I won’t pretend I’m perfect. I’ve made ALL 9 of these grocery mistakes, causing my bill to skyrocket. And I’m guessing you have, too. Which is why I made this list – to help us both remember to be a savvy shopper and save money in the long run. How much money? Committing just two or three mistakes on one trip will cost you $25 or more. Week in, week out, and that adds up to $1,300 a year!
How many of these grocery mistakes are you making?
1. You are shy.
You can learn a lot from the people who work at the grocery store. What days are meat and seafood delivered? When is the store restocked? Where is the discount bread and pastry rack? But you won’t know any of this unless you ask.
2. You try the samples.
It’s true that samples are free food and that they can make a Costco membership pay off in a few visits, but you’re also much, much more likely to buy a new product that wasn’t on your list when you take a bite of that delicious concoction and linger to hear the sales pitch in hopes of scoring a second free delicious snack. The whole point of having a sales rep on the floor giving out free samples is to sell that product!
3. You shop without a meal plan.
After years of wondering how to meal plan, thinking it was this big mystery that would take a lot of research to uncover, I FINALLY made my first meal plan. This is what it entails:
- I grab a dry erase pen.
- I write down what meals we are going to eat each night.
- My husband looks at the list and checks if we have everything we need. If we don’t, he adds it to the grocery list.
- That’s meal planning!
Here is a picture of the results of our meal planning. We make really simple meals and repeat a lot of dinners. If that’s cheating, then I’m a cheater through and through.
Okay, so it can obviously get a lot more complex. But it can also be ridiculously simple. And either way, you’re going to make one weekly shopping trip, thereby spending less money. Mid-week shopping trips for “one gallon of milk” end up costing, on average, $25.
4. You use the BIG cart.
The bigger the cart, the more you’re tempted to fill it. Why do you think your typical Costco bill tops $200? The carts are enormous. Next time you head out for groceries, grab one of those teeny tiny two level carts that are so darling.
5. You shop when you’re tired.
This is why my husband hates grocery shopping – it is 791 decisions packed into 45 stress-filled minutes. Purdue or Hormel? Ground beef 85% lean or 90% lean? One pound or two? And that’s just for one item! Now imagine trying to make all those decisions at the end of your day, when you’ve already made perhaps thousands of decisions. Not to mention your feet hurt, you gotta pee like a racehorse, and you’re hungry.
6. You are loyal.
Always buy Crest toothpaste? Tide detergent? Horizon milk? You’re a sucker! Being brand loyal prevents you from taking advantage of sales on similar brands. Experiment once or twice a week with a new brand and make a mental note when you find ones you like. Then make sure to buy the best price within your favorites.
7. You shun generic.
Got something to prove? Try generic – even if you’re too ashamed to tell your friends. There are some REALLY good generic brands, depending on the store you shop at and the particular item you are buying. I’ve found that more than half of the generic brands I buy are as good or better than mainstream brands. Don’t write off all generic because of one bad experience.
8. You shop when you’re hungry.
If you haven’t eaten in more than an hour, you’re setting yourself up for a junk food binge at the market, one study found. Hungry shoppers tend to buy more processed snack food that is immediately ready to eat. So shopping hungry hurts your budget (junk food costs more than healthy food) and your health.
9. You don’t bring a list.
When’s the last time you remembered everything on your list – without your list? I’ll give a $100 to the next person who can remember their entire list by heart! We flip between a paper list and an electronic list, and we seem to forget our list less if it’s stored as a digital reminder in our iPhones. Here’s how to create a grocery list that multiple people can add to and edit. The beauty of having your list is twofold. You won’t have to run back to the store midweek and you’ll be less tempted to buy things off list.