How many times have you been in this situation. You realize you need to make something for dinner, have nothing in the house and decide to make a quick trip to the grocery store. An hour and $179 later, you’re scratching your head trying to figure out where the money went.
We’ve all been there but luckily, dear reader, I’m going to help you recognize some of the warning signs to look out for so you can avoid sticker shock in the checkout line.
Succumb to food aisle wanderlust
You’ll overspend on groceries if you go into the store without a plan. Yes, planning is a pain but you’re either going to spend the time planning or wandering around the store. If you plan and go in with a grocery list you can stay focused on the task at hand and avoid temptation.
You can read about how I plan my grocery trips with a master grocery list here.
Grab the first item you see
My mom would only ever buy meat when it was on sale. Mom’s know stuff. Luckily it’s even easier to figure out what’s on sale. Grocery store websites will list the weekly sales, check it while you are making your list.
My grocery store also has a great mobile application so you can load up on coupons that are taken off automatically when you check out. No more coupon boxes!
Stick to one grocery store
If you have the time, you can save a lot of money by shopping at different stores. You probably have some specialty retailers near you that can really save you money. I don’t do this every week but as an example here’s what I’ll do.
- Get most items at my regular grocery store
- Pickup baking supplies and spices from a bulk foods store. Spices in bulk are so much cheaper than the grocery store
- Pickup meats at my local butcher
- Shop for hair products at a beauty supply shop
Granted, not everyone has the time to do this every week but if you do this a few times a year and buy in bulk you’ll come out on top.
Go gaga over grocery delivery
Over the last year I tried the grocery deliveries. It’s super convenient. I did this for a couple of weeks and noticed that my grocery bill was higher than normal even factoring in the delivery fees.
I did a little research and found that grocery prices on a website don’t reflect the prices in-store. I suspect that there are regional price differences that you’ll see shopping local but aren’t reflected on the websites.
It could also be because I make last minute decision based on unit prices when I’m in the store.
Whatever the reason, I’ll just do my grocery list in advance and go to the store myself.
Don’t look at unit prices
I teach my kids this lesson when they go shopping with me. I’m always comparing unit prices for things. At this point, it’s so second nature I rarely look at the list price.
This is particularly true with cereal. I’m a sucker for a box of Captain Crunch. Even when the regular size box is on sale, the extra large box is always cheaper.
Snatch up BOGOs
My love of Cheez-its goes back decades. I’ve probably consumed over ten-thousands cheesy crackers in my lifetime. My local grocery store often has a BOGO on Cheez-its. If the unit price is cheaper than a larger size box or if I want the variety then I’m going to buy them.
However, there is a psychological trick going on here that the author Daniel Ariely writes about in his excellent book Predictably Irrational.
Every time we make a purchase we run a cost benefits analysis to help our buying decisions. When you introduce the word “free” into a purchasing decision then we believe the benefits of the free item are higher.
The net result of this? You might not even consider buy one get one free deal on last week’s beef liver. However, slap a free sticker on a pack of meat and all of a sudden you’re thinking “Hmm, that’s a good deal, I do need to eat more liver.”
Not using ClipDish
One way you can save yourself some time in the grocery store is to use our cookbook app ClipDish. It will pull out the ingredients from the recipes you find on the web so you can have them on hand when you’re making your grocery list.
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