I take bargain hunting seriously. Here are the things I've learned about how to make room for storing all those deals I couldn't pass up.
I love food, but I hate spending too much at the grocery store and I don't think I am alone with that problem. Here are 10 easy tricks to avoid overspending in the grocery store and still have great food and meals available to eat. Some of these are an expansion of common sense and some are about avoiding the sneaky tricks stores use to try to get you to spend more than you intended.
1. Eat Before You Shop
This sounds like a basic idea, but it is easy to add a shopping trip to an already busy day and you find yourself in the store with an empty stomach and way too many food options screaming for our attention. I know I am guilty of this even though I know better. Try to plan your shopping trips for after you eat so you are not as tempted by the convenience foods the stores offer.
2. Menu Plan
This is another easy trick that we all know to do but often just don't get it done. Without a list and plan, you find yourself wandering the aisles looking for inspiration and that is never good for the budget. I have gotten into the habit of doing my menu planning on Wednesday since that is the day the grocery sales ad comes out and I have seen a big difference in my monthly grocery spending. I plan from Thursday through the next Wednesday and use sale flyers for guidance and inspiration. If you use the sale deals you can save money and still have plenty of food for the week. Think about the sales items and specials as a menu starting point and build from there.
3. Buy Practical
This means that you should buy whole raw foods that are a good price point and will either last a while or can be used in various ways. Examples of this include sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, and carrots. These are great tasting and versatile foods to use every day. Another practical buying tip is to buy rice, legumes, and grains to create side dishes and meal bases. These foods are inexpensive and can be used in many different ways you will never be bored or hungry.
4. Buy in Season
This trick is a common-sense idea that often gets forgotten. The key here is the basic concept of supply and demand, when fruits and vegetables are in season the price for them is lower and the reverse is true that the price is substantially higher when they are out of season. You can find easy guides for whichever area you live online that will show which foods are in season at what times.
For example, I try to stock up on berries when the store marks them down in season and then freeze them for later or make jam to enjoy when the berries are sky-high in price again. Most foods can be frozen, or canned, and the savings can be worth a couple of minutes of effort.
5. Keep It Simple
The idea behind this trick is to keep your food purchases simple and avoid grabbing the bag of chips or package of cookies. These convenience foods are expensive and usually not exactly healthy for you. When you keep your food purchases to simple real foods you will save your money and possibly your health also.
6. Watch Sales and Collect Coupons
This is an area I am working on doing better myself. I have gotten really good at downloading the digital coupons from the grocery ads so I don't have to remember them but I am working on clipping or printing coupons to add more savings. When you meal plan from sales ads (tip #2) and combine that with digital or physical coupons you are in double bonus land for savings.
There are several great sites available online that will do a lot of coupon comparison for you for free. It is worth doing a quick search and signing up for reminders from these coupon experts. I usually check the comparison coupon deals each Wednesday when the grocery ads come out and again on Sundays when the major chain ads come out. I have been able to get food items for free or just pennies when using their coupons, sales, and good planning.
7. Never Buy "Pre"
This tip is essential to saving at the store! Just remember never, ever buy "pre-" anything. This is pre-cut, pre-washed, pre-packaged, pre-made, you get the idea. If you aren't convinced, the next trip to the store get out your phone and calculate the price of that convenience "pre" food by the ounce or pound and compare that to the price for the whole or unprocessed option. I use this principle on everything I buy that I can cut, slice, grate, or wash. You can take a few minutes and grate the cheese, wash the vegetables and cut and slice fruits and vegetables. They will be fresher and you will save a lot of money!
8. Walk the Perimeter
The stores are set up for you to go down the aisles and the premade sections, deli, and bakery because that is where they make their biggest profits. Resist the temptation and start with the perimeter of the store and stick to your list. Skip past that pre-cut, pre-packaged, and pre-washed produce and find your whole foods and move on to the meats, dairy, and remember block cheese not pre-grated. After you have all that marked off your list there won't be, or at least shouldn't be, much left on the list and you can go to the necessary aisles and grab those items. Another part of this trick is that when your cart is already pretty full from the whole foods and meats you will be less tempted to add foods you don't need to a full looking cart.
9. Look High, Look Low
Grocery stores are designed by experts in the area of tapping into your subconscious to get you to buy a product. Food companies have turf wars over product placement on shelves that are a little crazy. This happens because they all know that where they are placed on the shelf will either help or hurt their sales to the consumer. So, this tip is to look high on the shelves and low on the shelves to find the best deal for what you need to buy. Do not grab the item at eye level without looking above and below first. The product in the middle, or eye level, on the shelf, is usually the higher-priced item. Always calculate the price per ounce when choosing shelf items to make sure that the bigger or smaller package is the better price.
10. Listen to Upbeat Music
This trick is another way to balance out the store's subtle programming of your shopping. The stores know that when they play pleasant but boring "elevator" music you will actually cause you to spend more time in the store, and the more time you spend in the store, the more you will spend on average. They know this and choose music to achieve that goal.
A simple trick is to put in at least one ear of your headphones and play upbeat, get your feet moving music from your playlist. You will shop faster and be in a good mood which also prevents impulse "comfort" food purchases because you are in a good mood. You probably don't want to break out in song or full dance moves in the aisle but enjoy some upbeat music and get your shopping done faster, be in a good mood, and save at the checkout.
If you begin implementing these easy tricks you will see a savings on your grocery expenses and more money in your pocket, or bank account, is always a good thing. You will not only save money but reduce stress about what to cook for dinner and eat healthier meals as an extra bonus.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on April 18, 2017:
Yes, I agree. It's always best to eat something before you go shopping. I always make sure I do this. I also love to look for coupons!