Grocery stores can be a death trap if you’re trying to save money. The way stores are organized makes you pass by each delicious morsel you don’t need while you’re on your way to get what you do. It’s a battle between temptation and rationale, and you know which side we’re picking. Here’s how to save money when you’re grocery shopping.
1. Write down your list ahead of time
Knowing what you need ahead of time will save you a lot of guessing and a lot of money. Going into the grocery store with a list allows you to stop yourself from buying unnecessary items you may be tempted by. If you’re not into old fashioned pen and paper, GroceryIQ is a free app on the iPhone that allows you to search by text, voice, or barcode and can even help you find coupons for the items on your list. If you suddenly realize you forgot to put peanut butter on the list, then obviously it’s ok to stray from the predetermined plans. Unfortunately, stores know what you want and how to get you to buy it, it’s called choice architecture (see my previous post on this). So when you see a box of those delicious Lindt chocolates and your stomach cries out for sustenance, ignore it. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Don’t shop hungry
Shopping hungry is one of the worst things you can do when you’re trying to cut down on spending. We all have a built-in tendency to splurge on unnecessary items, especially when they’re sweet, salty, and delicious. In fact, neurobiology studies have shown that people are willing to spend more on food when they are hungry. Shopping hungry just means you’ll be more likely to give in to those urges and spend money that you could easily save.
3. Bring cash
This is a great tip for almost any spending situation. One of the biggest contributors to impulse buying is the ease with which you can swipe a credit card. There’s almost no sense of loss. Only when you inspect your checking account later that month do you realize the amount you’ve wasted. With cash you can physically feel and see the money leaving your hand and finding residence in someone else’s pocket. That should be enough to deter your spending.
4. Buy generic items, not brand name
Whether it’s food, soap, or even medicine, the difference between generic and brand-name products is often negligible. They may not taste exactly the way you’re used to but generic food is a fraction of the price and provides comparable nutrition. The reason name-brand items cost so much is because the companies put so much money into marketing. The more you see an item in the media, the more likely you are to buy it over something you’ve never heard of, even if the price is inflated.
5. Hit up the farmer’s market
Farmer’s markets are a great way to save money on groceries and support your local economy. These markets provide locally grown produce at far cheaper prices providing you with fresh food and plentiful savings. If you’re not sure where the closest one is use the Locavore app for Android or iPhone to find one near you and get to shopping!
6. Utilize coupons
Stores almost always have weekly or daily deals and while they might not always be for what you’re looking for you’re bound to find a coupon that works for you eventually. You can peruse these coupons in the newspaper or online. They might not save you much in one trip, but the savings will accumulate over time and make a big difference on your bank statement. Be careful though; coupons are often designed to encourage you to buy things you don’t actually need. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of purchasing something unnecessary just because it’s on sale.
These are tips we found useful, but it is certainly not an all-encompassing list. How do you save money when you’re out grocery shopping?