After taxes and housing, the biggest budget category in nearly every household is food. Learning how you waste money at the grocery store will then help you save a lot.
Here are 6 common grocery shopping mistakes you need to avoid.
Shopping while Hungry
You’ve probably heard the advice not to shop while hungry, though few of us understand why. When you are hungry, you are more likely to spend more on food. You’ll put more snacks in the basket than you otherwise would. You’ll be more prone to impulse buys in addition to what is on your list. In short, you spend more. This means having a snack before your grocery shopping will save you money.
Buying Anything while In Line
One of the biggest mistakes we make when grocery shopping is buying anything while we’re in line. The cost of a 20-ounce soda in that register line refrigerator is the cost of a 2-liter soda in the soda aisle. Two bottles of water in the same fridge cost as much as a gallon or two of bottled water. The cost of several little candy bars and snacks tossed in at the last minute costs as much as a full-sized bag of chips and candy from the snack aisle. In short, the highest cost per serving is found on the shelves tempting you in the checkout aisle.
Not Buying Generic
An increasing number of grocery stores are selling generic brands. Consumer Reports magazine found that many generics are just as good as the name brands but cost a lot less. Notably, the store brand premium products like organic canned foods cost a third of the price of the name brands but are as good. And, sometimes, they actually taste better. You’ll typically pay less per item if you buy generic paper goods at the grocery store than if you buy the same items at the dollar store.
Hitting the Store Every Day or Two
Unless you’re feeding a family of 6, plan on one weekly trip to the grocery store. Every time you’re in the store, you’re prone to throw a few extra goodies into the basket. That adds ten to twenty percent to the total bill when you’re only picking up a few items. When you plan a single weekly trip, you’ll end up with a list of everything you need. You’ll have to limit what you buy to what fits in the cart. That prevents you from throwing ten or twenty other items in on impulse. It also limits the number of beverages you buy.
Stocking Up on the Wrong Things
One of the grocery shopping mistakes people make in the name of frugality is buying things they can’t or won’t use because it is on sale. Don’t stock up on perishable items if they will go bad before you use it all. Don’t buy a lot of items because they’re on sale if you don’t normally buy them. However, you should stock up on non-perishable items you regularly use when they are on sale. For example, buy the extra couple of cans of corn to get the 10 or 10 deal or the second roll of toilet paper in the buy one get one free deal.
Taking Your Time in the Store
There is a direct correlation between the amount of time you spend in the store and how much you spend. This is why grocery stores rearrange the items every few months. It forces you to search for what you want. It also explains the end caps arranged to make you stop and navigate your way around them. A good way to save money is to come in with a list and quickly grab just what you need. When you stop to admire the flowers, skim the shelves for deals, or come in without a plan, you’re going to spend more than you planned. And if you’re only buying a couple of items, then go through the self-checkout lane instead of waiting ten minutes to have your order rung up.
Avoid these grocery-shopping mistakes, and you could shave ten to thirty percent off your grocery budget without changing where you shop or what you buy. Clipping coupons, timing sales, and shifting to cheaper options like making meals from scratch would only add to these savings.