Grocery Store Shopping Do’s and Don’t’s

A.k.a…. how I save 30% on my grocery store bill.  Here’s a list! Do: 

  • Stick to one store.  I know a lot of major budget-tip websites say shop around for the best price.  These people have not had to dig themselves out of thousands of dollars of debt.  They don’t feel the weight of one bad decision that can de-rail you indefinitely.  If you shop around, you’re less likely to stick to your budget, and more likely to buy more than you need at one store.  Plus… gas costs money too.  The more time and energy and resources getting out of debt takes, the less likely you are to do it right.
  • IMG_1191Get the store card if it’s free.  It opens you up to a world of savings!  I kicked and screamed and resisted this little buddy for two years.  If you put it on your key ring, you’ll never forget it!  Check out the bottom of this post where I’m going to post my last grocery bill and see how much I saved by using my store card.
  • Be in and out.  Do it quickly.  Don’t get caught up thinking about anything for too long.  If you’re not sure, don’t buy it and think about it later at home.  If you’re sure you need it, get it.  You can’t save on everything every time.
  • Have a plan.  You need to sit down and write down your meals for the next cycle.  I go grocery shopping every two weeks, so I plan out my meals for those two weeks.  That way I know what I’m looking for, and I’m not cruising the aisle mindlessly.
  • Add up your ingredients’ prices before you go to the store.  This way you’ll know that you’re going to be on budget.  Have a little extra room?  Put the money into another category or envelope so you don’t accidentally spend it.  Not sure of the prices?  You can do a dry-run to check them out, or you can..
  • LOOK at the store’s discount flyer!  You might think,

    “Oh, who cares if there is $.50 off of a can of corn?”  Well, let me let you in on a little piece of factual information.  If a can of corn is $.99, and you saved 50 cents, you just saved 50% of your bill.  If you can do this with all of your purchases, it turns a $50 bill into a $25 one!

  • Feel the cash.  Finger those Benjamins.  Or.. er… Lincolns (do you think he is insulted that he only made it on to the $5)?  Get intimate with those boys.  Love them.  Count them often.  That will make it all the more painful when you hand them over to that 15 year old brat at the counter.
  • Consider alternatives.  If you normally use bread for sandwiches, but there aren’t any good sales on it, but English muffins are buy 1, get 2 free, you can make English muffin sandwiches for the next few weeks, right?  This happened to me the last time I went shopping – see my receipt below.  And to be honest, I get bored of the same old stuff, so it was a nice change.
  • Look down / Buy generic.  No more buying Kraft Mac & Cheese.  Go for the Walmart version on the bottom shelf.  Forget Ragu tomato sauce.  The Walmart tomato sauce will be just as tasty, if you like the taste of freedom from debt.
  • IMG_1189Look at your receipt when you exit the store – revel in how much you have saved, and congratulate yourself!  Call your mom and tell her!  Give yourself a pat on the back!  Make yourself feel good for what you’ve achieved, and remind yourself why you’re doing it.  Everyone else will think you’re crazy and / or stupid, and will give you those judge-y eye-rolls that makes you want to smack them. Those people are broke.

Don’t:

  • Keep buying things you’re not using.  If you bought a huge bag of rice intending to cook it at home for cheap… and haven’t touched it… nix rice.  If you bought lettuce to make healthy salads and it rotted away in your fridge… nix that, too!
  • Go shopping hungry
  • Go shopping with a credit or debit card (leave the wallet in the car if you must – no plastic enters the store).  People say debit cards are okay, but I’ve found my will is too weak.  Plus, you need to feel the cash, remember?
  • Spend longer than 1/2 hour in the store
  • Look at items that are not on your list
  • Count calories.  We don’t care about calories while we’re getting out of debt.
  • Get take out on the way home because you’re too tired to actually cook any of the stuff you just bought.  Your reward is not food.  This relates to, “don’t go shopping hungry!”  I’ve been guilty of this SO many times.
  • Steal money from another envelope to add to your list.  If you can’t buy milk, you can’t buy it.  Use water and feel the pain of eating gross food until you budget correctly next time!  I’ve eaten cereal from the box on weeks I didn’t budget enough for milk.

And, now, I present to you, as proof that this stuff works, my most recent shopping receipt.  Notice how much I saved, and how many tiny discounts I used.  My balance was a little high this time because I was stocking up on some stuff I don’t normally have to buy (sandwich bags, toilet bowl cleaner, etc), but you still get the idea.  Normally, if I just buy my 2 week staples – milk, juice, fruit, bread, etc – it’s about $25-$35. You can see the three identical items near the top of the receipt.  Those are all butter.  They were on super sale sale (80% off), so I stocked up and put the two extras in the freezer.  That’s one thing I won’t have to buy for probably the rest of the year.  You can also see 2 boxes of Cheerios and 2 boxes of granola bars near the bottom.  They were on sale if purchased together, and I use both all the time, so I stocked up.  The first item is Thomas’ English Muffins.  Buy one, get two free!  Which is the same as getting 50% off on each box.  So, you can see, I really don’t go for those special sales unless they get me close to 50% off, and it’s an item I normally buy.  My total savings = $21.64. IMG_1187 Now go and try it yourself, and post your receipts in the comments!  Or leave me a comment and tell me what I left off of my list.

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