Here I'll mention a few things you should do regarding the shopping itself.
If there is one hard and fast rule for getting the most out of your food dollars, I think it would be:
Nothing makes us more prone to impulse purchases than arriving at a store without a plan and a detailed list.
That actually applies to all types of shopping, and not just food shopping, by the way.
But since food shopping is a necessary and regular part of our personal routines, acquiring bad habits and doing it without being organized can have a particularly significant and negative impact on our bottom line and our financial health.
So, make a list before you go to the store.
On the list, organize the items you need by department, so that everything you need in one area of the store is grouped together. That way, you avoid a lot of inefficient and time-wasting back and forth in the store.
I also recommend organizing your list so that items appear in the same order they do in the store aisles. That also helps streamline the entire grocery shopping experience.
Cross each item off the list as you put it into your cart so that you can see clearly what you still have to buy, so you're far less likely to forget anything.
And use a calculator to keep a tally of your bill as you do so.
Avoid shopping when you are hungry.
There's a great deal of wisdom in this old adage. We simply buy more stuff when our stomach is growling and our mouth is watering every time we pass a food display case, or smell a rotisserie chicken cooking.
I’d carry that a bit further and say never shop with hungry kids either.
And if you do shop with your children, as I did every week, then be prepared to be firm with them and say no whenever they indicate they wish to have something that is not on your list.
That will happen frequently at first, even if they are well-fed and have toys to distract them.
But if you are firm and consistent in your response and remove them from the store immediately if they throw a tantrum about not getting something they want, then they will learn fairly quickly to stop asking.
I carried a kicking and screaming toddler from the store on more than one occasion when one or another of my boys had his heart set on something that I had no intention of buying for him.
They got over it. And eventually they became good little helpers who earned many a compliment from other shoppers for how well behaved they were.
It is never fun shopping with little ones, but setting some firm limits definitely makes it easier than it otherwise would be.
Avoid the aisles whose products do not appear on your list
It's all too often the case that shoppers feel compelled to methodically go up and down every aisle just in case they see something they forgot to add.
But this “browsing”, as I call it, invariably leads to impulse purchases. That's death to any budget.
And it also means that shopping takes longer.
As chores go, I actually don’t mind grocery shopping, but I still have no desire to take longer than I need to get the job done.
Any inclination I might have had to linger was wiped away by the experience of shopping with 4 children under the age of 5. I learned to streamline the process to avoid spending any more time than I had to in the store.
On average, I spent about 30 minutes grocery shopping each week -- for a family of 6. Now, I can get it done in about 20 for just the 2 of us.
That's serious time savings over the hour or more that I hear many householders talk about.
My advice is to keep it efficient, and that will save time and money in the bargain. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Instead, it's the unit price that accurately reveals the real cost of a product or item.
That’s the price according to a uniform standard of measure, whether it be an ounce, pound, number of servings, number of uses, number of servings, etc. – you get the picture.
As an example, canned goods are typically listed by the ounce or pound in unit pricing.
Produce is listed usually by the pound or by the individual piece.
For things like pasta, it’s typically by the pound.
By focusing on the unit price when you are shopping, you will ensure that you are in fact getting the cheapest product available.
Here in my state, the stores are required by law to post the unit price of each product, and it is typically displayed right next to the total price on the shelf price tag.
It makes comparison shopping very easy, but I cannot tell you the number of times I have had to explain the concept to others.
Based on that, it is obviously not something that everyone understands. So let me explain how it works:
Let’s say you have two pasta products, one is a 2-lb box of spaghetti with a price of $1.98. Next to it is another brand of spaghetti in a 1-pound box that sells for $1.59.
On first glance, the lower priced box would seem to be the better buy.
But it’s not actually less expensive at all, as you will see when you divide the total cost of each product by the total number of pounds or ounces in each one. That gives you the real cost.
In this case, if you divide the larger box by the number of pounds (2), or the number of ounces (32), then you come up with $.99 per pound, or around 6¢ per ounce.
Compare that to the $1.59 per pound, or around 10¢ per ounce for the smaller box.
So, the box that on first glance appears to be more expensive is in reality a far better buy, and actually represents about a 40% savings!
Where unit pricing is required by law, the unit price is typically posted quite clearly on the shelf label, eliminating the need to do your own calculations.
But in case it is not, use the calculator I recommend bringing with you to the grocery store, or the one on your phone to figure out which one is the best choice for your money.
Just divide the total price of the item by the ounces, pounds, number of servings, etc. to determine which article is actually the cheapest one.
Bear this in mind in all of your purchases and you will be surprised at how much you save at the check-out.
There are, of course other strategies you can use to save at the grocery store, but these 4 basics can result in major savings all by themselves.
And they are so painless, they're easy to implement and incorporate into your routine.
Go ahead and give them a try.
Related Article - 20 No-Effort Ways to Save Big at the Grocery Store.