Like every other family in the US today, I'm trying hard to keep grocery costs under control. While most months we do a great job of sticking to our budget, there has been a few times in the past that we went way over our spending limit for the month. This always seems to happen when our family gets a little sloppy with our grocery shopping habits.
So what exactly is sloppy shopping? It means shopping without giving much thought to your budget. Here's a few of the mistakes that our family made recently that knocked our grocery budget clear out of the ballpark.
Going without a list. The last time I went shopping without a list, I spent nearly $60 more than I had intended plus didn't get half the items that I needed in the first place. There's a reason this happens and it's all tied into how a grocery store tricks us into spending more than we planned to. Some of the more common tactics include strategic product placement, sales-that-aren't-really-sales, and the "buy 10 for $10" deals when you'll get the same price even if you buy just one. Shopping with a list keeps you focused and helps you stay away from tricky pricing.
Shopping everyday. Several months ago, our grocery bill exceeded our budgeted amount by a whopping $500 because we made multiple little shopping trips instead of waiting until Saturday for one large shopping trip. The problem with shopping every day is that the extra $5 or $10 we spend each time we shop adds up to a significant chunk of change by month's end. Limiting your shopping trips to once or twice a week lowers the opportunity for impulse buys and wasteful spending.
Shopping when hungry. We all know that shopping on an empty stomach leads to overspending and buying a lot of unhealthy foods. What you might not know is that there's a scientific reason why low blood sugar drives us to make bad food choices. When blood sugars are normal, our brain is active in logical thinking and reasoning which keeps us on track with our grocery budget. But when we're hungry, something deep in our brain triggers the emotional, additive, craving part of our brain that wants food and wants it now. Shopping after a meal is an easy way to spend less without really trying.
Shopping in a rush. When I'm in a big rush to get in and out of the store, I make sloppy mistakes all over the place such as forgetting to tear off the "Save $1 now!" coupon on my box of cereal. Shopping efficiently for groceries is one of those things that take time -- time to review the best price per ounce, time to flip through coupons and check out advertised specials, and even time to review the cash register tape at the end. To make the most out of a grocery shopping trip, it's best to take it a little slower so that you don't end paying more than what you've budgeted for.
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