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11 Grocery Shopping Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

By: Patty Lee
April 04, 2023

There's money to be saved all around the supermarket, if you're savvy with your shopping prep.

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We’ve all been there. You’re standing at the checkout line as the cashier rings up your shopping cart full of groceries. The number on the screen keeps going higher, even though it doesn’t feel like you got all that much. But if you take a closer look, it’s easy to see where the extra dollars are going—there’s the weekly bag of spring mix that never gets fully used, the chicken that isn’t on sale this week, the out-of- season peaches—you get the picture.

While you don’t have to become an extreme couponer to cut down on costs, you may want to take a look at your current strategy and see if you’re making any of these shopping blunders. Being aware of these mistakes can help you get back on track to save.

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1. Not Making a List

We love a good spontaneous trip to the supermarket, but shopping without a plan is a guaranteed way to go over budget. Jocelyn Delk-Adams, the blogger behind Grandbaby Cakes and author of "Everyday Grand: Soulful Recipes for Celebrating Life's Big and Small Moments," agrees.

"Stick to the list! Every time I veer off my grocery list, I end up overspending," she says. "The best, most organized version of myself — who actually knows what I’m cooking this week and what I already have in my fridge and pantry — made the list, so I can’t let the hungry, excited foodie in me take over the shopping cart."

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2. Walking in Without a Mix-and-Match Meal Plan

As Adams alludes to in the previous tip, having a shopping strategy helps, but you don’t need to be too strict about it. Rather than going in with a list of recipes, come up with a flexible plan.

Private chef Natasha Feldman, author of "The Dinner Project Party," recommends going with a theme. "If you tend to have wasted food at the end of the week, the best thing you can do is shop within a theme or flavor profile. If you’re buying ingredients for tacos, get a bunch of other stuff that’s going to fit in with a vaguely Mexican theme. That way, it’s much easier to mix-and-match your ingredients as the week progresses."

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3. Not Looking at the Circular Before You Go

You can also let the weekly circular and sales help guide your meal planning. If there’s a discount on ground beef this week, then slot in a night for chili and another for meatloaf — or consider tossing an extra package into your cart to make a big batch of freezer-friendly meatballs (future you will be grateful!). Take stock of what you absolutely need to get more of (let’s say the kids have gone through yet another jar of peanut butter) and a general idea of what holes need to be filled. For example, you may want to roast veggies for dinner, but leave the exact type of vegetable open so you can see what’s fresh, yet cheap.

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