You’ve heard the joke about Whole Foods: “More like Whole Paycheck, am I right?” It’s a dumb quip, to be sure, but it isn’t without merit. If you stroll through a Whole Woods—or any grocery store, for that matter—aimlessly purchasing on a whim, you’re on a fast track to some serious spending. When it comes right down to it, researchers estimate that we spend between $127 and 180 per week on groceries, depending on your income. Surely, there’s some wiggle room in there (perhaps only one pint of ice cream?). If you’re looking to save green and get more of the good stuff in return, we have you covered with these grocery shopping mistakes that are killing your wallet. And to get more bang for your buck this year, check out the 52 Easy Ways to be Smarter with Money in 2018.
You’re only buying fresh produce.
While there are few things more satisfying than biting into a juicy strawberry at the peak of its season, the extravagance of buying only fresh produce is going to cost you extra. If you’re willing to pay extra for freshness—no problem. If you’re looking to tighten your budget, this is an easy fix: Just buy more frozen.
As it turns out, there is no nutritional difference between fresh produce and the kind you can buy in bulk in the freezer section. According to Dr. Oz, many of the benefits of fruits and vegetables remain the same in frozen form. “Other vitamins and nutrients, including carotenoids, thiamin and riboflavin, are not at all affected by freezing, which means you can eat frozen and never feel that you are shortchanging yourself,” he once wrote. And if you do end up sticking with the fresh produce, make sure you’re cleaning it correctly by checking out the Safest Way to Wash Produce.
And you’re buying it out of season.
This is another delicacy that will cost you. A good way to find out when your favorite produce is in-season is to check out ripetrack.com. This site helps you find out when your favorite produce is in season, as well as a list of items currently in-season. If you’re buying produce out-of-season, that means that they have been shipped internationally. In short, this means that you’re often paying a few cents more per pound for out-of-season. Not to mention that produce shipped internationally loses most of its freshness during transport.
You’re buying bone-in meat.
When purchasing produce or meat per the ounce, it’s important to double check the price per ounce of each item. For fruit and veggies, this information will often be posted on the shelf. If you’re purchasing meat, be sure to keep an eye out for the price per serving, as you have to factor in the additional weight of the bones and fat of the animal. To channel your inner rich person at the grocery store (and still save money), check out these 25 Daily Habits Rich People Swear By.
You’re only buying at eye level.
Fact: Your local grocery store is playing tricks on you. To maximize their amount of earnings, most grocery stores put the most expensive items at eye level because they know their customers aren’t likely to bend down or stretch up on their tiptoes to find that better deal. So, to outsmart your grocery store, broaden your gaze to include the lower and higher shelves. Your next big steal could be hiding in plain sight. To take your money-saving habits from the market to the thrift store, check out these 8 Tips for Shopping a Thrift Store Like a Fashion Stylist.
You only buy name brand.
While sticking to the same grocery list year after year is comforting and may be less time-consuming, those brands that you turn to may, in fact, be the ones draining your budget. Pro tip: take a look around.
If the overhaul of your grocery routine seems too overwhelming at first, stick to small changes. Nobody needs a seven dollar loaf of bread. For more life hacks, check out these 30 Crazy Useful Facts You’ve Never Heard Before.
You’re buying the wrong part of the chicken.
While chicken breasts provide a great source of healthy protein, there is a cheaper way to buy this grocery staple. Instead of going for chicken breasts, opt for buying chicken thighs. They contain the same great nutrients at a much cheaper price per pound.
You’re impulse buying.
You know better. To avoid impulsively buying those cat-themed oven mitts, be a real adult and make yourself a grocery list. As long as you stick to the list, all of those delicious temptations should be easier to resist. If you only stick to those items on your list, you’re sure to save.
You’re skipping out on coupons.
As all things must, coupons have evolved over the years. The days of cutting coupons out of the Pennysaver are gone. Now, you can access of hundreds of coupons just by downloading a few apps–great apps like SnipSnap, Yowza, CardStar should do the trick. If you’d rather not sift through multiple coupon apps, downloading your store’s app can be a great way to access great deals in seconds. For more ways technology can help you save, check out The 10 Best Budgeting Apps to Boost Your Savings.
You’re shopping at the wrong time.
If you want to save more money and ensure that every grocery run is as efficient as possible, making sure that you’re doing shopping at the right time of day is essential. For most people, this time is when our bodies and brains are more alert. This is why shopping in the morning is a great idea, because your body will crave less fatty foods (goodbye impulse spending!) and your brain can take you through the aisles and check items off your list in record time. The less time you spend in the grocery store, the less amount of time you’ll be tempted by items not on your list.
You’re shopping too often.
If you’re shopping more than once a week, that’s too much. Not only are you probably throwing away or neglecting perfectly good food at home, but you’re also opening the door to more instances of impulse buying. Planning out your meals a week in advance is great for your wallet and waistline, allowing you to plan healthy meals that don’t involve Chipotle—and the extra guacamole.
You shop at different stores.
Every mother in America has had a brand loyalty card at some point. If you don’t have one of these and have been shopping at the same store since 2012, it’s probably time to get on board. The loyalty program is often free and has added perks like cents off gas and special events (AKA: free food) for members only. If you’re not shopping at regular locations, pick a larger chain in your area and use your loyalty card to gain deals all over the place.
You listen to slow songs.
No, your grocery store doesn’t just play Celine Dion for her singing chops. It’s been scientifically proven that customers spend more time in a store that plays music with a slower tempo. How to combat this? Bring your own music! Plug into a playlist chock full of upbeat songs and you’re sure to not only save money on your visit but to make it a much shorter one.
Your cart is too big.
Another no-brainer: if your cart is bigger than your budget, it’s time to swap it out for a smaller option. Researchers have discovered that many shoppers who walk around the store with a bigger cart tend to spend more money, as there is more room for those last-minute purchases. A good rule of thumb is to always go for the smallest cart available–if there’s no room for your second stack of microwaveable pizzas, that’s probably for the best.
You don’t use self-checkout.
Ah, the beauty of 21st-century technology. This particular grocery store advancement allows us to be totally antisocial and curbs the amount of time we spend waiting in the checkout line, where our addiction to impulse shopping truly comes to a head. Even better, some stores like Kroger give you the option of foregoing the shopping experience altogether by offering an online ordering system where you can pick up your items at the store from the convenience of your car. Hey, laziness can turn into big savings.
You shop while starving.
This one is a no-brainer. No, you should definitely not be wandering around a store full of endless food supplies on an empty stomach. That’s a rookie mistake. Even if you can’t fit in a meal before your shopping trip (you literally have nothing to eat–hence the grocery run), then make sure you come prepared with mints. This simple delicacy can ward off any hunger pains and distract you from how much you want to eat every item in the store. If you’re looking for a tasty and filling snack to prepare for your grocery trip, check out these 30 Best Foods for Maximizing Your Energy Levels.
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