Piggy bank in a shopping buggy

11 Ways You’re Ruining Your Grocery Budget and How to Avoid Them

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Planning and saving for groceries is an important part of the budget. Although you may think you are doing a great job, you may not be doing very well at budgeting for groceries at all. In fact, you’re leaving a lot of room for improvement.

If yours is like most families, the most considerable expense for your household is probably groceries, and it can be easy to overspend. If you’re searching for easy ways to save money on groceries, it’s important to be aware of the little ways you might be sabotaging your budget.

In this blog post, I will discuss 11 common mistakes people make when grocery shopping and how to avoid them. By following these simple tips, you can save money on your groceries and have more money left over for other things.  

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Piggy bank in a shopping buggy

Grocery Budgeting Mistakes

1) Not Meal Planning

If you’re the type of person who likes to wing it when it comes to dinner, you might want to reconsider your approach. A little planning when it comes to daily meals can go a long way when it comes to saving money on groceries.   

When you have a plan for what you’re going to make each night, you can make a more focused grocery list. This list will help you avoid impulse buys, which can quickly add up and blow your budget. 

In addition, by knowing what you’re going to make ahead of time, you can take advantage of sales and coupons. 

2) Not Having a Grocery List

If you’ve ever made a trip to the grocery store without a list, you know how easy it is to waste money. Without a list, you’re more likely to impulse buy items that you don’t really need.   

You’re also more likely to forget items that you do need, which means you’ll end up making more trips to the store (and spending more money). 

Planning your grocery list in advance can help you stick to your budget and avoid wasting money.

3) You Aren’t Using Cash Back Apps

You’re missing out on easy money if you’re not using cash-back apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards. Ibotta offers cash back on groceries, while Fetch Rewards gives you points that can be redeemed for gift cards. Both of these apps are completely free to download and use, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of them.  

Not using these apps means you’re essentially leaving money on the table. It’s easy money that you’re essentially wasting if you’re not using these apps. In addition, not using cash back apps can ruin your grocery budget.

4) Buying Name Brands

When you’re at the grocery store, it’s easy to be drawn in by the flashy packaging of name-brand products. But before you reach for that pricier option, consider this: brand-name products often come with a big price tag, and they can really put a dent in your budget.   

In some cases, you may be paying twice as much for a brand-name product as you would for a generic or store-brand version. And chances are, the cheaper option is just as good. 

So next time you’re grocery shopping, take a closer look at the prices and opt for the more affordable option. Your grocery budget will thank you.

5) You Don’t Take Advantage of Sales

There are times when not taking advantage of a sale can actually ruin your grocery budget and waste money. For example, let’s say you regularly buy pork chops, and this week they’re on sale. If you only buy one package, you’re wasting money because next week, when you go grocery shopping, they’ll be back to the regular price. So, instead of buying just one pack, buy several and put them in the freezer. Then, next week you won’t have to buy pork chops.  

Also, if something is on sale that you don’t need this week but you’ll be needing it in the immediate future, go ahead and buy it while it’s on sale. If you wait until you’re out, then you’ll be spending more money because it will no longer be on sale.

6) Not Using Coupons 

If you’re like some people, you probably don’t think twice about tossing out the coupons that come with your weekly circular. After all, who has the time to cut out coupons and hunt for deals? 

 You can save hundreds of dollars each year by taking the time to clip and use coupons. In fact, many stores offer double coupon days, which can help you stretch your budget even further. However, not using coupons can actually waste a lot of money, especially if you’re grocery shopping on a tight budget. 

So next time you’re tempted to throw away those coupons, remember that they could be the key to saving money on your groceries.

7) Buying Convenience Foods

One of the easiest ways to ruin your grocery budget is by buying convenience foods. Sure, it’s tempting to pick up a few pre-made items when you’re short on time or feeling lazy. But the truth is, convenience foods are almost always more expensive than their homemade counterparts. 

 In addition, they often contain unhealthy ingredients that can sabotage your diet. So next time you’re standing in front of the freezer section, resist the temptation to buy that frozen pizza or box of macaroni and cheese. 

8) Shopping on an Empty Stomach

Have you ever gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach, only to find yourself throwing half the store into your cart? We’ve all been there. The hunger pangs start to kick in, and before you know it, you’re trying to justify buying that tub of ice cream even though you just told yourself you were only going to get a few essentials. 

 Grocery shopping on an empty stomach, when you’re hungry, is a surefire way to waste money and ruin your grocery budget. When you’re hungry, your judgment is impaired, and you’re more likely to make impulsive decisions. You’re also more likely to buy unhealthy snacks and junk food that you wouldn’t normally buy if you were thinking straight. 

So next time you’re planning a grocery trip, make sure you have a snack beforehand. 

9) Shopping Too Often

We’ve all been there before: we go to the grocery store with the best of intentions and end up spending twice as much money as we intended. Part of the problem is that we often shop too often, buying things that we don’t really need and that eventually go bad. Not only does this waste money, but it can also ruin your grocery budget. 

 Make sure to take inventory of your cabinets, pantry, and fridge before each trip, so you don’t accidentally buy duplicates of what you already have at home. Instead of shopping once weekly, try cutting back to every other week. And in between trips, if you do happen to run out of something you need for a meal, try Googling a substitute or skipping it altogether.

10) Wasting Food

Have you ever bought a carton of milk only to pour it down the drain a week later because it’s gone bad? Or what about those heads of lettuce that wilt in the fridge before you can even use them? 

 Buying food that you won’t end up eating is a massive waste of money, and it can really ruin your grocery budget. Not only are you losing out on the money that you spent on the food in the first place, but you’re also throwing away food that was never touched. 

The next time you’re at the store, think twice before buying more than you need. Remember to only buy perishables that you’ll consume in a week or two, depending on how often you shop.

11) Not Sticking to Your List

It’s happened to all of us before – we go to the grocery store with a shopping list in hand, only to find ourselves adding items to our cart that weren’t on the list in the first place. 

 While it may not seem like a big deal to pick up a few extra items here and there, these impulse purchases can quickly add up and put a significant dent in your grocery budget. Not sticking to your shopping list can also lead to food waste, as you may end up buying items that you don’t need or that you’ll never use. Just resist the temptation to stray from your list. 

Final Thoughts

Grocery shopping mistakes can kill your food budget and your wallet. With a few practical changes to your regimen, you can easily eliminate these common errors to get more for your money.  

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