Ever walk into the grocery store with the intention of buying eggs, and walk out having spent $250? Or worse, end up leaving the store with a tiny bag of groceries that cost you way, way too much? We’ve all been there. With a little bit of planning, and little of bit of out-maneuvering of the tactics grocery stores use to get you to buy more, you really can save a bundle at the grocery store.
Here, our top 15 tips for how to save money on groceries. With all of the money you’ll be sure to save you’ll be able to afford a nice dinner out now and again, or even better, that pair of shoes you ‘ve been lusting after.
1. Make a list, and stick to it.
The point of the grocery list is twofold: Yes, it’ll help you remember what you need at the grocery store, but it will also prevent you buying things that aren’t on your list. That overpriced pre-made guacamole that most definitely isn’t on your must-have list—just put it down. Likewise, never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach—you’ll find yourself loading up on things you normally might not buy.
2. Don’t feel the need to fill your shopping cart.
Because studies have shown that bigger shopping carts encourage shoppers to buy more, shopping carts in grocery stores have actually gotten bigger. The next time you hit the grocery store aisles, make a concerted effort to not fill your cart, and use a basket when you can.
3. Skip the middle of the store if you can.
Grocery store design is essentially a science, and the aisles featuring essential ingredients are most often strategically placed at opposite ends of the store, forcing shopping to wander through all of the aisles. If you can, skip the middle, and you’ll find yourself less inclined to impulse shop.
4. Go generic, it won’t kill you.
You’ve likely heard this advice a dozen and one times, but it really is true, the generic options are usually cheaper and just as good. Grocery stores often even use name-brand products, and put their own labels on it, so in certain cases name brand-name and generic are actually the exact same thing. Just check the ingredients to be sure you are getting the same product.
5. Stay away from pre-packaged and pre-cut items.
Don’t pay extra for someone to do common kitchen chores for you. Pre-packaged lettuce, pre-cut fruit, and grated cheese, all cost you extra for the small convenience it brings you. In essence, you’ll be paying someone to do a job you could easily do at home, so keep that in mind the next time you are deciding on a full head of lettuce versus washed lettuce in a plastic container.
6. Buy produce that’s in season.
Repeat this one with us: Buy produce that’s in season. Not only will it most definitely taste better, but it will be a huge cost savings. Because it costs less to produce fruit and vegetables that are local and in season, it costs less for you to buy them.
7. Ask about getting discounts on almost-expired items.
See a cake or a package of steaks that are going to expire the next day? Grocery store employees often agree to mark down prices on those items, and all you need to do is ask.
8. Buy larger cuts of meat, and have the butcher trim it for you.
Buying large cuts of meat versus small cuts of meat can save you a bundle. For instance, buy a big roast and have the butcher turn it into a bone for soup, hamburger meat, and pot roasts. Experts say buying meat this way can save you as much as 30 percent.
9. Listen to music while you shop.
Ever notice how grocery stores play music that is slower than the average heartbeat? It’s on purpose because it makes you spend more time in the store. Put on headphones and listen to your own music while you are grocery shopping and you’ll spend less time in the store, and more importantly, buy less.
10. Double check which items are on sale, and if the sale even makes sense.
Grocery stores often deliberately make it difficult to figure out which items the sale applies to in order to trick consumers into picking up the wrong item (chances being they won’t notice later). Make sure to double check what is on sale the next time you visit the grocery store.
11. Buying in bulk won’t always save you money.
It’s been ingrained into most shoppers heads that buying in bulk leads to cost savings, but that isn’t always the case. Often in the produce department, individual peppers are cheaper than those in the multi-packs, and loose avocados are usually cheaper than the ones grouped in bags.
12. Beware of the ten-for-$10 promotion.
Grocery stores love to offer ten-for-$10 promotions, but oftentimes said stores will actually mark up items for those promotions. For instance, a can of tuna that costs under $1 will suddenly cost a $1 during one of these promotions.
13. Shop when the grocery store is less busy.
Studies have shown that most shoppers buy more when the store is crowded to be a part of the group mentality. If you can, shop on days when the store is less busy like Monday or Tuesday, and always avoid weekends.
14. Prefer buying organic? Check the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen guide.
If buying organic is a priority, check the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen to see what is worth splurging on. Unless it costs exactly the same or less than its conventional counterpart, don’t bother springing for organic items on the clean fifteen list.
15. Look up and down while shopping (literally).
Grocery stores strategically stock their shelves. Name-brand items, which tend to be more expensive, are usually placed at eye-level, for instance. So remember to look up and down for cheaper items, including generic options, when hitting the aisles.