By Vicki Little
When you are trimming your budget, you may be inclined to skip right over the line for grocery expenses. You have to eat, right? Not a whole lot of wiggle room in that category. But you’d be surprised at all the small ways you are wasting money. By changing the way you shop, you will be able to add some extra money into another category. Here are eight grocery shopping mistakes you may not realize you are making.
1. Not checking price per unit. This is a tricky one. Most items will have a price per unit on their tag, but sometimes they are wrong or they do not reflect the sales price. The best bet is to bring your own calculator and double check it. Also make sure you are comparing correct units. Paper towels can have a per-unit or per-sheet or per-square-foot price. Stores don’t use the same unit for each item.
2. Picking up conveniently placed items. The cocktail sauce that is sitting right next to the fresh shrimp is NOT the least expensive. Taking a moment to actually walk to the aisle where they are stocked can save you a few dollars.
3. Buying brand name. You may be surprised at how similar some generic products are to brand names. And you may be even more surprised to learn that generic medicines often contain the exact same ingredients in the same amounts as their brand name alternatives. If you don’t want to go completely generic, find a few items you wouldn’t mind switching to and consistently buy whichever one is lower priced.
4. Not stocking up. If you are buying your groceries week to week, you are spending much more in a month than you would be if you were to stock up on a good sale of meat, or anything else that can be frozen or canned. Stocking up is also beneficial so you can plan your meals based on what you have in your freezer rather than what you are hoping will be on sale.
5. Not using easy coupons and loyalty cards. Not many people have the time to spend looking for certain coupons that will save them money. There are many easy coupons, though, which are often overlooked. The coupons on the back of your receipt are usually good for a product that you purchased or something similar. Some items in the store will have peel-off coupons attached to the box. Facebook pages of products or stores sometimes have coupons, and when you register your loyalty card, you can get special coupons that are customized based on your previous purchases.
6. Planning meals without ads. Meal planning is a huge money saver — if it is done correctly. Plan your meals only after you have checked the ads and then set your menu around that. Don’t shop before your know what’s going to be on sale. Try to do a month’s worth of planning instead of just a week, so you can take advantage of bulk sales.
7. Sticking to one store. While it is convenient to do all your shopping at one place, it isn’t the best way to save money. Specialty stores, such as chains that offer locally grown produce, can offer a much better price — and fresher items — than the larger chain stores. Warehouse stores have great prices for bulk foods, but the prices for other items are often more than you would pay otherwise. Spending a little bit of time to get certain goods from certain stores can save your bottom line.
8. Not checking your receipt. Do you count your cash when the cashier hands it to you? How about checking your receipt to make sure you paid the correct amount? Simply check over your receipt before you drive away — or better yet keep your eye on the register as they are being rung up. It is very common for items that are on sale to not ring up correctly. You also want to make sure items weren’t scanned more than once, and that there weren’t items from the last transaction on your receipt.
Do you have a secret money-saving tip at the grocery store?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. When she isn’t writing or trying to keep up with her kids she can be found volunteering, reading, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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