Smarter Grocery Store Shopping

Smarter Grocery Store ShoppingYour food budget is one of the easiest ways to start spending less and saving more. However, the grocery store can also be a money pit if you don’t plan ahead and understand how to get more for your dollar. The USDA estimates the average cost of food at home for a family of four to range between $568 to $1293 per month depending on the ages of your children and whether you follow a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, or liberal plan.

Cooking meals at home is a great way to keep your finances in check, but if you don’t have a game plan, you can quickly spend more than you intended. Grocery stores often use some tricky tactics to get you to spend more, usually on things that you don’t need and are high margins for grocery stores. Starting to shop smarter at the grocery store key to keeping to your budget!

Plan Your Trip

When you make a plan before you go grocery shopping, you’re more likely to stick to your list and not come home with a boatload of stuff you don’t need.Shop grocery store sale ads

  • Use the grocery store ads. Every Wednesday the new ads for grocery stores come out. You can find them online and they usually come in the mail too. Additionally, you can use the app Flipp which you can install on your phone and has the ads for over 800 retailers in the US and Canada.
  • Plan your weekly meals based on what is on sale. When you glance through the add you can easily find meat, vegetables, cheese, and other ingredients on sale to make the meals you love. If you and your family can learn to be flexible, you can buy the majority of your items on sale.
  • Use coupons. I’m not talking about extreme couponing here, but you can often find coupons for the products you already try. A lot of stores enable you to load coupons and store deals to your loyalty card either through their website or their app you can download – Safeway, Fry’s, and Sprouts are all on my phone.
  • Stock up on pantry and freezer stuff when it’s on sale. I keep a running list of things I can add to my pantry (canned vegetables, tuna, pasta, oatmeal) or my freezer (frozen vegetables, bread), so when they are on sale, I can stock up.
  • Inventory what you already have. Before you make a list or head out shopping, take a look at what you have in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. We waste so much food, and it’s often because we buy stuff we already have, then it goes bad and we have to throw it away. Save money by using what you have before buying more.

These are just a few ways to get started planning your grocery store trip. It can take several times to start to get into a routine, but you will find it easier and easier. Pretty soon you will notice the best prices on the things you buy and can scour through the ads in about 5-10 minutes to make you shopping list. I like to make a game of it and see how much money I can save each week.

Smarter Grocery Shopping!

So how can you become more thoughtful in your grocery shopping? Have a plan! But there are also a few things to keep in mind, so you don’t easily fall off track. Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned:

Shop The Perimeter
Shop The Perimeter
  • Don’t shop the center aisles. The center isles mostly contain processed foods that, if you want to stay healthy, you shouldn’t be buying anyway. Spend most of your time on the stores perimeter where you’ll find produce, meat, and dairy products.
  • Stay away from convenience foods. Deli items and salad bars are always priced at a premium. Instead of buying packages of individual snack sized items – grab a big bag and some ziplock bags and make snack bags yourself. Pre-cut foods can be quick and easy, but if you plan ahead, you can save some money and cut up fruits, veggies, meat, and cheeses yourself.
  • Don’t buy non-grocery items at the grocery store. Cooking tools and gadgets are generally not a good deal at the grocery store. If you need something specific that you don’t have, look at borrowing it from a friend or family member. Personal care items like make-up, toothpaste and hair care are usually at a much higher price; buy from Walmart, Target or Amazon instead.
  • Check the size and look at the price per ounce. The grocery stores often put the price per ounce on the shelf price tag which helps make it easier to compare different size product. Take a few extra minutes to compare the per ounce price before you buy to make sure you are getting a good deal.
  • Don’t buy stuff at the check-out. Magazines, candy, and gum all sit at the checkout to entice you to purchase them while you are waiting. Just say no! If you are used to grabbing something at the checkout, you need to start changing your mindset.

Grocery Wants Versus Needs

Having a plan and knowing the additional tips above can start to put you in the mindset of being more conscious of your grocery budget spending. Additionally, understanding your needs versus wants can have a big impact. The “luxury” items that you want every week should be occasion splurges. I find that when I only buy myself treats occasionally, they feel more like luxuries – I enjoy them so much more when I feel like they are a special treat. I get especially excited when I find one of those items on sale – the wine I love, my favorite ice cream, or the best organic salsa. You can be frugal and still enjoy the good life.

Smarter grocery store shopping involves creating a plan, not getting side-tracked, and understanding your needs versus wants. When you become more conscious of what you are buying and how much you are spending every time you shop, you will start to develop a routine that makes grocery shopping easy, fun, and a great way to save some money!

How much do you spending on groceries every month? Do you think you can save more?

Let me know your ideas for saving more at the grocery store in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “Smarter Grocery Store Shopping

  1. this post is informative and you might find it funny that I have this problem of just knowing the list by heart before leaving for the grocery store and once I reach there I just forget what I need and what I do not.

    Has this happened to anyone else, it is so frustrating when you blank out that way! This post had some useful tips for me and it definitely helped. Thanks.

    1. Ha! I’ve done that before. You leave for the grocery store so sure that you will remember everything on your list and then when you get there you can’t remember it. That’s so frustrating! I know some people have gotten into the habit of putting their list on their phone so they will always have it and can add to it when they remember something, but I’m still a pen and paper kind of person. I guess everyone has their own routine! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Hello here. I wonder how many members supposed to be in the family according to the Goverment statistics? Maybe it’s four people. Fifteen hundred it will be okay but six hundred for four people is nothing especially if you want to have real, organic food.

    Your post will bring the light to the misery of people who see big bills but sometimes do not find ways how to save money for groceries.

    Did you mention that it is better for bill and for self esteem go shopping with the full stomach?

    When I am hungry I buy things which later on wait in the line to be eaten. Not so smart, is not?

    Going to the store with a list is the best way to have what you need not what your eyes see or children ask. It is easier to find arguments against plea to buy this and this.

    Thanks for an informative and straight to the point article regarding smart shopping.

    All the best, be healthy and wealthy, Nemira.

    1. That’s a great tip! Definitely going on a full stomach helps you make better decisions and not stray from your list. I find that when I go when I’m hungry I buy more junk food which is definitely not a good strategy if you want to be healthy and save money. Thanks for sharing and your tip!


  3. Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for the post. I moved into my own place a while ago so gradually got into the habit of listing things that I needed before going grocery shopping and I see how that has made grocery trips a lot more efficient, both money & time wise.

    Another thing I try to do for pantry & freezer items that I repeated use is to stock up on a lot more of them once they go on sale, as this saves even more money, and especially time in not having to buy them as often 🙂

    1. That’s great! I agree, stocking up on pantry and freezer items can save you both time and money. It’s really nice to have things on hand when you can’t make it to the grocery store. Once you get into the habit of making lists before you go shopping and stocking up on things you know you will use, it can really save money and time and make your life a little less stressful. Thanks for your comment and sharing your ideas!


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