7 Tips for Saving Money at the Grocery Store

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Have you ever run into the grocery store thinking that you’d just get cereal and apples, only to come out with three bags of groceries and $50 less in your wallet? It’s not surprising when you think that the supermarket industry has poured millions of dollars into research to find out the best ways to get us to buy, buy, buy. Why do you think all these low priced candies, soda, and chocolate bars litter the checkout aisle?

The good news is that with a bit of knowledge you can stick with your budget and only buy the food you need when you need it. Resisting temptation isn’t always easy, but think about how much better it feels to have money in your pocket instead of in the fridge!

1. This is big: think about only taking cash into the store and leaving the cards at home. You can’t spend what you don’t have, after all. Knowing that you only have a set amount of cash will ensure that you keep a careful eye on what you’re putting in the basket and reduce the number of impulse buys. And I’m not just dreaming that this will work either. Research has shown that people spend roughly 30% more when they use a credit card instead of cash. No wonder Visa and Mastercard are raking in the dough year after year!

2. Remember that good deals always come around again. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to buy it now to take advantage of a sales price. Those that follow the sales flyers know that sales go in cycles and the soup that’s on special this week will be on special again six weeks from now. Get to know the cycles and only buy as much as you’ll need until it goes on sale again. If you buy too much, you might end up getting sick of a particular food because all you’ll be eating is what you bought on sale.

3. Just because it’s on the end of a shelf, doesn’t mean it’s on sale. We automatically assume that items displayed on an end cap are on sale, but this isn’t always the case. Most often, if it’s really on sale, there will be a tag that lists the regular price below the reduced price. If you don’t see that, it’s probably not on sale. In either case, if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

4. In most stores, if it says 10 for $10, you can also buy 1 for $1. Learn your grocery store’s policy to find out if you are required to buy all 10 to get the lower price. In many cases, if you are required to buy the exact quantity, the sign will say something like “or 1 for $1.50”. Other times, there will be wording that specifically says you must buy the exact quantity to get the discount. I was at a grocery store recently and they were advertising milk for $2.99 each instead of $3.99 if you buy 5. They also specifically wrote, “You must buy 5 or more”. If they didn’t, then I could’ve just bought one to get the $1 discount. Some stores will also sell you one item for half price on buy one get one free special, but be sure to check first.

5. Don’t get reeled in by “limit 3” signs and automatically grab 3. While these policies help ensure that there is stock enough for every customer, it also triggers a feeling of scarcity in our brains and compels us to get as many as we can. Only buy as much as you need.

6. Generics and the store brand might not always be the best bargain. Coupons can often lower the price of name brands to below that of generics. Certain items on some store brands are only a few cents cheaper than name brands so it might not be worth the savings if you honestly prefer the name brand version. The key to being happy saving money with generics is to not care whether it’s the name brand or generic brand. When it’s the same to you, treat a name brand and generic brand as just another option and pick the cheapest one.

7. Buying in bulk doesn’t always save money. Sometimes the bigger size is more per unit than a smaller size. Always make sure to compare. If you have coupons, buying several of the smaller sizes and applying a coupon to each can make more sense than buying the bigger size.

I’m always amazed at what people buy at Costco. I know of an acquaintance who buys the dozen pack of croissants from the warehouse store from time to time. He’s single, so I can’t for the life of me figure out how he can possibly finish all 12 big croissants quickly enough before they go bad. He also buys those 48 pack eggs from Costco. Even if he can finish those croissants, there’s no way it’s healthy for him to eat 48 eggs before they expire. I imagine that he throws away some of them because bread can mold and eggs turn bad. Otherwise, all he’s eating is croissants with eggs as soon as he takes those home.

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