Question: Lately I’ve found that I am spending more time and money at the grocery store, sometimes even buying things that I don’t need. What are some strategies to help me spend less and save time?
Answer: One of the first things to remember when grocery shopping: never shop on an empty stomach. Shopping while hungry could lead you to buy less nutritious impulse items and cause you to spend more money than you’d intended.
It’s also important that you have a shopping list prepared before you get to the grocery store. Make a list by looking in your kitchen cabinets, pantry and refrigerator to see what food items you need at home. And when you get to the store, stick to your list. This will help you avoid buying unnecessary items.
Other smart shopping tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics include:
Save time by organizing your shopping list into sections according to the layout of the grocery store.
Check the grocery sales ads for deals. Depending on the store, the sales ads are typically released midweek and can be found at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, on the store’s website or on the store’s mobile app.
Clip and use coupons for the items that you know you’ll use. If you don’t need the item right away, check the expiration date on the coupon and save it to use later, particularly if the item goes on sale.
Shop for items on the upper and lower shelves as most stores stock the most expensive items at the consumer’s eye level.
Buy store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands.
Find and compare unit prices listed on shelves to get the best price. You can also buy some items in bulk sizes or as family packs that usually cost less.
Check the expiration dates on food products. Grocery stores typically stock their shelves with the newest items behind the older ones. Choose items from the back of the shelf so that you are getting the freshest items, especially in the produce, dairy and meat aisles.
Avoid buying precut fruits and vegetables – choose whole fruits and vegetables instead, which are typically less expensive.
If you have the freezer space, buy frozen vegetables without added sauces or butter. They are as good for you as fresh vegetables and may cost less.
Ask for a rain check. If a sale item has run out, ask the store for a rain check. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is restocked.
Lastly, you can join the grocery store’s loyalty program. Most stores offer a free loyalty program that offers shoppers access to discounted prices, special offers, coupons and, in some cases, rewards programs that aren’t offered to nonmembers.
Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or firstname.lastname@example.org.