a Plan
You don’t have to plan out every single meal, but not having a plan at all is sabotage.
You’ll find yourself spending money on food you don’t need or can’t use. You also might find that you can’t make meals out of the random things you purchased, leading to either take-out or another trip to the store.
You can start small, such as with planning dinners since they are typically our biggest meals or the ones that require the most ingredients. You may also want to plan out your lunches for work or school. Plan your meals around your schedule that week. You can be as flexible as you need to be.
It’s also helpful to keep a list of items you need as they run out. That way, you don’t forget to grab it. Having to run to the store for one or two things is an easy way to accidentally spend more money than you need to because you think to yourself that you should grab more while you’re there.
Once you realize how much easier it is to grocery shop on a budget with a meal plan and see how your food waste is reduced, you’ll want to expand your efforts on your meal planning.
Not Planning Your Shopping Around What You Already Have
Most families have a fridge, freezer, pantry, and maybe a snack cupboard. Some families might have more than one freezer or fridge or a pantry that’s separate from their kitchen. Regardless of your setup, it’s hard to remember everything you already have at home.
Neglecting what you have at home before meal planning or making a grocery list is not ideal when you’re looking to save money or reduce food waste. However, you would be surprised how much keeping an inventory of what you have at home and basing your meals/lists around those items can impact what you spend at the grocery store.
Make it a priority to use up what you already have at home. Then, try to pick up things you need to create meals with those items. You also want to prioritize using foods that will expire soon first before anything else. This will drastically help reduce food waste while cutting down what you spend on groceries each week.
Not Finding Creative Ways to Use Up Food
Before you throw out those veggies about to go bad or that bread close to its best before date, stop and consider how you can use that food before you waste it.
- Having a repertoire of easy recipes that help you use odds and ends can reduce your food waste, help you have extra meals on hand, and ultimately, save you money.
- For example, you can throw any veggies close to their best before date into a Crockpot with some inexpensive broth or canned tomatoes and make a soup. You can then freeze the soup and have it on standby for a day without feeling like cooking.
- You can also throw those last few pieces of meat, cheese, or veggies into a casserole dish with some eggs for a yummy and nutritious frittata, which you can also freeze for later.
You might be surprised at just how many things you can freeze to extend their life a little longer and avoid waste.
Not Checking for Sales Before Planning
Most of us don’t want to sift through paper flyers every week to see who has what on sale. Thankfully, there are free-to-download apps that let you peruse weekly circulars for sales. You can also clip the deals that appeal to you and create lists on these apps.
Once you find some good sales, you can use these items to plan your menu for the week around. Considering how to use those sale items for more than one meal can help you stretch your dollar while also making sure you can use it all up. A sale item is not worth it if it’s not going to be used.
If you have a favored grocery store, find an app with its flyer. For example, if you shop at a store that does price matching, you can flip through flyers and clip sales from other stores to price match at the checkout line. Then, you can show the item on the app to the cashier. This will help you save a few bucks without putting in much effort.
Buying Convenience Items
Part of what can deter people from eating healthy can be the need to cut up fresh food. If you’re trying to eat healthier, you may opt for grabbing up the pre-sliced items in plastic bags or containers. While it may be convenient, it’s a big waste of money.
First of all, you are paying a premium for convenience. You are also paying for extra packaging that you will have to recycle or throw away. So it’s worth it, in the long run, to buy fresh items as is and cut them up yourself.
Furthermore, the way pre-packaged produce is packaged isn’t the ideal way to keep those items fresh for as long as possible. This can lead to you throwing out the food before you use it. Cutting up your food yourself can ensure you have more control over how it’s stored, keeping it fresh and usable for much longer.
The same is true for freezer meals you can pop in the oven, snack packs, or shredded cheese. Again, you’re paying more for these items because they save you time. Of course, you’ll have to sacrifice either time or money, but it’s more worth it to use some extra time to prepare your food.
Not Checking Which Deals Are Truly Worth It
You’ve probably noticed that the sale price is usually highlighted when things are on sale, so it immediately grabs your attention. This will cause you to grab the item blindly. However, there are some little tricks that grocery stores use to entice people to spend more under the assumption they are saving.
One way to avoid falling into sale traps is by looking at the tags on the grocery store displays. These tags will usually show you the price you are paying per ounce and the volume of food in the container. Then, compare this to other brands of the same item.
You might see that sometimes, sale items are more expensive than non-sale items. The same is true for brand names versus generic; generic brands aren’t always cheaper.
Bulk items might also seem like a good deal because you are getting a lot of one item. However, if you compare the bulk item to smaller portions, you might realize that you are paying more for less. Once again, reading the tags and comparing the volume is critical.
Trying to cut your grocery bill smartly without leaving you hungry takes some work, but once you get into these good habits, it’ll be like second nature. Taking that little bit of extra time will help you stretch your food to its limits, reduce waste, and ultimately, keep more money in your wallet.
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