5 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill
If you're like me, a trip to the store for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk can easily run $30 to $40 bucks. Has inflation just really gone up in my neck of the woods? No... I just always seem to find other things I need.
But now that we've moved to the country - and I mean, really out in the country - running to the store is more than just a quick jaunt around the corner. In fact, going to the grocery store means "going into town" and that's somewhat of an event all by itself.
1. Make a list. Okay, you've probably heard this one before but I'm going to expand on this idea a bit. Before you start listing items, sit down and plan your meals for the upcoming week, even if you're just planning to have sandwiches one night. Now go through your fridge and cabinets and determine what items you need to make those meals. Next, you'll want to add any staples that you're out of - i.e., flour, sugar, bread, milk, etc. - and anything else you want to include. While you don't have to be obsessively organized to make this work, it does make the process easier if your cabinets have some sort of order to them.
2. Know what you can spend. Before you place one thing in your shopping cart, you should know exactly what you plan to spend. And as you put an item in the cart, write down its price beside the item on your list (it's easier if you round up). When you're through shopping, add it up and see how you did. You'll be surprised at how much you spent, especially if you didn't implement Rule #4 (see below).
3. Not on the list? Don't buy. There are two ways you can work this one: either you agree that you won't buy anything if it's not on your list or you allow yourself, say, three extra items in case you forgot to add something. You can also note the item so you can add it to your list next time, although you'll often find that by your next shopping trip, you don't want the item as badly.
4. Eat before you go. There's nothing worse than shopping on an empty stomach, especially when so many grocery stores now include gourmet delis with delicious aromas wafting through the air. Make sure you only shop on a full stomach to avoid spending more because you're hungry.
5. And last but not least...pay attention. This is perhaps the most important tip you can use to save on your grocery bill. Because believe it or not, grocery stores have a motive for every aisle, every endcap and even the overall design of the store.
For example, the deli, the produce aisle, and the flowers and gifts are typically placed near the front of the store so that you have to pass them to get to the rest of the aisles. These placements are there for three reasons: 1) if the fruit and vegetables look good, then we can assume the rest of the store must be the same high quality, right?; 2) regardless of what we really plan to eat, the majority of us have intentions of eating "better". So, if we buy some apples or bananas that weren't on our list, it's okay because we're doing something good for our bodies; and 3) If you're in a hurry, you're less likely to buy extra goodies. Providing a tempting deli and some eye-catching, colorful produce is an easy way to slow you down and get you into a "shopping mood".
You'll also find that endcaps often feature sale items but also include similar or related items that aren't on sale. Charcoal, for example, might be the heart of the sale but then that makes you think of hamburgers, hot dogs and oooh... how about some steaks?!
Front store displays entice you to buy things you might not have looked at otherwise, including everything from a gigantic bag of Cheetos to a cheap t-shirt with a fish and "Kiss My Bass" on the front.
Checkout aisles have magazines, candy, batteries and a whole slew of other random things in one last attempt to get you to fork over more cash. And if you're not buying, you can bet that the candy and big bag of balloons catches the attention of your kids.
The bottom line?
Even the best budgeter often finds that groceries fall into a gray area and that's because we have such a hard time tracking and estimating what we'll spend from month to month. But with a little planning and a little willpower, you can get everything you need at the store without spending a penny more than you planned.