The average American household spends around $4,000 a year on groceries (over $333 a month). While that may not seem like a lot, that equates to nearly 10% of Americans’ annual budget. This number has gone down significantly since the 1950s, when Americans were spending around 30% of the household budget on food, but there is still a ton of room for improvement.
Many of us have adopted bad shopping habits and are wasting food, to the tune of nearly $650 a year. And this only accounts for rotten food that we throw away. Many Americans are wasting even more money on overpriced items, unneeded products, ignoring sales, and many other shopping mistakes according to experts.
What can we do to change these habits and start saving money at the grocery store? Let’s dig deeper and look at how many Americans are wasting their hard earned cash at the grocery store and ways to start saving.
Start Price Matching
Before you go grocery shopping, it is best to compare prices between different grocers. You can browse through store flyers or search sales on stores websites/apps. Grocery stores such as Aldi, Whole Foods, and Wegmans all have mobile apps allowing you to easily search prices on certain products.You can also use an app like Basket, that allows you to gather prices from several grocery stores at once. There are even apps like, Ibotta, that allow you to scan your grocery receipt and it will give you cash rebates if it finds the same item at a lower price.
Plan Meals Based on your Pantry
More than likely, you already have many food items in your pantry. For example, you may have noodles and ground beef, but no pasta sauce. To complete this meal, the next time you go to the grocery store, all you have to buy is sauce. This not only saves you money, but also saves you from throwing away before it goes bad. Make it a challenge with yourself to try and complete as many meals as you can with your current pantry items. This is a great grocery shopping habit to get into and it will save you a lot of money over time.
Make a List
By not making a grocery list before you go shopping, you are setting yourself up to spend a lot more money than you need to. Without a list, you are far more likely to walk out with items you wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. I recommend making this list as simple as possible. You can either go the old fashioned way with a paper copy or just go in the notes on your phone and write the list there. If you want something a little more sophisticated, you can use apps like Out of Milk or Grocery IQ, to also track what you need. Make sure your grocery list is only of what you need and items to plan your meals around, based on your pantry. At the end of the day don’t go grocery shopping without a list. If I could recommend only one thing from this article, it would be, to only go grocery shopping with a list.
Don’t Go in Every Aisle
Go into a grocery store with intention, not aimlessly. Having a grocery list will help you with this, but if you start to wander down every aisle, you could start overbuying. This is literally what grocery stores try and get you to do. They want you to walk through every section of their store because they know they can grab your attention somehow, getting you to buy things you don’t need. Don’t fall into these temptations and follow your list. Bypass sections you don’t need anything from and you’ll be less likely to buy items you don’t need.
Don’t Always Buy in Bulk
There comes a time and place to buy in bulk, but it’s not all the time. Grocery stores throw tempting deals at you like “Buy 10 and Get One Free”, but don’t always fall for these. They can get you to buy more than you will ever need, leading to waste in the end. Try and focus on buying bulk products that don’t expire or products that have a very long shelf life. This will help you from wasting food and ultimately save you money in the long run.
I get it, everyone has their favorite brand of something, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go generic on other food items. You may only eat Hellmann’s mayo, but try putting it on generic bread instead of name brand. The best thing you can do is, start trying generic products over name brand to see which ones you like. Many brands also pack their same products under store labels as they do their name brands. Look for similar packaging between the generic products and name brand because there’s a good chance it’s the same product. If you can’t give up certain name brand products, look for coupons to help you save on those items.
Shop at Multiple Grocery Stores
This goes hand in hand with price matching. Being loyal to one store will end up costing you money – that’s why we have competition. Consider shopping at wholesale clubs, supermarkets, and local grocery stores to find the best prices on certain products you are looking for. Knowing which stores in your market have the best prices for the items you buy, will save you a ton of money. By conducting a bit of research, you will find personal-care products are almost always better priced at Wal-Mart or Target compared to grocery stores. After enough research you will find these patterns and cut your grocery bill dramatically.
Look Up and Down
Grocery stores have invested a ton of research on how to organize their shelves to get you to spend the most amount of money. By grabbing the first item you see at eye level, is a mistake. Stores strategically place the highest priced items in the middle of shelves because that’s where most peoples’ eyes focus on. Scan the shelves by looking up, down, and all around to see what else is being offered for the items you are looking for. Be sure to check all the way to the right as well, because that is where stores put their cheapest items. The science behind this is, most people browse from left to right, just like reading a book, but they select a product before they get to the end. Therefore, they never see the cheapest products. .
Only Shop on Certain Days of the Week
Many stores hold weekly sales and it is in your wallet’s best interest to align your shopping with these promotions. Many stores start their sales on Wednesdays and sometimes they overlap with previous sales. By shopping on that day, you can double up on bargains and ensure you get them before they sell out. One of the worst days to shop is on Sunday, as it is usually the most busy and products are priced the highest at the start of the week.
Pay Attention at the Register
When you are checking out, make sure you look at every item being scanned. Stores have been fined for ringing up items more expensive than what they have been advertised. Personally, I have saved quite a bit of money by watching for this, especially for items on sale. Another thing to watch out for is pricing guns can sometimes be very sensitive and ring an item up twice. Or possibly, a cashier rings up a more expensive sweet onion over a yellow onion. Whatever the case, make sure you are paying attention at the register to catch mistakes and save yourself money.
The next time you plan on grocery shopping, consider some of these tips before you go. Grocery stores literally spend millions and millions of dollars on research to try and get you to spend the most amount of money as possible. Don’t fall into these traps and stay disciplined. Shop around for the best prices, make a list, try generic, and anything else that is going to help you save money. Another great tip is to aim for $2 per meal. This will help you plan your grocery shopping and save you money as that equates to around $2,190 dollars a year. If you can recall, the average family spends around $4,000 a year on groceries and the $2 rule can save you almost 50%.
If you have other ways to save money when grocery shopping, comment below, we’d love to hear them!