If you’re like the majority of shoppers, you’ve felt the shock of higher grocery prices. You stop at your local supermarket for a couple of basic items and 20 minutes later you leave the store with no change from $100 along with the feeling of where did my money go? and what did I really spend it on?
Following are some suggestions on how you can cut down on your food bills.
Plan more, shop less
Make a list and stick to it. You’re more likely to purchase only what’s on your list if you’ve written it down. Don’t leave home without it.
In his book Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, Paco Underhill reveals that according to current data, 70 per cent of all purchases are unplanned. Retail merchants thrive on this strategy of unplanned purchases. So get in the habit of making a list. Creating a weekly menu complete with what you need for each meal may sound tedious, but when you’re focused, your shopping trolley will not bulge with items you bought on impulse.
Take the time to make a master list of what to purchase. It should include major food categories such as vegetables, fruits and cereals. As needed, include in your master list a section titled “Other Items.”
Patrol the border
Staple items such as breads, fruits and vegetables—those making up the bulk of your food budget—are usually stocked around the outer perimeter of a store. You can save a bundle by cruising through the perimeter aisles first before tackling the inner aisles that have the more expensive and less healthy canned and prepackaged items.
Find a peel deal
Precut and premixed items can cost up to twice the price of regular produce, which means that you can save a lot of money by peeling, cutting and mixing these items in your own kitchen. Make it a family project by having your children help you with this task.
Clear out the bin
Most supermarkets have a bin or cart of clearance items that are usually past their prime, while some have also started selling “imperfect”—oddly shaped or sized—fruits or vegetables. Some shoppers skip those items because they don’t like eating week-old vegetables or the look of misshapen fruits. It also takes extra time to cut off the withered outer leaves, and they aren’t sure whether there’s any nutritious value in what’s left. However, sometimes you can hit on great deals such as a box of slightly soft tomatoes that can be cooked for a perfect pasta sauce that you’ve planned in your menu for the upcoming week. And “imperfect” fruits and vegetables have the same nutrition and taste as their perfect counterparts—they just don’t look the same.
Remember the three-month cycle
Most supermarkets run specials on most items approximately every three months—and if you have the luxury of choice, shop at different supermarkets as they will often have different products on sale in the same week. It behoves families and individuals to purchase enough of their standard items to last at least 90 days until those same items come back on sale.
Be aware of interesting packaging
Being aware of how items are packaged can influence what you buy. Scientists have found that customers are more satisfied with packages that feel heavier than they are with lighter ones that have the same amount of product. In one study on chewing gum that was published in Food Quality and Preference, researchers found that people tend to associate cooler colours with elegance and long-lasting flavours, and warm colours with sensuality and rebelliousness. Red is the top colour to nudge people toward impulse buying.
Forget the supermarket
Sometimes your local supermarket or grocery store isn’t the cheapest or the best place to purchase household items. If you’re at a petrol station or pharmacy, check out the sale prices on selected items. Discount retailers, which are great places to purchase small appliances, clothing and specialty items, are now carrying a large basic food selection, and often at reduced prices. Farmers’ markets and local farms are great places to buy inexpensive, locally grown produce. If you enjoy ethnic cuisine, you’ll pick up your spices, beans or rice at ethnic outlets less expensively.
Watch the scanners
Whether computer-based or the result of human error, your checkout receipt is sometimes more than what you anticipated. Avoid this situation by watching the computer screen as the sales assistant scans your items and make sure the savings have been rung up properly before you leave.
Cutting your grocery bill doesn’t always have to mean eating less or sacrificing your favourite brand. All you need to do is shop smart to save yourself dollars.
Why you may overspend
At any store you go to, all kinds of influences are deployed to lure you to overspend.
- Plastic purchases. The number one factor causing you to spend more is how you pay at the counter. Using either a debit or a credit card has the biggest impact on your bottom line. It’s estimated that you will spend up to a third more when you use plastic over cash. Unfortunately, more than 80 per cent of all purchases at supermarkets are with credit and debit cards.
- Enticing music. Classical music is one of the best therapies for reducing depression and motivating a fitness regimen. Interestingly, it’s also a major motivating factor in causing you to spend more. Scientists have shown that shoppers are driven to impulse buying when stores play instrumental or classical music.
- Bulk buying. Purchasing a case of a particular item will, in most cases, cost less per unit. However, unless you’re using this item regularly and in large quantities, it may actually cost you more. When more is available, we tend to increase our consumption and thus spend more.
- Pricing tactic. Supermarkets advertise “10 for $10” so you’ll put 10 items of that product in your shopping basket instead of the one or two at $1.20 each that you really need.
Extracted with permission, from Stewport July 2014