With the average American family spending around $500 per month on groceries, there are plenty of places for your food budget to stealthily creep up. Before your next trip to the super market, consider how much of your budget is consumed by food purchases and examine which specific buys are eating up the most cash. You may be surprised to find out why your grocery shopping sprees are becoming more and more expensive.
SEE: 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Prices
Money-Wasting Food Purchases
The majority of your purchases at the market are food rather than beverages or inedible products, meaning this is the category you'll need to keep a close eye on. Are you falling into one of these budget-busting traps?
Eating healthy is clearly an important goal and may be worth the price bump (if your budget allows), but before you fork over the extra money for granola snacks, baked chips, multigrain bread and other popular items, be sure the product you want is actually what you're getting. Many products labeled multigrain may sound healthy, but can actually be made with bleached white flour. Baked chips may use less fat, but many contain the same amount of salt and sugar as regular chips. Similarly, granola is another popular choice for a quick healthy snack, yet can contain hundreds of calories you never expected. If you're going to spend the money on healthy foods, always take the time to read nutritional information on each item and ensure you're getting exactly what you pay for.
A single serving of yogurt, chips, cookies or other snacks may be convenient, but it's also costing you. Take a look at the price per unit of many of these items and you'll notice they far exceed the cost of standard packaging. Buy regularly packaged items and separate them into Tupperware or snack bags when needed for travel.
Ready-made sandwiches, dinners and picnic foods are an incredibly tempting option, but they're also a great way to waste money. Resist the urge to grab a pre-made deli meal and opt for making your own at home.
You may crave a steak, chicken cutlet or pork chop for dinner, but meat also increases your monthly grocery budget. Consider cutting meat from one to several meals per week in exchange for less expensive options like pasta, soup or salad.
Staying hydrated is incredibly important, but it doesn't have to be expensive. Make sure you're not picking up extra expenses (or calories) when you shop for beverages.
Fancy Bottled Water
Designer water has become a staple of foodies, health nuts and eco-conscious shoppers, but often these high-end drinks are overpriced for nothing more than an attractive bottle. Before you pay up to $4 per bottle for imported water, try local or store brand options. If you like the taste, you may save hundreds or even thousands per year. Using water filters and reusable bottles at home is another great way to skip these pricey drinks.
If you can't go without a bubbly beverage, consider switching from cans to bottles. Two-liter bottles of soda are often cheaper than packs of cans. Just be sure to tightly close the cap after each use so the soda retains its crisp carbonation.
Vitamin Enriched Water
Vitamin enriched waters may sound like a nutritious choice, but many contain as much sugar as a can of soda. Drink plain water for a more nutritious and less expensive choice. You'll be doing your body and your wallet a favor.
SEE: WaterSense: Saving Water And Money
Don't Pay More for Non-Edible Products
The thought of shopping at several stores for all your groceries may be tiring, but sometimes it's the best way to save money. Just because you can find something at your local grocery store doesn't mean you should buy it.
One lip gloss here and one face wash there may not seem like an extravagant expense, but grocery stores are typically the worst place to buy beauty products. They're often far more expensive than when purchased at drug stores, online or at discount "big box" stores.
Even on sale, grocery store cleaning products may be several dollars more expensive than at drug stores, discount "big box retailers" or online. You can also make your own household cleaners with baking soda and white vinegar.
Grocery stores are packed with conveniently placed novelty items. From tiny frying pans to children's toys, every aisle holds a potential money-wasting trap. Resist the urge and at least take some time to decide if you actually need a small container for microwaving scrambled eggs.
The Bottom Line
When shopping for groceries, the money saving begins at home. Make a list, plan out meals and look through your kitchen. Going into the store already knowing what you do and don't need is the best way to prevent unnecessary purchases. Don't be tempted by cute products, pretty bottles or impulse snack foods. Always try to find household cleaning and beauty products at other stores for a better price.
SEE: 10 Reasons Why Online Grocery Shopping Is Failing
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