How much do you spend on groceries each month? According to Value Penguin, the average American family spends $500 per month on food but those numbers sound a little small.1 I know plenty of people with families who spend upwards of $700+ a month on groceries.
We tend to spend about $350 and hardly dine out anymore. This means we cook the majority of our meals at home, including school and work lunches.
The average work lunch is around $7. This would add up to $140 per month or $1,680 per year for my husband.
At my son's school, lunches are $3.40 per day. This equates to $68 per month or $816 per year, so we already save a ton there. However, we also save at the grocery store, which drastically reduces our overall food spending.
How can you keep your household grocery bill low and still avoid restaurant meals and costly work lunches by preparing meals at home? There are plenty of tips and solutions for cutting your grocery bill. You can shop with a list, make fewer shopping trips, search for deals by using apps and clipping coupons, etc.
However, one of the most effective ways to slash your grocery bill is to get rid of your bad grocery shopping habits. Here are 6 grocery shopping habits you should ditch ASAP in order to spend less money on food at the store:
1. Brand loyalty
Brand loyalty is nice in some cases, but it can often backfire. Brands often compete with each other to showcase who has the best product that provides the highest level of quality. While they compete for the catchiest slogan, most attractive packaging, and most memorable commercials, they should be competing more on price instead of relying on brand loyalty from customers.
Depending on what you're buying in the store, the brand may not really matter. In that case, stick to store brands to stack your savings. The $0.40 you save on one item and the $1 you save on another item will add up when you receive your final total at the register.
2. Emotionally charged purchases
Emotionally charged purchases can throw you off budget in any situation. While I'm often caught telling my son he can't have certain foods he probably won't like in the grocery store just because they look "cool" or "interesting", there have been a few times when I've found myself making food purchases based on emotion and that I ended up hating and throwing out later on. Pre-made kale chips have been one of those purchases and was a total waste of money.
Focus on buying food items based on necessity and allow yourself a small "fun food" budget if you do tend to shop based on emotion. For example, allowing yourself $15 to spend freely on the grocery store on a dessert or a new product probably won't do too much damage to your overall spending.
3. Foregoing price comparison
Whenever you shop for anything, you should compare pricing. This can let you know whether you're getting the best deal or basically getting ripped off and overspending on a particular item. Usually, you can compare pricing in one store easily, since most food items are grouped together. As long as you're not addicted to certain brands, you can compare pricing, ingredients, etc., to see how you can save.
I'd also recommend looking through your weekly circulars to see which stores are offering specific sales so you can buy your items from there. Store loyalty can be just as bad as brand loyalty, so be willing to try out different stores for your grocery shopping and switch up your routine.
If you price comparison shop effectively, you can take advantage of price matching as well, if the store participates.
4. Not carefully reading labels
It's important to carefully read the labels of everything you buy. My mom used to be really bad at this. I figured she must have just sped through the grocery shopping process or just didn't pay close enough attention to what she was buying because, after each shopping trip, she would get something we never asked for or needed.
Whether it was lite pancake syrup instead of the original, wild rice, or sausages with pork in them (my sister didn't eat pork), not carefully reading labels led to wasting quite a bit of money.
Take the few extra seconds to make sure you're putting the right things into your cart. I know stores can be busy sometimes and people may seem impatient as they try to work around you, but it's worth the extra effort to do this.
5. Not checking your receipt
How often do you go to the store, make a purchase, and just stuff your receipt into a bag or your pocket whenever the cashier hands it to you? I used to do this all the time, especially when grocery shopping.
After spending hundreds of dollars on food at the store, it's best to at least glance over your receipt to make sure you paid the correct account. Everyone makes mistakes, and cashiers are no exception. Plus, if you're looking to take advantage of a sale or offer, you want to make sure the discount was applied to your purchase.
6. Avoiding store loyalty programs
Store loyalty programs aren't for everyone, but some of them are worth a shot if they can help you save. Don't get me wrong, using a store loyalty rewards card sounds ironic after I just suggested avoiding brand and store loyalty, but just because you have a rewards card doesn't mean you have to shop in that store all the time.
If you see a sale somewhere else, feel free to take advantage of it. I just feel that store loyalty rewards cards can come in handy if you tend to buy the same items and shop at the same stores for convenience. For example, we do the bulk of our grocery shopping at Walmart and Aldi. That doesn't mean we don't go to other stores though.
I have a loyalty rewards card for Walgreens because there is a store right around the corner from my house and I often go there to pick up things like snacks, medicine, etc.
They have a great loyalty program where they provide discounts on almost everything in the store and allow you to earn points for every purchase that you can redeem for free items of your choice. Am I going to shop for anything and everything at Walgreens? Nope, but I will shop there when necessary and take advantage of their rewards program.
Loyalty rewards cards are often free and don't come with all pressures and temptations of store credit cards. You just use it when you can to take advantage of savings and let the rewards stack up.
1: Value Penguin. "Average Household Cost of Food". Valuepenguin.org https://www.valuepenguin.com/how-much-we-spend-food
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