How to Avoid Overspending at the Supermarket

Don’t you hate walking into the market hungry?  As eyes grow bigger than the stomach, the cart becomes a recipient of those foods we’d love to eat NOW.  “Show some restraint”, we tell ourselves. “Restraint” is key word to avoid overspending at the market. Let’s start with direct cost considerations, then the “less thought of” indirect savings that don’t impact the grocery budget but save the household money.

Shopping list – stick to it

Create a shopping list and buy no more than what is on the list. The greatest savings is to NOT buy a product you don’t really need. As the household runs out of items, keep a shopping list handy for additions throughout the week.  Complete the list before you shop, taking an inventory throughout the house of what is needed to get the household through to the next planned visit to the market. While shopping, buy only what is on the list; no more! The exception, of course, is the forgotten item that should have made the list. NO IMPULSE BUYING!

Coupons – Saving or enslaving?

Coupons are great, adhering to a few rules. Use coupons if the product is exactly what you want. Don’t unnecessarily be enticed to buy a product that is a more expensive substitute, even though a second is offered for free. Coupons not only entice by price but offer more quantity. Buy the quantity needed; leave the warehousing to the market. Also consider the value of your time that it takes to administer the coupon process. Look online for coupons to products that are purchase regularly.

Compare places to shop

Compare markets based on your shopping basket; what it is that is specifically purchased. Avoid the teaser specials found in the supermarket mailers that tend to jerk the customer from store to store.  It can be a waste of time and gas. It is surprising to find the cost variations between supermarket competitors. Take into account convenience, driving distances, etc.

Store specials – mining for deals

A personal favorite – cost per item or unit. The shelf is calling your name. Which brand to pick?  Which size?  Say it is canned, sliced tomatoes. Look for shelf deals.  Wow, a 2 for 1 deal; wait, I only need one. National brand is on sale; great!  Wait, the store brand is still cheaper than the national brand on sale. The recipe calls for 12 ounces, but 2 six ounce cans cost more than a 16 ounce can.  What to do? Buy the 16 ounce can, store brand. The store branded tomatoes will taste the same in the recipe as would the national brand.

Bulk items – keep it simple, keep it in the monthly budget

Ever forgot that you bought those multi-packs? I remember when it comes time to participate in the food drive at church. Don’t you love the dark recesses of the pantry? Do we dare put a bare hand back there?

Seriously, there are benefits to buying exactly what we need.  We end up tying extra money in stuff we won’t use for months. In the long run it may bring cost savings but the goal is to stick to a monthly budget. Having the extra goods is extra work. Keep it simple, keep it in budget.

Convenience or make it yourself?

There is always a balance between convenience and “home made”. A good example is making macaroni and cheese for 60 people. Option 1 was buying “ready to bake”, 6 trays at $10 per tray, total of $60. Option 2 was buying 8 family boxes of “follow the directions” at $3.50 per box plus $20 of other ingredients, total of $48. Option 3 was from scratch, costing around $30. Option 3 worked for us; leave it to a guy to do mac’n’cheese in a huge tray on the barbeque; the wife still laughs!

Time and gas

Evaluate what your time is worth balanced against the cost of convenience. Do you have time to run from store to store? Plan shopping trips when you are already out or perhaps on the way home from work. Auto use should be thought of in terms of what it costs to drive per mile, which is generally not less that $.50 per mile. It does matter how far one drives to the market, or how many trips are made per week, month, etc.

Be restrained! Stick to the shopping list. Don’t be a slave to coupons. Buy the amount needed; avoid super sizing on impulse. Shop for the deal on the shelf; it saves time and money. Balance convenience with “home made”. Happy shopping!