That grocery bill keeps climbing higher and higher, doesn’t it? The cost of food and everyday items seem to rise each time we hit the check-out line, and it can feel like our hands are tied. We can’t just stop putting dinner on the table. The backyard isn’t big enough to raise livestock, and our thumb isn’t exactly green, so what’s a hard-working person to do? Take a look at these eight common mistakes consumers make every day that could end up costing them big in the grocery line.
It doesn’t work for everything, but there are countless items available for purchase in large quantities that are considerably less expensive than buying these same items individually. Paper products like toilet tissue and every day needs including hand soap and laundry detergent are much more economical when purchased in larger doses. Likewise, non-perishables like mac-n-cheese, applesauce, beans, rice, canned vegetables, and even condiments are more affordable when bought in bulk. Butter and cheese tend to work in the same way as larger packages are often cheaper per ounce than smaller. For a more succinct list of budget-friendly choices, explore Woman’s Day’s article on this very topic.
There is a lot of money to be saved when you work the ads at your local grocery store. Get familiar with your regular retailer and learn what items tend to go on sale the most frequently and note its bottom dollar price. For example, a store might regularly throw pasta sauce on sale for $1.75 to move product, but every once in a while, they knock it down to 10 for $10. Stock up when you see that lowest price advertised. Most grocers still mail print ads, and even the ones who don’t always have their current sales displayed online which makes taking advantage of these deals much easier.
It’s not just for calorie counters. Meal planning is also a really great way to pinch pennies. For starters, it helps you avoid last-minute takeout or fast food when you realize you haven’t planned anything. It also prevents snacking all day and night on high dollar options like super-charged granola bars or low-nutrition foods like chips and cookies which leave you grabbing for more an hour later.
Chances are good that you have multiple brand name items in your refrigerator or pantry that are at least double the price of store brand or generic options. While a handful of these might have a significant distinction, the majority of them really don’t. For a closer look at which products you could be substituting without upsetting your taste buds, check out Consumers Reports’ in-depth dive.
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to the days of our youth when Grandma would throw us in the car with our mini bag of Goldfish crackers, pouch of applesauce and plastic bottle of Aquafina…wait a minute. That doesn’t sound like our childhood at all. We could use a quick lesson from generations past in how to rid ourselves of unnecessary conveniences like disposable bottles of water and individually wrapped snacks. Not only are these items much more expensive than, say, free water from the kitchen sink or snacks packed in Tupperware (remember Tupperware? It still exists!), these grab-and-go disposables also harm our environment. Smart shoppers who choose to “go green” end up saving some green, too.
Freezers aren’t just for popsicles and ice cream. They can and should be used to help preserve food when needed. Produce tends to be the easiest to salvage as many fruits and veggies can be quickly blanched and frozen. These items, when prepared properly, can keep for months, standing ready in your freezer for your next snack or meal. And don’t be so quick to throw out your leftovers! Have a half pot of chili your family isn’t going to eat? Freeze it for a quick lunch option. There are tons of leftover foods that can be safely frozen and reheated for future meals, so don’t throw that chili (or your money) down the drain.
This one is really simple in theory, although not always easy to follow. If you are hungry when you head into the store, chances are you will end up purchasing not only more food than you intended, but also far unhealthier choices. You might even find yourself downing a giant Frappuccino or something deep-fried from the deli – neither of which were in your budget or on your list. And speaking of lists…
It is so important to actually sit down, draft a grocery list, and then stick to it. Seriously. This one little step will do the biggest mountain of good for your pocketbook. Those spontaneous splurges don’t just hit our waistline; they hit our checking account, too!
Groceries are like taxes – unavoidable and pricey. But unlike that ongoing bill from Uncle Sam, you do have some control over your grocery expenses. By implementing some simple changes, you can make a big difference in your household’s overall food, toiletry and paper product costs, and who couldn’t use a little money left in their pocket after a long day at the grocery store?
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