How do you beat the grocery store at their own game? They spend an obscene amount of money on research and marketing in an effort to separate you from your hard-earned dollars. How can you fight back?
Some things I do to keep my final total down:
- Plug in. Have you ever paused to listen to the muzak playing over the loudspeakers of your local Piggly Wiggly? It’s no accident, they’re conspiring to lessen your inhibitions and keep you there longer so you spend more by playing slower music. My remedy is my mp3 player. It’s full of my choices in music, none of which make me want to dawdle over that extra Butterball for the freezer (unless it’s on sale). A plus is I get to bop around in my own little world and the lady trying to get me to sign up for a store credit card leaves me alone. 🙂
- Chew on this. Next time you go shopping, go armed. Grab a pack of mint bubble gum from the candy aisle (NOT the checkout – they charge $1.09 for one pack of gum, the candy aisle had a 3-pack of the same gum for $1.89). Chewing on gum will keep your mouth busy and the mint will stop you from smelling the fresh baked bread or roasting chicken that the stores will tempt you with. Also, some say mint helps with mental clarity. And who couldn’t use a little of that?
- Full Tummy. Common sense – don’t go food shopping hungry. Shop right after a meal, or bring a snack from home. Just as an army marches on its stomach, so also do you shop on one.
- Refreshment. The greatest invention of the 21st century is the shopping-cart-cup-holder. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea at home and bring it along in a thermal mug. You can walk by that Fourbucks kiosk at the entrance, tip your mug, and say “no thanks, I’m good.” That’s a great feeling.
- Solo Flight. I have a 6-year-old son. When I shop with him, I estimate he costs me $3 for every 5 minutes we’re in the store. It costs me $5/hour to have a sitter watch him (or it’s free if I can get dad to do it!). If it’s possible, leave the kids at home.
- BYOB. Those nifty green bags all the grocery stores are selling these days can be a big help. My local Kroger credits $0.03 per bag that I bring, whether I use it or not. Sure, it would probably take more uses to make up the $0.99 price tag then the bags will last…unless. When you first buy your green bags, take them home and reinforce the seams with a sewing machine. It’s an easy way to make them more durable, longer-lasting, and even more green!
- Integrate Shopping with Exercise. Searching high and low will grant you the best deals, so do your stretches and lunges to save a bit of money and get tight buns at the same time.
- Clearance Racks. Check them first before shopping that department.
- Cultivate Global Tastes. Don’t be afraid to check your Mexican/Asian/Middle Eastern aisle. Sometimes you can find the exact same item from another aisle for cheaper there. i.e. canned chickpeas in the bean aisle usually cost $0.99 for a 15-oz can. Garbanzo beans in the Latino section? $0.79. Or, if you’re feeling particularly thrifty, hit the local ethnic groceries. Latino markets are famed for their cheap produce.
- Coupons. If this is your thing, go for it. Combine them with the loss leaders if you can. I’m not going to go into this – if you need more information Google it and you’re guaranteed to be overwhelmed with help.
- Write It Down. If you do most of your grocery shopping at a particular store, look on their website for a store layout. Then arrange your shopping list by aisle. Less time wandering the aisle = less time to impulse shop.
These are my strategies. Do you have any tips to survive the grocery store with your budget intact?