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The Grocery Shopping Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

A woman picks out fruit in a grocery store
Nejron Photo/Shutterstock.com

Although inflation is easing slightly, grocery prices are still higher than ever, making shopping stressful for many families. While there are a lot of things you can do to save money, you might be accidentally doing things that are costing you money instead. Here are a few grocery shopping mistakes to avoid the next time you’re at the store.

Not Making a List

A grocery shopping list

Yes, a grocery shopping list is that important. Going to the store without a list often leads to impulse buys and the frustration of realizing you forgot something you needed after you get home.

Creating a grocery list involves some degree of meal prep, which can help you avoid buying more food than you need. By taking the time to plan your meals and snacks for the week before grocery shopping, you can save yourself some serious cash on your bill.

Evercio Grocery List Magnetic Notepad for Refrigerator

An easy way to keep track of your lists.

Ignoring Weekly Ads

Grocery coupons

Couponing can be confusing, and we get it if you don’t want to dive into that. However, one way to take advantage of discounts is to check your grocery store’s weekly ad. Most stores have special deals every week that can save you a lot of money.

Many ads can be found on your store’s website, and you can also find print versions near the entryways of most shops. Check what the best deals are for the upcoming week before creating your shopping list, and use that information to plan your meals. If ground turkey is on sale, for example, plan to make at least 2-3 meals that use it instead of pricier alternatives.

Shopping on an Empty Stomach

A man goes grocery shopping
Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

The first rule of grocery shopping? Never shop on an empty stomach. Whether you’re on a tight budget or not, this will wreak havoc on your trip. Instead of focusing on what you need and the meals you have planned for the week, you’ll be focused on what sounds good now. And yes, you will end up impulse-buying more snacks than you could possibly eat in one sitting.

We can’t always control when we grocery shop, but try to plan your trips soon after a meal. If you have to shop, say, after work but before dinner, make sure to grab a snack before you head into the store.

ONE Protein Bars, Birthday Cake

Tasty protein bars to fuel you through your shopping trip.

Always Buying in Bulk

Bulk groceries in a store
James Mattil/Shutterstock.com

While buying in bulk can be a great way to save money, especially for large families, it isn’t automatically cheaper than an alternative. Before buying in bulk, make sure that you will use up everything before it expires. This is usually a safe bet for nonperishables, but you may want to think twice about loading up on fruit or vegetables that might go bad before your house has a chance to eat everything.

You should also always compare unit prices before assuming buying in bulk is cheaper. Grocery stores have gotten sneakier over the years about raising the cost of food without being suspicious. If two items cost about the same per ounce or per unit and you aren’t sure you need the bulk size, go with the smaller option.

Skipping Store-Brand Items

A woman goes grocery shopping
Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

We’re not going to pretend that all store-brand items taste the same as name-brand ones. Sometimes, your trusted brand name product is the way to go. However, many store-brand items are exactly (or almost exactly) the same as their name-brand competitors.

If you buy a particular item often and the store-brand version is significantly cheaper, give it a try one week to see if it’s worth the money-saving benefits. You can even compare ingredients on the back to see how similar both products are. Doing this for multiple items each week can really add up the savings.

DAREKUKU 3 Pack Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags to save you money and help the environment.

Overlooking Frozen Foods

A man gets in the freezer aisle

There is a common misconception that frozen foods are automatically unhealthy. While some frozen meals can be high in sodium, there is no reason to avoid the frozen aisle. In fact, you can save a lot of money on fruits, vegetables, and meat without compromising on quality.

Most frozen foods are packaged at peak freshness, meaning you’re getting fruits, veggies, and meat that tastes just as good as the fresh stuff. You may run into some textural issues depending on what you’re buying and how you want to use it, but the savings are often worth these minor inconveniences. Frozen foods also last much longer than fresh options, so you’re less likely to throw anything away.

Fast to the Table Freezer Cookbook: Freezer-Friendly Recipes and Frozen Food Shortcuts

This book contains great tips for cooking with frozen food.

Not Using Store Rewards

A woman on her phone in a store
AS photo family/Shutterstock.com

Many stores have their own rewards programs that give you points or cash back after each purchase. You will need to create an account to keep track of your rewards, but you shouldn’t have to pay anything or get a store credit card.

Ask your local grocery stores about their rewards programs the next time you shop. After signing up, all you need to do is enter your rewards number or scan the barcode in the store’s app to start getting points you can redeem on future purchases.

YOUOWO Lanyard Black Retractable Badge Reel

Easy access to your store rewards card.

You don’t want to make your grocery trip more expensive than it needs to be. Avoid these common grocery store mistakes and start lowering your food bill.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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