How to Avoid Spending Too Much at the Grocery Store
Learn easy ways to keep from spending too much while shopping for groceries. Get specific tips on how to limit trips, plan ahead, and learn how to find the best bargains.
Grocery shopping is a chore for some and an adventure for others, but many people who are on a tight budget are looking for ways to cut costs while still providing nutritious meals for themselves and their families. Readers on the frugal grocery shopper’s track can find easy ways to save money by limiting trips, planning ahead, and discovering the best bargains.
Limit Trips to the Grocery Store
Multiple grocery trips can cost consumers more money in unnecessary purchases and in gasoline and time. Many people find that they are tempted to purchase extra items each time they enter a store. They may not even think of purchasing a product until they see the item on the shelf while browsing for needed items. The most heavily advertised products are often those with the biggest profit margins. Store managers may regularly move items around in the hopes that shoppers will see something that they do not normally purchase.
To minimize the temptation to purchase unnecessary items, decide how many groceries can be purchased with one shopping trip. For example, people who are paid once a month may be able to purchase a month’s worth of groceries, except for items like fresh fruits or dairy products or other items that may only be edible for a shorter period of time. Some foods, like many types of meat, can be frozen and thawed at a later time.
If additional shopping is needed for items that cannot be frozen or otherwise preserved, it is helpful to go only to those specific areas rather than browsing throughout the store. Some people find it helpful to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and other perishable foods that are in season at a local farm, farmers market, or co-op. Others may have neighbors or co-workers who may readily share extra produce from their gardens.
Plan Grocery Shopping Before Leaving Home
Many people find themselves making numerous trips to the grocery store because they forgot to purchase a needed item. It helps to make a list. Some people might benefit from a preprinted checklist of necessary items in which they can mark off all needed items and will be less likely to forget items that are not purchased with each trip.
Shopping trips may take many detours or be cut short if shoppers and/or their children are tired, hungry, or rushed. It helps to arrange a schedule that allows enough time for the shopping trip and to ensure that the person or people going shopping are well-rested and well-fed.
Know-How to Find Grocery Bargains by Looking at Unit Prices
Many companies like to make shoppers think they are getting a bargain, but smart shoppers will do the math and ensure that they are getting the most for their money. Some stores have a unit price listed beside each purchase price. Lower unit prices mean better bargains. In general, to determine a unit price, divide the total price by the number of ounces or another applicable unit of measurement. A calculator may be a great low-cost investment for those who struggle with computing unit costs. Many shoppers can find bargains by:
- Purchasing in bulk
- Using coupons for needed items that the shopper would purchase anyway
- Looking for a store or generic brands (these are often not at eye level and may have less eye-catching labels)
- Considering less convenient foods (for example, a whole turkey may provide much more Meat for sandwiches than purchasing the same cost of prepackaged sliced turkey)
Speak with department managers regarding their stocking practices. Many people find that meats take up a large percentage of their grocery bills. The meat department manager may have a schedule in which they discount certain meats on particular days and/or times. Planning a shopping trip based on that schedule may give shoppers the ability to stock up on some excellent bargains.
Buy Larger Packages of Food and Supplies to Save Money
When at the grocery store, save money on food and supplies by purchasing larger packages. This may not always be practical for meats, produce, or other perishables that will not be consumed before they spoil, but when purchasing non-perishable foods and supplies, opt for the larger packages or containers, and if necessary, store the excess product until it’s needed later. In 90 percent of cases, manufacturers will offer a better price per ounce when selling larger food packages and containers, and this results in saving money on grocery bills.
Pet food, laundry detergents, household cleaners, and cereal are all products that can be purchased in larger quantities for a better deal and to save money on grocery shopping.
Use Coupons, but Collect Them Only for the Items You Were Already Planning to Purchase
Grocery coupons in the Sunday newspaper or the supermarket circular are a great way to save money with little effort, but shoppers often end up purchasing varieties or brands of foods and supplies that they wouldn’t normally purchase – just because they have a coupon. This can lead to a waste of money since the shopper may not enjoy the product they purchased, so they may need to return to purchase the item that was originally on their grocery shopping list.
So use grocery coupons, and take advantage of sales for lots of savings at the supermarket, but only purchase foods and supplies that will definitely be enjoyed and used. One great way to find grocery coupons for specific products on your list involves using free printable coupons for groceries.
Save Money With a Supermarket’s Discount Card
Many supermarkets, drug stores, and other stores offer free keychain discount cards that entitle the shopper to special discounts and sales. This can lead to some significant savings on grocery bills and it’s an easy yet effective way to spend less money on groceries in the long run.
Keep and Compare Receipts from Different Supermarkets and Drug Stores
Comparative shopping can be difficult and shoppers may have a hard time determining which stores offer the best buys and most savings to shoppers. Some stores will offer lower prices on groceries, but the store won’t offer additional savings with sales or through the use of a shopper discount card.
Other stores may have slightly higher prices, but the shopper sees a lower grocery bill, in the end, thanks to sales and discount cards. So compare receipts to get a better idea of which store offers better buys and savings for shoppers.
Save Money by Shopping at Wholesale Stores
Wholesale stores like Costco and B.J’s Wholesale Club offer significant savings, discounts, and across-the-board money savings to people who buy in bulk. Shoppers should visit a local wholesale store like Costco to see what grocery items and household supplies can be purchased in bulk.
Toilet paper, paper towels, pet food, juices and soda, canned goods, snacks, medications, and shampoos are just a few of the many items that can be purchased in bulk for significant savings. The general rule is this: If you’re sure to use it within a reasonable amount of time, it makes sense to buy in bulk. A five-year supply of mustard doesn’t really make sense. But a four-week supply of toilet paper? That makes “cents.”
Save Money on Every Grocery Trip
People who wish to spend less on groceries can make a few changes and see quick results. By limiting trips to the grocery store, planning ahead, and computing the unit price for the best bargain, shoppers may find that they are saving money consistently each month. Readers are welcome to share any of their money-saving tips in the comment box below.