When it comes to spending smarter on certain things, you may already be on the right path. But oftentimes, healthy spending habits go out the window when it comes to everyday purchases.
If you’re like many people, you may get a little spend-crazy at the grocery store, buying way more food than you need. So, what can you do to stop overspending at the supermarket?
You can build solid financial habits that you can adapt to everyday situations, like your trips to the market. To add to your arsenal of money-saving tactics, here are 5 savvy ways to save money on your groceries:
Shop in your pantry
You come home from the market, only to discover you’ve doubled up on items you already have (cue #facepalm.) There’s nothing more moan-inducing than buying a box of butter sticks when you already have an unopened box in the fridge.
Sound familiar? To avoid wasting time and funds, do a quick inventory of your kitchen pantry – before you leave for the store. This habit can also give your creative juices a jolt by sparking meal ideas using items you already have. For instance, if there’s a box of pasta and couple jars of marinated artichokes lying around in your cupboard, consider concocting a veggie pasta.
Buy sale items
My frugal pal Jennifer Ly, a former Peace Corps volunteer, is a master at buying stuff on sale and coming up with healthy meals based on what she can buy on the cheap. You can do this too!
Is eggplant on sale this week? A delicious stir-fry featuring eggplant may be in order. Or, perhaps the local co-op is giving away jars of curry with a minimum spend? It’s time to grab some of these and add them to your food pantry.
I personally have a “five-ingredient rule.” If a recipe requires more than five ingredients, I’ll nix it. I also try to avoid purchasing ingredients that I know I’ll only use once.
Make a list, check it twice
Create a shopping list, and stick to it—for the most part. Then, scour weekly specials on your supermarket app or a mailer, and make a note of items you’d like to buy. While having a list is dandy, I also recommend allowing for a few impulse items.
Here’s a good reason why this is important. Let’s say you’re a devout follower of the zero-sum budget. This is a budgeting method where you “spend” every dollar you earn. This means that every dollar that comes in is assigned a “job,” whether it goes toward a living expense, your savings account or your investment fund. While you may do a great job of saving using this method, this leaves, well, zero money for fun. And, in my opinion, if you don’t allocate some of your budget toward spontaneous spending, you may feel a bit too constrained.
Don’t go to the grocery store hungry or tired
A study by the University of Minnesota reveals that consumers spend 64 percent more on food and non-food items when they’re hungry. That’s because when you’re hungry, you may get into “hunting and acquiring mode.”
For example, say you go to Target right before dinner and you haven’t eaten for hours. You may be more likely to throw food and other items into your shopping cart. You’ll then end up buying stuff you don’t need. Instead, it’s a better idea to munch on a snack from your cupboard before heading to the market.
Another pro top: don’t run to the market when you’re sleep deprived. Why? Willpower works like a muscle, and just like a muscle can be strengthened over time or get worn down and depleted, so can your self-control. According to the American Psychological Association, lack of sleep may weaken your willpower. So, to avoid caving in to those decadent bars of chocolate at the checkout stand, make sure you get sufficient sleep.
Choose one night to treat yourself
No matter how much you love to cook, it’s time-consuming. Pick at least one night a week to go out to dinner or perhaps use a meal service to prepare a quick dinner. And, while you’re at it: remember to factor your splurge into your budget.
For example, you can set aside a specific amount each month to spend on groceries and eating out. You can also set up auto transfers on the regular for a “treat yourself” fund.
I’m a big proponent of setting some funds aside for minor indulgences. Otherwise, you run into danger of falling off the bandwagon and overspending.
It can be challenging at first, but once you get into a groove, maintaining these healthy habits will be a cinch. In turn, you’ll stick to your grocery budget like a champ.