We’ve all made the fatal mistake of grocery shopping on an empty stomach. When we’re in a rush, hungry, or have a few extra bucks, it’s easy to grab and go without thinking about each purchase. The initial sticker shock that happens when you’re checking out can be a huge bummer. Groceries are an essential part of our budget; everyone needs to eat!
To avoid overspending at the checkout line, try some of these tips and tricks on saving the next time you’re at the grocery store.
Use food coupons
An obvious tip, but one that often gets overlooked. Food Coupons are a simple way to save. Check online before you go, some grocery stores share online exclusives with their loyal customers. Larger chains have started to develop smart saving money apps that know your purchases and can offer you discounts on products you love.
As annoying as they may be, the weekly mailers from your neighborhood grocery store can have some good finds as well. A little pre-planning before you go can really help you save, and once you get in the habit of looking for food coupons, it will become second nature.
Shop on a full stomach
It may seem silly, but we all know how brutal it can be shopping on an empty stomach. Everything in the store looks good, and we end up way overestimating how much we need. We sometimes resort to buying an overpriced pastry at the café just to hold us over. Sometimes it’s inevitable, we are out running errands or haven’t had a second to grab a snack.
To avoid overspending, keep a few snacks in your car at all times. Not only are these a good idea for on the go, but they can also help tide you over until you check out, saving you the embarrassment (and money!) of buying four bags of Doritos.
Pre-plan your meals for the week
Creating a shopping list of what you will need for the week is a great way to avoid overspending at the grocery store. When we shop without a list, we forget what we already have, and begin to add little things that we don’t really need. A list can help you stay on track, and makes it easier to plan for meals during the week. You can even organize your list by category to save you time from zigzagging across the store all afternoon.
Shop for what’s in season
Ever been in the mood for watermelon in the winter? Chances are you’ll end up spending a fortune if you can even find it. Check online to and make a list of what produce is in season. Out of season fruits and veggies can cost a fortune, and it can be difficult to know what is and isn’t in the season without glancing at a chart or quick guide before you go.
Double check your food coupons too, produce that is about to be out of season can go on sale before the final ax.
Buy in bulk
Instead of buying flour, sugar, beans or any other non-perishable every trip you take to the store, head over to a Costco or Sam’s Club once every few months and buy the staples in bulk. Dried beans and lentils, cooking supplies like olive oil, flour, and sugar, all have a long enough shelf life to last for months to come.
Buying in bulk may be a large upfront cost but can save you a fortune over time. Plus, with a ten-pound bag of beans, you’ll always have something to eat at home.
I get it, some people are extremely loyal to their brands. But with an open mind (and more room in your wallet), generic options can be just as good. Trader Joes only offers Trader Joe branded items for this exact reason. It’s easy to think that there is no substitute for brand XYZ, but chances are, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.
Next time you’re worried about the generic brand, take a look at both labels. More often than not, they are the exact same ingredients. This is especially true for cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and other non-consumable items.
Join a rewards program
Reward programs are a fun way to earn while you save. Some grocery store reward programs offer discounts during checkout, and some allow you to save up points for a later time. If you’re comfortable doing so, opening a credit card that allows you to take a discount or food coupons at the grocery store with every purchase can be a great option as well.
Many reward programs are free and are simply in place to encourage repeat customers. Ask your cashier (if they don’t ask you already) about what programs they have available.
Don’t get suckered into sales
Some sales are great, they allow you to purchase products at a discounted price, but sales are also notorious for misleading the consumer. 10 for $10, or 2 for the price of one may sound great but check the original price. Many times the item isn’t on sale at all, it has just been reworded to trick you into buying more than you need.
Don’t be afraid to shop around
It is nearly impossible to find a single store that has the absolute lowest price on every item. You don’t have to drive across town all day to find the lowest prices, but skipping the grocery store deli and heading over to your local butcher could help save on meats and cheese while hitting up the local bakery could land you a sweet (and inexpensive) loaf of bread.
Use cash back apps
Many apps have emerged that allow you take a photo of your receipt and earn cash back. Save your receipt and use apps like Ibotta, SavingStar, and Checkout 51 to get a few bucks back every time you shop. They are like an “after-purchase” food coupons. Score.