8 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

Wondering how to save money at the grocery store? Every one of us has to eat, and one of the biggest expenses in anyone’s budget is food. Grocery stores and supermarkets take advantage of our need for sustenance by creating new ways of enticing us to spend more. In fact, supermarket chains have spent millions on research to get us to spend more money each time we go. Even coupons are designed to get shoppers to part with their cash.

So, return the favor: before heading to the market, arm yourself with these tips to help you understand the psychology of supermarkets and how you can avoid some of the more obvious traps.

Shop off of a list. Write down what you need before heading to the market. How many times have I walked into a store intending to buy just a few things? Inevitably, I come out with an entire grocery bag of food. Without a list, it’s much easier to wander around the store, creating opportunities to buy more than you needed.

Avoid shopping when you’re hungry. Everything looks tasty when you’re hungry. Filling up the grocery cart becomes a way of trying to fill up your otherwise empty stomach. If you want to save money at the grocery store, eat up before leaving the house, and it’ll be easier to avoid temptation.

Walk on the edge. Have you noticed that supermarkets place most of their fresh goods along the perimeter of a store? The middle aisles are full of processed and snack foods that are generally pricier. Stick to the edges and not only will you eat healthier but you’ll save money and you won’t be buying fake food that your grandma wouldn’t recognize.

Avoid end caps. End caps are the displays at the end of aisles. In supermarket terms, this is prime real estate for enticing shoppers. According to this article on supermarket psychology, end cap displays are for premium or key products with higher product margins. Many consumers also unconsciously assume items in end cap displays are on sale. Check carefully—end caps serve as teasers for the aisles.

Don’t look shelves in the eye. If you do find yourself in the maze of the middle aisles, don’t look at the shelves directly in front of you. When something is placed right at eye level in a supermarket, it’s because a company paid for its placement there to increase sales. Where do you find the real bargains and the store brands? Look along the bottom shelves.

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Make it yourself. I’ve always loved cooking, but while living abroad in a developing country, I simply didn’t have access to many things that I took for granted in the United States. Many international foods were imported luxuries, with price tags to match. I learned to buy basic ingredients and make lots of my favorite foods myself. Hummus, chai, and pesto all became a lot cheaper and tastier.

Explore a new culture. Many items are often cheaper at a local market catering to specific communities. Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Hispanic markets are fantastic places to find staples in bulk. For instance, ounce for ounce, lentils and spices are bargains at my local Middle Eastern market compared to the chain supermarkets.

Shop in your fridge and pantry. According to Businessweek, Americans waste 40% of the food they purchase. Most of that goes to the landfill. Save money and go green by eating what you already have. You’ll also save a trip to the grocery store. As it turns out, the best way to save at the supermarket is to not be there in the first place.

Hopefully this post can help you learn how to save money at the grocery store. By shopping at the supermarket/grocery store more consciously, we can avoid over-spending on food.

What tips do you have for saving money at the store?

Image credit: iluvcocacola

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  • Brian

    If you stay with #1 — Shop off of a list — and stick to only that list no matter what, the rest will fall into place.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      Good advice, Brian!

  • Prudence Debtfree

    With regards to “Shop in your fridge and pantry”, we recently chose not to grocery shop for a week. We decided to try digging deep into our fridge, freezer, and cupboards. It was easier to make it through to the next week-end than I would have thought. And of course, it saved us about $175.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

      Wow, that is awesome! I’m glad to hear you were able to save $175 by eating through your cupboards and fridge.