If you’re like most families, groceries make up a significant part of your budget. While rising food costs can push this category to staggering heights, certain grocery shopping mistakes can do just as much damage, if not more. If you’ve been suffering from sticker shock whenever you reach the cashier, here are some common missteps many people make when shopping for food and what you should do instead.
Assuming Coupons Equal a Good Deal
Using coupons when you shop is one of the most recommended tactics for saving money. But, just because it says you can save a few cents, that doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. In many cases, name brand products still cost more than generics even after a coupon. At other times, the “deal” encourages you to buy something you don’t actually need.
Instead of assuming a coupon will save you money in the long run, you need to dig a little deeper before you buy. First, you need to determine if this is an item you would have bought as part of a regular trip. If the only reason you are considering the purchase is due to that coupon in your hand, then you are spending money you might have otherwise kept. And that’s not a good deal no matter how much the coupon “saves” you.
If you would normally purchase a product in this category, then you need to calculate the unit price after the discount and compare it to the unit price on a store brand product. This will let you see exactly which option is less expensive, ensuring you are getting the best price available.
Always Buying the Same Brand
Most people reach for the same brands out of habit, shopping with mental blinders on when it comes to other offerings. But failing to see what competitors have to offer means you could be paying more than you would otherwise. Even if you typically grab the generic version (generally a cost saver), always glance around to make sure a sale or coupon doesn’t make another option less expensive and then select your item accordingly.
Now, being brand loyal isn’t always a negative. People with certain ingredient sensitivities may have to restrict themselves to a specific brand to avoid an allergen, and that’s okay.
However, there generally aren’t rewards for being brand loyal, so you might be perceiving a reason to stay that isn’t there. If you don’t have a specific reason beyond simple habit, consider checking out other options to help you get the best deal.
Not Checking the Expiration Date
Essentially every food and beverage comes with an expiration, sell by, or best by date. And, unless you are consuming that item on the same date it was purchased, you need to take a look at these numbers. By selecting products with dates as far in the future you can find, you give yourself extra time to actually consume it before it begins to morph into something less palatable, which helps ensure you won’t have to throw some of it away because it “went bad.”
While this isn’t as critical for certain products, like soda, it is crucial for items that have shorter lives, like milk. Give yourself the biggest chance of enjoying everything you paid for by always taking a look at the date and deciding whether you can actually finish the food or drink before the theoretical deadline. If the answer is no, then explore the shelf and see if another one provides you with more time.
By following the tips above, you can help make sure you are getting the best deals and that you have enough time to use everything you purchased. These simple moves can save you money at the checkout counter and over time, so why not give them a try today.