Have you ever walked into a grocery store, shopping list in hand, and come out with 50 things that weren't on your list? This used to be the world I lived in until I started budgeting. You might not notice it, but the grocery store is sneaky. From planned advertisements, strategically placed products, and sale signs that are meant to get you to open your wallet, it's hard to resist the temptation sometimes.
Going to the grocery store can be a real food budget killer, and there is nothing that makes my stomach turn more than a $400 grocery bill. Today, I am here to give you 5 things that you can do to help you stick to a grocery budget, and not get sucked into grocery store spending traps.
- Related: How to Have a Wedding on a Budget
NEVER GO TO THE GROCERY STORE HUNGRY
This saying has been around forever, and for good reason – IT'S SO TRUE! I have personally tested this theory and I can say without a doubt, you will spend more on crap you don't need or really want if you go shopping when you are hungry. Why? When you are hungry, things that you would not normally eat look satisfying.
This is where impulse buying at the grocery store is the worst. Try to plan your shopping trips around your meal times. I know this sounds crazy, but it works. I have done this for the last two years and I have noticed a difference.
I usually go grocery shopping on Saturdays after eating lunch with my son. If you have a crazy life like I do, sometimes planned grocery trips don't always work. There are many times my husband calls and asks me to pick up something after work. For this, I carry a granola bar in my purse. Even though I know I am only running into the store to get one or two things, I still try to snack on my granola bar before hand.
ALWAYS HAVE A GROCERY LIST
Just having a grocery list is not enough. You have to be disciplined enough to stick to it.
Having a running grocery list on your fridge is good enough but you can also download a ton of phone apps to make sure your grocery list is always with you.
The phone app I would recommend is OurGroceries. I love this app because it allows your spouse to add things to the list as well. I can't tell you how many times my husband has used the last of something, forgot about it, and I end making a second trip the store (which could lead to more spending).
By using this app, it allows him to log in and add it right away so it doesn't get forgotten. I always recommend creating your own meal plan, something you can read about here, and this will help with planned savings.
Checking online and mailed flyers for specials prior to shopping is a great thing to incorporate into your grocery list and it is much easier to do if your week's meals and recipes are already created.
SHOP BY YOURSELF – LEAVES THE KIDS AT HOME
Trust me, I love taking my son grocery shopping. There is a lot to learn by shopping with mom, such as money management skills, life skills, and discipline but it does not help with the budget.
I have found that I always spend more when my son is with me. I also know myself, and sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) I find it hard to say no to my son.
When we are at the grocery store and he picks up a bag of candy and says “Mom, can I have this?” I always think to myself “It's only a $1.50, so OK.” This may not seem like a lot of money but it adds up.
If you do have to bring children to the store, make sure to prepare yourself to say no and mean it.
BUY ONLY WHAT YOU NEED
Have you ever come across the pop (soda) and see these little signs that say “buy 1 get 2 free” for the 12 packs? To this day, it's hard for me to resist these types of sale strategies.
There are a ton of sales in the grocery store that seem way to good to pass up but getting the item on sale actually cost you money because you weren't planning on buying it in the first place.
To me, these sale promotions are one of the leading factors when it comes to overspending at the grocery store. If you don't need it, don't buy it – even if they are offering you something for free.
Buying only what you need also applies to fruit and veggies. I can't tell you how much banana bread I have made because we let our bananas go bad. Investing in fruit and veggie preservers seemed to help my family and now we have a little more time to eat the produce we buy.
DON'T REACH FOR THE CANDY BARS OR GUM AT CHECKOUT
There is a reason that these items are displayed near checkout stations. These items are strategically placed there because they are colorful and cheap.
Most of the time, you won't think twice about adding a pack of gum to your cart during checkout but you really have to ask yourself, “Would you have bought that gum if it wasn't displayed there?”
Every single shopper needs to spend time in checkout, so having these cheap items in this location makes it an easy purchase. Don't be fooled. The same goes for energy drinks, soda, and bottled water.
BONUS: USE THE PHONE APP IBOTTA
You can get cash back on your groceries when you use the Ibotta app. All you have to do is load the offers in the app (i.e. the things you were already going to buy from your shopping list!), shop, and then scan your receipt. You'll get cash back in 24 hours.
What are your weaknesses at the grocery store?