15 Grocery Shopping Mistakes You're Making That Are Major Money Wasters
Could your grocery shopping habits be costing you a fortune? The short answer — yes. This month, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that the average twentysomething spent $60.40 a week on groceries in January 2015. To some people, especially to those who shop for entire families, this may not seem like much. But when you take into consideration that the average twentysomething shops solely for themselves (and maybe a few friends when having a party), that's a huge chunk of change.
To be fair, there are a lot of factors at play here. Over the past decade, the cost of food has increased at an alarming rate. In 2014 alone, poultry prices increased 4.7 percent, while the cost of fresh fruit and veggies increased anywhere from 3.4 to 12 percent. Not to mention as trendier stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods move into neighborhoods, there are fewer places to score a good deal.
That being said, we do make our fair share of mistakes when it comes to grocery shopping, whether it's failing to check the fridge before you leave the house, or opting for a name-brand item when the generic version will do just fine. Unfortunately, these small slip-ups can have financial repercussions. By making a few changes to your grocery shopping routine, you could cut down your weekly bills by 10, 20, even 50 percent! But in order to do that, it's important to first recognize the mistakes we are making. Here are 15 common grocery shopping mistakes that are costing you some serious cash. Which ones are you guilty of?
1. You don't make a shopping list.
It may seem old-fashioned, but having a grocery list saves you some serious moolah. When you write down what you need, you won't be tempted to pick up unnecessary goodies (like that pint of Ben and Jerry's) or grab something you think you need, but actually don't. Not to mention this trick gets you in and out of the store quicker.
2. You don't check what you have before leaving the house.
Have you ever returned from a shopping expedition with a bag of spinach only to realize you had two in the fridge? Cut down on cost — and waste — by checking the fridge and pantry before heading out the door.
3. You grab the big cart.
When it comes to shopping carts, size does matter. Having excess space tricks your mind into thinking you need to fill the cart. Opt for a small double-decker cart or a basket to keep this from happening.
4. You don't pay attention to the pricing structure.
You think buying a package of salad greens is cheaper, but you may get more for your money when you buy the loose leaf variety. To ensure you're making the cheaper choice, do a little math before making your final produce selection.
5. You buy organic when it's not necessary.
Eating organic has its benefits, but not all organic foods are created equal. Avocados, watermelons, and bananas, for example, are protected from pesticides thanks to their thick skin. Skip the organic label when it comes to these foods, and you could save yourself a couple of cents (or even dollars).
6. You buy produce that is out of season.
Ever wonder why strawberries are more expensive in the winter? It's because the grocers pay extra to have them shipped to the store. As nice as it is to have any food available all year long, it costs a pretty penny. Not to mention fruits and veggies taste infinitely better when they are in season.
7. You don't buy in bulk.
Now this doesn't mean you need to buy a five pound bag of cereal (unless you eat the stuff for every meal). But by buying the family-size packages of meat at the beginning of the month, you can save yourself a little money over the next 30 days. Just store the cuts in the freezer and take them out as you need them.
8. You go shopping when you're hungry.
Always have a snack before hitting up the nearest Stop & Shop. When your stomach is crying out for food, you're more likely to fill your cart with items that you don't need.
9. You shop on the wrong day.
You may like to wait till the weekend to shop, but you're more likely to save money by going on Wednesdays. According to CoolSavings.com, this is the day when most grocery stores start their weekly sales. And, if you're super sweet, some stores will honor any discounts from the previous week, which can double your savings.
10. You skip over the frozen food aisle.
If the majority of your fruit and veggie supply goes into making smoothies, then you're better off buying the frozen variety. Although you may think it's less nutritious, this produce is picked at the peak of ripeness and frozen immediately to ensure the nutritional quality.
11. You don't compare prices.
It only takes a few minutes and the most basic math skills to figure out if it’s cheaper to buy three boxes of pasta for $12 or five for $15.
12. You refuse to buy generic brands.
There seems to be a stigma attached to store brands, but at the end of the day they are the same as their name-brand counterparts (and cost a whole lot less). Unless you can find a distinct difference between the two, you’re better off buying the generic variety.
13. You buy things at the register.
A couple of candy bars and a few packs of gum seem harmless, but they can do some damage to your final bill. To avoid any sweet temptations at the checkout line, head straight to the card swipe.
14. You don't use coupons.
You don't have to be a mom to score a good deal. Before heading to the store, search through the local paper or Coupon.com to see what savings you can find. If used correctly, you could save somewhere in the double-digits.
15. You don't bring your own grocery bags.
Some stores take a few cents off your final bill if you bring your own bags. But be warned: This may mean you have to pack your own groceries. As long as you don't mind a little work, it's a great deal.