Ways to Reduce What You Spend on Groceries
Groceries make up one of the largest portions of our monthly budgets. Shopping for groceries can become such a habit, that we don’t look for ways as often as we should to spend less on food and household items.
Here are few tips for minimizing your “sticker shock” at the grocery store checkout stand.
When deciding upon which package to buy (whether boxed cereal, tissue paper, toothpaste, or other such consumable product), don’t just compare the total price. Look for, or figure out, the cost per ounce or the unit cost.
For example, a 6-ounce tube of toothpaste costing $2.50 has a per ounce cost of 41.7¢ (250¢ ÷ 6 ounces). An 8-ounce tube with a price of $3.40 has a per ounce cost of 42.5¢ (340¢ ÷ 8 ounces). In this example, the 6-ounce tube is actually the better deal. Consider purchasing the store brand or generic brand rather than the name brand. Often, the products are identical and may even be manufactured or processed at the same facility. Even if they are not, you can still spend far less on boxed cereals, crackers, milk, cheeses, and many other such items if you purchase the off-brand.
Set Aside Time to Shop Carefully
How many times have hit the grocery store late at night or in between a long list of the day’s errands and been so hurried that you ended up buying extra items on impulse, didn’t bother to compare product value, or only days later felt like you had nothing left at home to eat? These mistakes cost us precious dollars. Schedule your grocery shopping and go in with a plan, a list, an app, whatever gets you in and out with everything and nothing more than you need.
Use the Warehouse Wisely
Beware of warehouse shopping. Buying twice as much soup, cereal, or cheese as you need, just because you get a “better deal” at the warehouse store, tends to lead us towards consuming those items faster. This is particularly the case for prepackaged foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure you have a menu for the week and are purchasing only what you need.
Create a Complete Budget
Make sure to include in your grocery budget any household items that you purchase at the grocery store. These might include toiletries, cleaning supplies, and over-the-counter medicines. It may be helpful to break your list down by categories such as produce, proteins, treats, etc. and assign them a portion of what you are aiming to spend on your shopping trip. Doing so may snag the added benefit of shopping healthier since you’ll be less likely to justify spending as much on junk food as on fruits and vegetables, and yet this is exactly what we do when we go to the store and start grabbing things as we travel aisle to aisle.
Track Prices from Store to Store
Not all grocery stores are created equal. Be sure to take note of which items are less expensive at which stores. It may be worth the gas money to split your shopping list between two different places. For example, if you shop at a standard grocery store, non-food items such as paper products, contact solution, or diapers can be far more costly than if you buy them at a “general merchandise” store such as Walmart.
If it is too hard to remember where you want to buy what, it’s not a bad idea to make a chart listing all the items you usually buy. Then, fill in the prices that each store offers when you find yourself there. Make a notation if items are at regular price or on sale. Once you’ve done your research, you’ll be able to compare and split your grocery list according to which store offers the best price.
By focusing our attention on our grocery spending and exerting a little more effort in planning ahead, we can spend a lot less money on food and household expenses that would be better applied towards some of our short and long-term financial goals.
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