Groceries are a necessity, and food shopping is an inevitable expense for all of us. It’s never the most exciting part of your day (or maybe it is, but in that case you might want to seriously reconsider some of your life choices), but it can be a great opportunity to save money without making any big sacrifices. Follow these tips to learn how you can make your next trip to the grocery store a financial success.
Buy in Bulk
Not just for the neurotic or elderly anymore, buying in bulk is the most well-known and easiest way to save money on things you buy regularly. Of course it won’t work for things like fresh produce, but there’s absolutely no reason why you need to make three separate granola bar runs in a single month. Instead, embrace your inner hoarder and go to a warehouse-type store like BJ’s or Costco’s, where you’ll be able to buy all of your non-perishables for a cheaper price, and save money on the gas you would’ve used going back and forth to your local grocery store 17 times.
Buy the Whole Thing (Unprocessed, Unwashed, and Uncut)
A common practice of grocery stores is to sell pre-cut or pre-prepared foods like fruit salads, salad kits, pre-chopped cheeses, or anything else that’s supposed to make your life more convenient. But the grocery store is not doing this as a favor to you—they usually charge up to 40% more for the same food just because it’s been pre-cut and packaged nicely. Come on. You’re a fully-functioning member of society, you can cut up your own watermelon. This also goes for pre-sliced turkey, peeled carrots, and pre-washed lettuce.
Understand Grocery Store Psychology, and Outsmart it
The people in charge of establishing the layout of a grocery store are pretty much engaging in psychological warfare. They know that you’re more likely to buy things that are easily accessible, so they’ll be sure to put the more expensive products right in the middle of the shelf where you can see them. They also know that one day you’ll want to run in quickly on your way home from work to just buy some milk or eggs or a loaf of bread, so they’ll put that stuff all the way in a back corner where you need to walk through aisles and aisles of chips and tacos to reach it (and inevitably realize that you also want to buy said chips and tacos). They even know that your kids are approximately 4 feet tall, and so they’ll position sugary snacks geared towards children at their eye level and let your 10-year-old market for them. So now that you know: fight back! Look high and low on the shelf, don’t settle for what’s right in front of you. If you’re coming in for just one item, ignore everything else and buy only that one gallon of milk (and then quietly whisper “take that, corporate America” as you proudly walk out to your car and high five yourself). As far as your kids go, try to avoid taking them shopping. They probably didn’t want to go anyway.
Go with the Flow (or Season)
Obviously, buying something that can be locally grown at the time when you’re purchasing it is going to be less expensive than something that needs to be imported from halfway around the world. So buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, and you totally eliminate that problem. Your produce will also be fresher. So save corn on the cob for summer barbeques, and squash soup for autumn.
Buy Store Brands
This one’s pretty obvious too—everyone knows that store brands are cheaper. But did you know that sometimes it’s the exact same product as your favorite national brand? Not like it’s similar, like the same company makes both and just slaps different labels on them. This is true for things like pain relievers, some cereals, and paper goods. You don’t need to pay for a label. No one is inspecting your pantry to make sure that you have designer baked beans. Go generic.
Employ these strategies for a couple of months, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can save. Good luck. May the force of the in-season yams be with you.