Ways You’re Wasting Money On Groceries
I make most of my meals at home—a habit that I thought was saving me a lot of money. But I had a reality check moment when I looked over my credit card statements for the last few months and realized that, I had actually spent more on food the months I’d made more trips to the grocery store, rather than just picking things up from delis or fast food spots. That couldn’t be right. I refused to become someone who just started buying all my meals pre-made. I like cooking everything from scratch. I like controlling which ingredients go into my food, and I like having a stocked fridge, so that I can play with various recipes. I had to take a hard look at the way I was grocery shopping because clearly I was doing something wrong. Making all of your meals at home should save you money, but it may not if you don’t know how to shop. Here are ways you’re wasting money at the grocery store.
Buying anything at the front of the store
Don’t grab anything at the front of the store. This might be where you find corn on the cob, already de-husked, cut into smaller chunks, and wrapped in saran wrap. Or beautifully cut spheres of watermelon. But these are tremendously more expensive than what you’d find if you ventured to the back of the store, and got the full ears of corn or whole watermelons. Everything in the front of the store is a price gouge so just keep walking.
Getting pre-sliced cheese
Pre-sliced cheese is much more expensive than whole squares of cheese. Meanwhile, slicing your own cheese is really not much of a hassle if you have a good slicer at home. So why pay a few extra dollars for every hunk of cheese, just to have someone else slice it for you?
Buying in bulk as a rule
Buying in bulk can be cost-efficient sometimes, but don’t just have a rule that you always do this. It isn’t efficient if, say, you buy more of something than you can possibly eat before it expires. Then you throw food (and money) in the trashcan. Sometimes it’s better to buy two bell peppers at $1.50 each than six for four dollars if you know you’re only going to make it through three of those before the other three go bad.
Ignoring the bottom shelf
Always look to the bottom shelf, first. That’s where you’ll find the generic stuff that’s a fraction of the price of the options on the higher shelves.
Buying packaged vegetables
Sometimes, you’ll find three or four zucchinis, nicely packaged over a Styrofoam platter. But they’ll cost you more than selecting loose ones. Typically, if you’re willing to take 20 seconds to grab a bag and hand-select loose produce, you’ll save money. The packaged stuff always costs more. And when you save money on produce, you’re bound to bring more of this important food group home.
Getting anything off-season
The moment you want produce that isn’t in season, you’re going to pay more for the shipping costs that the grocery store paid to get it there. Plus, do you want to contribute to the tons of toxic fuel being used in trucks and planes, just to deliver you strawberries when they’re not in season?
Always buying chicken breasts
Don’t just grab the chicken breasts out of habit. They’re more expensive, and possibly less nutritious, than the thighs. Dark chicken meat has more vitamin B, zinc, iron, and riboflavin than white meat but, somehow, costs less.
Name brand chips and pretzels
There really isn’t much the name brand companies can do to make their pretzel or their tortilla chip that much more superior to the store-brand stuff. So let go of name brand snacks.
Cooking with olive oil
Not only is olive oil more expensive per ounce than, say, canola or grape seed oil, but it’s more expensive in another way: it cooks away quicker than those other oils. So you have to use more of it to sauté veggies or grill meat. Use grape seed oil to cook food, and olive oil to season already cooked food.
Waiting to shop until you’re empty
If you wait to grocery shop until you literally have nothing in your fridge or pantry, you’re bound to overdo it. Your brain concocts worst-case scenarios and unlikely circumstances by which you may need this or that obscure item. Shop regularly, so you can keep your eating habits in mind, and buy items that make sense.
Buying single-meal anything
Single-meal anything, like frozen dinners, premade boxed salads, and single servings of macaroni and cheese will always be a huge waste of money. The price per ounce of this stuff, compared to if you made it yourself, is astronomical.
Purchasing salad dressing
You shouldn’t buy salad dressing anyways because it’s full of preservatives and sugar. But furthermore, the bottled stuff is just so expensive compared to simply keeping a good bottle of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some lemons at home. You can make a salad dressing, a hundred times over, with those ingredients.
Save your receipts when you shop—they have valuable coupons on them! Those coupons are usually for the exact things you just bought, so you’ll probably buy those items again.
Shopping during rush hour
If you shop during the busiest time (like between 5pm and 7pm on weekdays) the lines will stress you out. You’ll feel like you need to make decisions in a rush, so you can get in line and get out of there. And you don’t make cost-efficient choices that way.
Asking an employee to grab you something
Don’t ask an employee to grab you…anything. They’ll come back with the most expensive option. Ask where you can find the insert product type here and go check out the various options yourself.