You know the saying, old grocery shopping habits die hard? I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes. I’m also pretty sure that each and every one of us regularly does at least a few of these. We shouldn’t, though — because they cost us money!
And so here goes: A list of 10 bad habits we all need to break if we want to stay on track (and budget) at the supermarket.
1. Shopping while you’re hungry.
It’s a tale as old as time: If you go to the grocery store when your stomach is growling, you’re going to impulsively throw more than a few things in your cart that weren’t already on your list. Try to avoid being hangry in the snack aisle at all costs.
2. Buying produce that’s out of season.
Just because your grocery store is stocked with tons of different fruits and veggies does not mean that they’re all in season where you live. Supermarkets have to factor in shipping costs, and prices depend on how far items have to travel before landing on shelves. I just scored an amazing deal on a huge carton of strawberries because (ding, ding, ding) they’re in season! Before you hit up the produce aisle, check out the USDA seasonal produce guide for help deciding what’s best to buy.
3. Not making a list.
The best way to stick to your grocery shopping game plan is to have a plan in the first place. To maximize your in-store efficiency, plan ahead and organize your shopping list into sections so that you’re able to stay on track in every aisle: dairy, produce, meat, snacks, etc. And try to only buy things on that list!
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4. Spending too much time in the store.
The next time you go grocery shopping, challenge yourself to make it in and out in a certain amount of time. Creating a sense of urgency will help you stick to your aforementioned list, and cut back on the desire to impulse buy. You simply won’t have time to dwell on whether or not you need fancy imported dried cherries in your life or not.
5. Going shopping at the wrong time of day.
One of the biggest grocery shopping mistakes I ever made was visiting my local Trader Joe’s at prime time on a Sunday evening. It was packed with people, the shelves were a ransacked mess, and I had to improvise, throwing random ingredients into my basket whenever an item was even remotely easy to access. Try to find a less harried time, whether it’s right when the store opens in the morning or a less popular night of the week, so you can grocery shop in peace and make good decisions.
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6. Forgetting to check the supermarket flyer for sales.
For help deciding whether to stock up on pork or beef tenderloin, check out your local store’s weekly flyer. You’ll find all the deals and promotions that will save you cold, hard cash, while filling up your fridge.
7. Not making a general weekly meal plan.
In addition to your list, you need to know what you’re going to do with the foods on said list. For most of us it’s not super helpful to know that you need to buy chicken, but it is helpful to know that you need chicken for chicken and rice burrito bowls. Because then you’ll actually use the ingredients you buy.
Read more on meal planning here.
8. Wasting money on pre-prepped convenience items.
I love saving time as much as the next person, but it usually costs way more to buy something that’s pre-chopped, -cut, -cubed, etc. If you’re trying to save a few bucks here and there, your best bet is to save on manpower and DIY.
9. Using a cart when you only need a basket.
If you’re looking to just do a quick grocery run and happen to be worried about your self-control, stick to a basket instead of a cart. If you have less space to fill up, you’ll focus on items that you really need instead of items that you really want.
(Image credit: Eric Audras/Getty Images)
10. Going shopping when you’ve already used all your willpower.
Many experts believe we have a limited amount of willpower each day. If you’ve already had a long afternoon of ignoring cupcakes on the conference room table and turning off Instagram to focus on a spreadsheet, today might not be the day to make the best decisions at the supermarket. Instead, try going early in the morning or on a less trying weekend day.
What other bad habits do you have when you’re at the grocery store? Tell us about them in the comments below!