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How to grocery shop wisely

How to grocery shop wisely

Learning to grocery shop wisely can save thousands of dollars over the years, and free up considerable money & time each month. The most important part of smart grocery shopping is changing your habits (or developing good habits from the outset.) The key here is to plan ahead, and eliminate as many trips to the store as possible.

Start by keeping an ongoing list of the things you need from the grocery store. When you run low on an item or think of something you would like from the store, write it down. We keep our list stuck to the fridge with a magnet. Our rule is “write it down if you want it to get bought”. Before you leave for the store, make sure that your belly is full and then do a final check of your cupboards and fridge to see if there is anything you need that should be added to the list. (It helps to plan your meals as well, or at least to have a general idea of what you typically eat during the month.)

Vow to ONLY buy the items on the list, or to have a maximum of one thing that can be bought off-list per person. This keeps spur of the moment purchases down, which are the biggest budget-busters at the grocery store. According to a an excerpt from Marketing’s Powerful Weapon, Point-of-Purchase Advertising, 60% of supermarket purchases are unplanned. 60%! So you can cut your grocery bill dramatically just by making a list and sticking to it. What your put on your list matters as well. The fewer processed foods on the list, the better your health and the lower your costs. (Learning to make things yourself is not as hard as it might seem. Here’s a great potato recipe to try.)

Once you get to the grocery store, check unit pricing on the different sizes before buying. Most supermarkets now mark the prices on the shelves and have them broken down for you, so this is usually just a matter of reading the tags and comparing. Frequently larger sizes cost less per-unit, but not always — especially with sales — so be sure to check. For example, at our local store a gallon of milk is often on sale for less than or the same price as the half gallon that’s not on sale. If your store doesn’t mark the prices that way, you can take a calculator with you to figure out the per unit pricing. Just divide the total price of the item by the number of units. (Such as $2.99 divided by 12 ounces, for a per-unit price of .249 or approximately 25 cents.) You can also keep a price book to compare prices over time.

Consider doing your main shopping once a month, and getting the heavy items first to discourage browsing. (Remember, the less often you’re in the store, the fewer impulse purchases you will make.) If you need to stop in for perishables, go without a cart or basket. Having to carry the items around in your hands will naturally limit your purchases.


This post is part of a series. See what everyone should know about personal finance for links to additional posts on the subject.


View Comments (3)
  • My GF and I used to spend at least $135 every two weeks on groceries. Then we decided to start eating healthier and cut out as many processed foods as possible. Now all we purchase are Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats. Sometimes we will pickup a few processed items like spaghetti sauce or canned beans but that is about it. Now we only spend around $65 every two weeks!!

    – Neko

  • At Walmart the largest size is almost always not the best deal. Checking those tags is a necessity.

    Loving the blog. Just found it today.

  • Great post.

    Also consider trying an Aldi’s supermarket. Ald’s is a no frills grocery store where costumers can save 40% to 50% compared to shopping at conventional supermarkets.

    Aldi’s offers cheap prices by cutting costs and passing the savings onto the consumer.

    When you do shop at a conventional supermarket save money by stocking up when products go on sale. But make sure to stock up only when the sale is significant – buy 1, get 1 free sales and half-price sales.

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