This is, in fact, a post about how to save money at the grocery store. But there are no extreme couponing, Groupon or bulk item shopping tips here (I suck at couponing and usually forget to use Groupons so I really wouldn't be your best source for those things anyway). That is because it is also a post about presence, and not allowing ourselves to be distracted. When we go into a task with a clear plan (grocery list), actionable items (budget, calculator, bags, rewards card) and rid ourselves of distractions (hunger, cell phone, children's whims) we are actually able to be much more effective at whatever goals we have set out to complete. Sometimes the currency we save will have dollar signs, but sometimes it will be in minutes (yes, your time is currency too).
So to avoid wasting any of the precious currency you're spending to read this post, let's get right to the nitty gritty, shall we? This is how you can be a focused, healthy grocery shopping rockstar in 10 easy steps or less:
1. Love it and list it - Make a grocery list, and stick to it. Period. There are things you can leave as open categories, like "fresh vegetables" , because you don't know what will be most fresh and readily available (if you've got kale on your list, but all your store has in-stock is spinach, all is not lost). Just don't get into the habit of grabbing additional things for which you haven't planned.
2. Eat before you shop - If you're hungry at the grocery store, everything will look appealing. You'll consume with your eyes and stomach instead of shopping with your head. Save yourself from the temptation by being full and cravings-free while surrounded by all that food.
3. Budget with breathing room (and bring a calculator too) - If you know you've got $150 to spend, budget with $110 as your ceiling. This will help to account for any unexpected expenses, taxes and the like. Adding up your charges on a calculator as you go will also help you to stay under budget. Those $2 prices don't seem like much on their own, but once you've bought 10 items at that price it starts to add up without your realizing it. And a little trick I like to employ: round up every single price when you add it to your total. For example, if something costs $1.79, I'll round it to $1.80. The more items on your list, the more those pennies add up to dollars saved once you realize you've spent less than you calculated.
4. BYOB (bring your own bags) - Most stores will give you credits now for bringing your own recyclable bags. Take advantage of those few cents--they'll eventually add up to dollars.
5. Pick the perks - Sign up for your favorite store's rewards card or points program, and use it to your full advantage. Remember those coupons I always forget to use? I don't need to remember them if I can just scan a rewards number from my iPhone and have the savings be applied to my purchase automatically. Sometimes you can also eventually qualify for additional savings on later purchases.
6. Go generic - Generic items have gotten a bad rap, but the truth is, they're often just as good as the pricier labels you love. Try out the store brand or a smaller brand than you're used to--smaller overhead means they can charge you less at the store and still make their profit.
7. Buy local - Similar to the reason above, shopping local goods can save you money. How? They don't have to be transported as far, thus saving on overhead and passing those savings onto you through the items on the shelf. And as an added bonus, you'll contribute to the life cycle of your local economy. Win/win.
8. Make it a kid free zone - They are your little angels, your love muffins, your precious babies--and the biggest distraction of all in the grocery store. They will get bored, they will cry, they will run from you, they will toss things into your cart that you don't notice until you're at the register and too tired to return them. And even the older kids who won't quite make you pull your hair out, will ask for things that are not on the list. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard "Mom, can I have?...", I'd be rich enough to pay someone else to do my grocery shopping. Until they're old enough to truly be of help to you, make the grocery store a kid free zone.
9. Start from scratch - Think about the things you can make from scratch at home, and compare the price of the ingredients you'll need versus buying a ready made version. Is it cheaper? Will the ingredients last longer? If your answer is yes, do it yourself and save.
10. Skip the cell convo - When you're trying to simultaneously work at two tasks that both require your attention, you're setting yourself up to fail. Before you know it, you'll be tossing things into your cart that you don't need (or forgetting things that you do).
Do you regularly use any of these tips? What are some of your favorite ways to save at the grocery store? Chat with me in the comments!