I struggled for years on end with my grocery budget but now I’ve learned how to avoid the worst grocery budget mistakes that most of us tend to make, thankfully. For years when I was in college, I spent money whenever I wanted at the store. I didn’t even think twice. If I was out of something, I’d simply go and get it, even if that meant messing up my budget. Obviously, as I became older and had more bills, this wasn’t an option. I had to start being more aware of my personal grocery budget mistakes and I found I wasn’t alone. Check out some of the worst grocery budget mistakes that most people make. Though most of them seem harmless when we do them, you’ll quickly see below just how their ruining your budget.
1. Not Making a List
One of the worst grocery budget mistakes I used to make was not making a list. I would simply go if I was out of one thing, and pick up whatever else looked good too. I’ve learned now to make a list and count what I need for the week. Then, I write that down on the list and stick it to it at the store. If I’m tempted to buy something off the list, I remind myself that what is on my list is all I really need, and other items can wait until next week or be avoided.
2. Impulse Buys
Impulse buys are not easy to avoid. They are everywhere! You think you’ve done so well on your budget, and then you head to the checkout and on your way, you see something shiny, colorful, and delicious! Marketing will kill your budget worse than anything, and that’s what impulse buys are all about. Outsmart those impulse buys and learn to breeze right by them. Most of the time, you can get a better deal on those items either somewhere else, or when they go on sale later. If it’s really that good a deal, put something else in your cart back if it’s that important to you to buy it.
3. Wasted Food
Whatever you do, don’t waste food. One of the worst things to do is buy something and leave it in your fridge to rot. Here’s a great example from my personal history. I love Whole Foods with all my heart. All the fresh colorful produce just sends me over the moon. I would pick up all that fresh food because it just looked so good and so lively! I instantly wanted it all in my kitchen to look that pretty and to nourish me. Yet, what I found was I was throwing away leafy greens that went bad in 2 days or possibly 4 at the most, or I was unable to use all those fresh herbs to save my life. Though I’ve learned to freeze more items now and buy less, I still have to be careful not to overspend so I don’t waste food. Remember, only buy what you need, despite how tempting it is to have it all at once.
4. Not Price Checking
If you don’t price check across multiple stores, you’re greatly missing out! Price checking is essential to your grocery budget and I do mean essential! Don’t visit the same old stores every single week without checking ads and sales first. If so, you could be spending double! While I don’t visit more than two stores at the most, I do try to shop at what has the best deals for what I buy. If you price check between stores, you can then try to find coupons if there are any, for matching items. This only takes 10 minutes a week at most for most single women, and maybe 30 for larger families.
5. Credit Card Use
I also used to make the huge mistake in college of using my credit card for grocery purchases. I know! Isn’t this terrible? Yet, it was so easy to whip out that card and just think I’d pay for all those nice food items at the end of the month in one payment. Guess what? The food was not only gone by the time I made the payments, but I couldn’t believe I’d spent interest on them! Now, I don’t have a credit card, but I’m still very careful with my debit card. It’s just as easy to spend all your money on a debit card as it is to charge a credit card. If you can’t handle the temptation, force yourself to buy with cash only.
6. Irregular Trips
Another thing I used to do that I have to admit I miss, was to make trips whenever I wanted to the store throughout the week. I’d visit on my lunchbreak from work, or to kill a few minutes here and there sometimes. Or, at night, if I saw my fridge was low, I’d make a quick run to the store and pick up whatever looked good. Now, I only go once per week. I buy enough to get me through 7 days and that’s it. On the 6th day, I love seeing that I’ve used almost all my food and that on day 7, I get to buy groceries with a free conscience, and a healthy budget too.
7. Brand Names Only
If you’re a stickler about brand names, I can relate to that. On certain items, I’m not willing to buy generic, but don’t be all or nothing when it comes to brand names. Check the ingredients on food items of generic items and compare it to brand. If it’s identical, give it a try. That’s one way I tend to feel safer buying generic and usually I’m not disappointed if I stick to this rule. For example, I find the 365 brand at Whole Foods is almost always as good as brand names, and for places like Walmart, Great Value organic canned tomatoes or frozen broccoli actually aren’t bad either. There are ways to get around buying brand names, even with some beauty items, though I realize not everything is worth sacrificing. Still it’s a huge mistake not to check to save the most money where you can.
I tend to eat mostly all foods that don’t come with coupons like produce or specialty items, but for things such as almond milk, Greek yogurt and a few other things, I try to find coupons when I can too. One of the worst grocery mistakes to avoid is not to check for coupons. Do you have any tips for avoiding certain grocery budget mistakes?