7 Grocery Store Habits That Are Making You Broke

By Kentin Waits on 8 June 2017 0 comments

It happens more often than I care to admit: I stumble to my car wondering how two bags of groceries set me back $40. After a particularly budget-busting grocery run last week, I got to thinking — maybe some of that sticker shock is less about rising food prices and more about my own bad habits. Let my humbling aha! moment save you some cash. Here are seven grocery store habits that are making you broke.

1. Assuming coupons are always money-savers

Though it may sound like a sacrilege to some, coupons can often end up costing consumers more in long run. How? Well, they get shoppers to buy products we normally wouldn't buy, often require the purchase of multiple items in order to score the deal, and tend to be skewed toward prepackaged and heavily-processed foods. Skip the coupon-clipping. In most cases, generic or store-brand options will offer a far better and more consistent value. (See also: 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Clip Coupons)

2. Staying loyal to brands

While brand loyalty isn't always a bad thing, it's easy to take it to the extreme and cost yourself money. If you're shopping with blinders on, you're likely missing out on new and more competitive brands, significant product improvements, and great promotional deals. Shake things up every once in awhile. Explore what other brands and generics have to offer. (See also: How We Brainwash Ourselves Into Brand Loyalty)

3. Ignoring expiration dates

Since I'm not a morning person, that first cup of coffee each day is more than a small pleasure — it's my oxygen. That's what makes the following anecdote all the more painful. One morning a few months ago, I opened up a brand-new container of half-and-half. Instead of pouring smoothly as expected, the contents plopped out with the consistency of cottage cheese. Yeah, eww. If only I'd checked the expiration date before buying it, I would have saved my morning and $2.99. Let my tragedy be a cautionary tale. Shop smart and always check expiration dates.

4. Falling for clever packaging

Packaging food is a science unto itself. Clever packaging is designed to stimulate our senses, convey quality, and express the personality of a brand. While product presentation is difficult to ignore, don't let it override other important considerations such as ingredients, nutritional value, and unit price. After all, why pay more for cute packaging that just ends up in the recycling bin?

5. Shopping when you're hungry

Grocery shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe (pardon the pun) for making bad food decisions. Remember, hungry is just one short step away from hangry. Both conditions make it much easier to buy more, eat more, and choose items that aren't as healthy. (See also: The Best and Worst Times to Go Grocery Shopping)

6. Buying pre-made foods

Ever notice that more and more grocery stores are transforming into mini food courts complete with full salad bars, panini stations, and even sushi counters? It's no accident. Stores know that convenience sells and busy people will pay a premium for pre-made food. If you're focused on your budget's bottom-line, don't let your grocery shopping routine turn into a pricey restaurant dining experience.

7. Jumping on trends

Sure, that pomegranate-infused kombucha smoothie looks magical, but it's $6.99! Trendy food and beverage products are developed for only one reason: to ride the wave of popularity and cash in on consumer curiosity. Save money by sticking to the basics and not falling for temporary food trends that suck the money right out of your wallet. (See also: 8 Hot New Food Trends — The Frugal Way)

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