Money Matters: Save money by avoiding these 6 grocery mistakes
The good news is that the grocery inflation rate is cooling off — egg and produce prices are coming back down, helping to drive down the overall rate for groceries. The bad news is that prices are still high, with the USDA predicting an overall price rise of 6.3% in 2023 before it returns to its normal 3% inflation rate in 2024 or 2025.
With that in mind, we can all stand to watch our spending in the grocery store. However, it’s not a matter of starving yourself so much as it is avoiding common grocery mistakes that inevitably lead to wasted food and lengthy receipts. Avoid these six grocery mistakes and start saving money today.
1. Shopping on an empty stomach
We’ve all been there: walking down the aisle of our local grocery store, looking for the right loaf of bread, when our grumbling stomach keeps calling our attention to the wall of potato chips behind us. Before we know it, our basket is filled with several varieties of chips and a bag of Funyuns for good measure.
But shopping while hungry doesn’t just lead to poor nutritional choices: A series of studies found that “hunger increases the accessibility of acquisition-related concepts and the intention to acquire not only food but also nonfood objects,” like binder clips. Basically, when you’re hungry, your tendency is to satisfy whims through immediate acquisition. So if you want to save a buck, before you shop, make sure you’ve eaten.
2. Leaving your shopping list at home
Way back in 1993, a study on grocery shopping behavior found that “written shopping lists significantly reduce average expenditure.” That’s likely because the act of writing a list requires careful consideration of what is and is not needed in the pantry.
Still, only 56% of shoppers “always” or “usually” use shopping lists. That means the rest are improvising as they go, doing their best to remember what they need. The end result is overcompensating and buying too much while still forgetting crucial items.
3. Buying produce out of season
We sometimes take for granted how readily available fresh fruits and vegetables are in our local grocery store. However, the abundance of the produce section belies an important truth: Fruits and vegetables have their seasons, and buying something out of season (i.e., when it is scarce) is more expensive than buying it in season (i.e., when it is in abundance following harvest).
Buy your produce when it is in season, using the Seasonal Food Guide as a reference. Not only will it be cheaper, but produce that’s in season is fresher and tastes better than the produce that has been stored to last till the next harvest.
4. Sticking to name-brand items
Name-brand foods benefit from names that are instantly recognizable: Oreo, Kellogg’s, Tyson, etc. But that recognizability often comes with a high price point — one you can easily avoid by buying off-brand (aka store brand, house brand or local label) products.
Not only are off-brand products usually cheaper than their big-brand counterparts, but you’re also not sacrificing much in terms of quality. Back in 2012, a blind taste test conducted by Consumer Reports found that 50% of store brands were as good or better than comparable name brands.
5. Buying presliced fruits and veggies
When you’re new to cooking, the presliced fruits and vegetables in the produce section look like an enticing alternative to working with a knife. However, you should probably start learning how to slice and dice, as this presliced produce comes with a significant price hike. By Vice’s estimation, chopping food yourself can save you up to $100 a month. That’s not even mentioning the trade-off in nutritional value that comes with prepackaging food.
6. Paying with cash or debit
We get it: You don’t want to rack up any more credit card debt than you already have. However, a credit card doesn’t have to incur debt — not if you pay off the credit immediately after making a purchase. If you do that and take advantage of the rewards offered by certain cards, you can save money when buying groceries. According to WalletHub, you could save up to 6% on your grocery bill.
While the rate of grocery inflation is slowing down, it definitely won’t reverse. Check yourself for these six grocery mistakes and replace them with good habits to cut down your grocery bill and save money — the sooner the better.
Sam Wright is a project manager at Stage Marketing, a full-service content marketing agency based in Pleasant Grove.