7 Budget Killers You Must Avoid to Save Money on Groceries
I may earn some coinage for my piggy bank or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Please see my disclaimer for more information. Thanks for your support!
The last time I went to the grocery store I stood behind a young mother, toddler in tow, paying for a cart full of groceries.
When the cashier announced her total bill was $274 I think I let out an audible gasp.
Eeekk! That’s almost my full months budget for my family of four. And she got one cart load of groceries. (Granted it was pretty heaping, but still … )
I’ve worked hard to master the grocery store. Here are some major blunders I see people make that are costing them some serious moolah.
1. You don't have a set budget
If you’re not keeping track of what you spend, your budget is dead before you even begin.
It’s crazy how easy it is to overspend when you aren’t paying attention. It’s also crazy how many unnecessary things find their way into your grocery cart when you aren’t thinking about a grocery budget.
Someone without a grocery budget once told me “I don’t want to be restricted.”
It’s time we rethink the word budget.
Old definition: to be restricted to a fixed limit of spending. Synonyms: diet, restriction, cutting back
New definition: to make a plan for your spending. Synonyms: thinking ahead, flexibility, freedom
Creating a budget for groceries means you plan to spend a certain amount of money on groceries. You can allow yourself some flexibility depending on the rest of your budget.
There is peace of mind knowing you have set aside money for groceries and it’s not going to get spent on other things and vanish into thin air.
Likewise, you should try to stay inside your grocery budget in order to prevent other money from disappearing and you can’t remember where it went.
(Did I spend it all on ice-cream? Oops!)
2. You don't have a plan
It happens to us all.
Scenario 1: You’re out of milk so you have to run to the store.
Scenario 2: You’re on your way home from work and need to pick up something for dinner.
In either case, the next thing you know you have a cart full of things you didn’t intend to buy.
Maybe you remembered something else you needed while you were there (don’t want to make another trip!)
Maybe you were hungry and a few things just happened to jump in your cart.
And, inevitably, you still leave the store and forget something you needed. Crap. Another trip to the store is unavoidable.
- Shop with a list. I have this shopping list attached to my refrigerator. Every time I get low on something I add it to the list. That way when I'm ready to go to the store I can remember what I need to buy.
- Create a meal plan. If you have a good idea of what you'll be eating that week, you won't need to stop for random trips to the store to find something for dinner.
Less trips to the store = less spending.
Need help planning your meals? I recommend The Dinner Daily. They send you weekly meal plans based on sales at your local grocery store. You can sign up for a 2 week free trial. (Read about my experience with the Dinner Daily here.)
- My personal rule: if it's not on my list, it's not in my cart. I'm pretty good at sticking to this rule too. This drastically cuts back on impulse buys and requires me to plan ahead.
Related Article: 4 Simple Ways to Plan Meals … What’s Best for Your Family?
3. You pay full price
Sometimes you can’t escape paying full price, and that’s ok.
Your goal should be to buy things when they go on sale most of the time. This one strategy alone will save you a whole lot of money.
Take these items for example:
The regular price for these items is $47.53 (ridiculously high if you ask me).
If all I did was wait for the sale, the price of these same items drops to $29.20.
That’s almost a 50% saving by just waiting until items go on sale!
This isn’t to say that you should buy stuff just because it’s on sale, you shouldn’t! This goes back to having a plan and planning your purchases around sales prices.
Stock up on non-perishables and foods you can freeze when they go on sale.
4. You're not using coupons the right way
Maybe you’ve given coupons a try. Clipped a few here, printed a few there. They’ve possibly saved you a few dollars if that.
Another big blunder is cutting out coupons thinking you will use them someday, then finding them in a crumpled heap at the bottom of your purse (or crushed in your wallet) 2 weeks after it has expired.
If that’s the case, you are using your coupons wrong!
Yes, there is a right and wrong way to use coupons.
The number one place to find coupons is in the Sunday newspaper. Check out discounted newspapers to find the best rate on newspapers in your area.
