11 Grocery Shopping Bad Habits That Could Be Costing You Money

Save your wallet by skipping this spending bad habits.

A person at the cash register of a supermarket
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Do you feel like your grocery hauls are getting out of hand? Are you consistently surprised at your total when you get to the cashier? If you find yourself throwing away more produce than your family eats each week and cringing as you swipe your credit card at checkout, it's time to rethink how you shop for groceries. Reclaim your family's mealtime routine and feel prepared for shopping and cooking each week by avoiding these 11 grocery shopping habits that are costing you money.

1. You're buying too much.

The biggest bad habit most people have at the grocery store is simply purchasing too much food. Learn what a portion size looks like for your basics — chicken breast, fish, you name it — and make sure you're only buying what you and your family really need for upcoming meals.

Savings tips: use the butcher to get specific amounts of what you need instead of bulk pre-packaged meat. Break off the exact number of bananas you know you'll go through. There are only so many loaves of banana bread you can make in a month.

2. You buy without meal planning.

People who go into the store with a list spend far less money overall than those who go in with no plan. Map out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for your family so you know exactly what you need and don't have to make extra runs to the store for forgotten items throughout the week.

Savings tip: write out your grocery list by section (i.e. fresh produce, meat and dairy, pantry, miscellaneous) so you can move through the store more efficiently while shopping.

3. You only buy brand-name goods.

Oftentimes, store-brand items are actually manufactured in the same facilities as major name-brand items, like milk, aluminum foil, condiments, soup, and more. Google your grocery store of choice with "best generic items" and you're bound to find a few items to keep on your list.

4. You don't double-check the pantry, fridge, and freezer.

Get in the habit of double-checking your kitchen for items on your grocery list before heading out. Even though you think you'll "use it someday", there's no need to have extra cans or packages taking up space.

5. You buy in the name of convenience.

Buying pre-cut vegetables, pre-made dinners, and other "time-saving" items really adds up. Purchasing fresh, whole foods and taking a few extra minutes of prep time to wash and chop will save you tons of money even over the course of a year.

Mid adult Caucasian woman is smiling while using her smart phone to pay for purchases or use coupons in local grocery store. Cashier is using hand held scanner to scan barcode on smart phone. Mother is standing at checkout counter with elementary age daughter. She is wearing her infant in a baby carrier wrap while she shops.
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6. You don't look for coupons beforehand.

Whether you base your week's menu around coupons or find coupons to fill in after you've planned everything out, make sure you look for coupons in your store's weekly ad and online. Grocery stores and manufacturers often have coupons on their websites or on their apps that you can easily access. You're leaving money on the table if you don't check for coupons before shopping — and the amount you'll save in a given month or year could mean a nice date night or money toward a house project.

7. You don't take advantage of sales for non-perishable items.

Those with ample pantry space, listen up: when sales come around for rice, pasta, beans, canned veggies, and other nonperishables, that's your time to shine. Deeply-discounted items that won't go bad over the course of the year are worth purchasing in bulk in this instance.

8. You aren't buying in season.

Keep a calendar on your refrigerator or inside a cabinet door listing what's in season when. There's a reason asparagus is cheaper in the spring and zucchini prices go way down at the end of summer — that's when these vegetables are most bountiful in your geographic area, which drives prices down. If you eat seasonally, you won't be paying a premium on items flown in from other areas.

9. You're tempted by the inner aisles.

Instead of dillydallying through your grocery store aisle-by-aisle, shop the outer perimeter. Not only is the outer perimeter where the produce and other fresh foods are located, but it's where you'll spend less — and avoid junk food and other products you don't need.

10. You aren't using store apps for cash back and other rewards.

Most grocery stores nowadays have apps to showcase their weekly ad and exclusive coupons, and some even allow you to make a shopping list. Make sure you have yours downloaded, and you may be able to get cash back, discounts on fuel, and more.

11. You gloss over the price-per-ounce info on tags.

Varied packaging (plastic squeeze tubes, glass jars, unique shapes) can easily deceive the eye, especially if you're in a rush or in a new-to-you store. Double-check the price per ounce listed on the grocery store's price tag to be confident you're getting the best deal.

Check out our collection of Budget Cooking Recipes.

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