15 ways to save at the grocery store

It’s natural to waltz down grocery store aisles and add everything you see to your shopping cart. Strategically placed products catch your eye and make you think you need them immediately. Overspending at the grocery store is a habit that’s difficult to break—but, it can be done. Here are 15 ways you can save during your next trip to the supermarket:

Check your pantry

Before you head to the store, check to see what you already have. There are websites and apps, like Supercook or Cookpad, that allow you to find recipes based on ingredients. Depending on what’s in your pantry or fridge, you could make meals with what you have and avoid going to the grocery store altogether.

Make a grocery list

Compile a list to be sure you’re purchasing the essentials, and stick with it. Don’t stray from your list—you’ll spend more money than you intended.

Compare stores

While you’re determining your list, create a grocery store comparison chart. Pick your essential items, choose your stores, obtain the prices, and compare. It’s an invaluable tool that will ultimately save you money.

Use coupons

This seems obvious, but using coupons can help tremendously. There are dozens of websites, like coupons.com, that have free, printable coupons. Also, be sure to read your local store’s circular—it promotes items that are on sale. In addition to circulars, look for digital coupons that are store-specific.

Don’t shop hungry

The golden rule of grocery shopping: don’t shop hungry. According to Psychology Today, when you’re hungry, you overload your shopping cart with items you don’t need. Your brain focuses on finding its next food source, so you grab everything appealing within sight. To combat this, be sure you’ve eaten before you go. You’ll avoid the temptation of grabbing unnecessary items, and your wallet will thank you.

Leave the big spenders at home

Whether it’s your kids or your spouse, there’s always someone adding more than you need to your cart. It’s not always easy to say no, so avoid the situation entirely by leaving your big spenders at home, if you can.

Keep a running tally of your cart’s cost

Steer clear of the dreaded, “I spent how much?!” when you make it through the check-out line. As you add items to your cart, keep track of the running cost. It doesn’t need to be exact—just a rough estimate.

Avoid eye-level items

It may be easier to grab the first option you see, but scanning the shelves is critical. Stores use the motto “eye level is buy level” for a reason. We look at items that are eye level, so that’s where grocery stores place the most expensive items. Look for cheaper items on higher and lower shelves.

Don’t purchase pre-cut food

It’s often simpler to purchase ready-to-eat salad and fruit, but that’ll cost you more in the long run. You won’t receive as much, either, and pre-cut food doesn’t stay fresh for long. Trust me—just buy the head of lettuce and make your salad. It’ll take less than ten minutes, and you’ll save money.

Ask for a rain check

Did someone get too greedy during the BOGO sale? You can ask your store for a rain check on items that sold out during a promotion. If your grocer allows it, you can snag the item once the store restocks.

Don’t always buy in bulk

It appears cheaper, but buying in bulk isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes, depending on the unit price, it can wind up being more expensive. If you’re debating whether you should purchase items in bulk, it’s crucial to check the unit prices and compare them to see if you’re saving or spending more.

Try generic brands

Don’t be afraid to try the store brand. It’s often just as good as the national brand but a fraction of the cost. If you don’t like it, most grocery stores will allow you to return it and get your money back or swap for the national brand.

Shop in season

If you’re purchasing produce, be sure to buy items that are in season. Not only is it fresher and tastier, but it also costs less. It’s all about supply and demand. When produce is in season, there is an abundance—therefore, it costs less per pound. Compare that with something out of season—there is less of the product in-store, so it’s more expensive.

Pay with cash

When budgeting, cash is king. Paying for items with cash allows you to set a budget and stick with it—once your cash for an item runs out, that’s it. Finance expert Dave Ramsey swears by this method. Bring enough money to cover your groceries for one trip. If your total runs over, take items in your cart out. It’s hard but better than ruining your monthly budget.

Changing how you grocery shop can have a notable impact on your financial well-being. By shopping sensibly, you can stick to your monthly budget, as well as reach other money-related goals you may have. Try one, or some, of these tactics next time you’re at the grocery store—you’ll be amazed at how much you save!

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