Let's take the same items I pictured above and add coupons to the sale price.
Want to know how much I paid for them after I applied coupons?
A whopping $4.35.
That’s right! I got 90% off of retail by applying the right technique for using coupons.
Shopping with coupons doesn’t have to be extreme. You can get awesome results without carrying around a giant binder.
The main key to making it easy is being organized before you go to the store.
(Remember how we talked about having a plan? Somehow it keeps popping up again and again. It must be important!)
Here are some more results from 5 of my actual receipts over the course of 6 weeks of buying groceries:
Here's the basic breakdown:
- Orange = Regular Price
- Yellow = Sale Price (what the store discounted for items I bought on sale)
- Green = What I actually paid for my groceries after the sale and coupon was applied.
Want to learn more about how to use coupons the right way?
5. You let the grocery store trick you into spending more
Up and down every isle there are marketing gimmicks stores use to convince you to buy more.
It starts with the glorious smells coming from the bakery and continues all the way to placing impulse buys on shelves near you while you wait to check out.
Then there are those nice conveniences that cost more because they make your life easier. Buying pre-cut watermelon or fresh pineapple will cost you way more than if you buy it whole and cut it yourself.
Another common trick is to label something as “on sale” but it’s really not a great price. Just because it’s listed in the weekly ad as “on sale” doesn’t mean it’s a good price. It might even be regular price, but the store has decided to “spotlight” the item and put it in the ad.
6. You aren't familiar with sales cycles
Did you know groceries are seasonal?
And I’m not talking about just produce.
Think about it. Around New Year’s many people set goals around weight loss, thus a lot of health foods will go on sale during this time period. They’ll also piggy back off of the Super Bowl at the end of January and sell party foods.
This trend will continue throughout the year.
Aside from seasonal sales, groceries are on a constant roller coaster ride of sales prices. Up one week, down the next. Most of the time the price is high. Paying attention to sales cycles will allow you to stock up on prices when prices get really low.
7. You impulse buy
Impulse buys are common when you shop with kids, when you shop hungry or (you guessed it) when you don’t have a plan.
If you haven’t planned your shopping trip you’ll be grabbing everything that might make for a good dinner at some point.
I had an experience the other day where I forgot to eat lunch and went to the store around 4:00.
Can I just say I was famished! Everything looked good! I knew I had to hightail it out of there fast, or I’d end up with a cart full of junk food (and probably gain 5 lbs that day!)
Don’t shop hungry.
Don’t train your kids to believe they will get a treat every time they go to the store.
Stick to your list.
Repeat after me:
If it’s not on my list, it’s not in my cart.
Are you guilty of any of these mistakes?
Don’t worry, they are all fixable!
Don't Forget to Use Your Rebate Apps!
Add extra savings to your grocery budget by scanning your receipt and getting cash back on the items you already bought.
It's easy, just select the items you bought, take a picture of your receipt and get money!
Here are my favorites:
- ibotta - Use this link to join and get $10 free when you redeem your first rebate in the next 30 days. ibotta has LOTS of great rebates from many popular companies and even online shopping.
- Checkout51 - Checkout51 updates their list of rebates each week, so there's always new rebates ready to be claimed.
- FetchRewards - earn rewards from rebates and redeem for fun gift cards. Use my referral code, VF1EY, at sign up and get a 2,000 point bonus (worth $2).
- BerryCart - This app is great for rebates on healthy organic, non-GMO and gluten-free foods.
Here are the key take-aways for you to remember in order to save on your groceries:
1. Set a grocery budget
2. Make a meal plan before you go to the store.
3. Shop with a well-planned list.
4. Stock up when your favorite items go on sale. Focus on non-perishables and foods you can freeze.
5. Know the best prices to pay and become familiar with sales cycles.
6. Combine sales prices with coupons.
A complete grocery saving system for your busy family.
Learn everything you need to know to save on groceries. Includes a complete online resource library so you don't have to go digging for any information. All the work has been done for you.