For families looking to stretch their dollar and make every cent count, there are few things more important or more ingrained in the collective consciousness than trips to the grocery store. No matter who you are or what your economic situation is, we all have to eat. Human beings are funny that way. It can be stressful, maddening and downright soul-crushing at times. It seems like prices keep going higher while our budgets keep getting smaller. There are obviously economic factors that are beyond our control, but I'm going to give you some tips that might help you keep your sanity and save your family some money.
1. Don't go to the store hungry.
It may sound simple, but it is true. You are more likely to spend more if you go to the store hungry. According to this study from Cornell University, hungry shoppers bought 18.6% more food than nourished shoppers. Also revealed in the study is that hungry shoppers buy 44.8% more high-calorie food, in other words mostly luxury items that are bad for you anyway. In general, you want to spend as little time in the grocery store as possible. You want to get in, get what you need to get and get out. There is a reason that most stores have milk and eggs as physically far from the entrance as possible: they know that the longer you spend walking around the more likely you are to put more things in your cart.
2. Take advantage of coupons.
I'm not suggesting you all become extreme couponers, but there are good savings out there and it's crazy to not take advantage of them. Check the newspaper to see what coupons there are. Check the shelf tags, sometimes stores will give you coupons if you buy a certain number of items in a department or from a particular brand. Check the internet, there are a number of legitimate websites where you can get coupons. Doing this will require some time and effort on your part, but it will pay off over time in your grocery budget.
3. Make a list and stick to it.
This is probably the hardest of these to do. We've all been there: you weren't planning on buying it, but it's on sale and you really want or need it. There isn't a lot I can add to this, other than to say that sometimes you just have to say no. Whether it's to your kids or yourself (and regardless of how big or small the purchase may be) simply sticking to your guns and saying no can be a powerful and ultimately rewarding thing. I know it's easier said than done, but it will help your wallet and sanity a great deal in the long run. The only other thing I'll add is that you could program a discretionary amount into your grocery budget, giving yourself the option to buy something else you need that might be on sale or treat your kids if you want. Some of you may be able to do this and some may not, but it is an option that could help you.
4. Try to avoid eating out.
This may not sound like it is related, but it is. If you are eating out, you are not eating the food that you have bought to use, and excessive eating out could cause the food you bought to go bad and thus cause your money to have ultimately gone to waste. Many of you work crazy schedules and may not be home at dinner time, and eating out provides a quick meal that you don't have to prepare when you are tired and pressed for time. There is nothing wrong with eating out inherently, but like many things it should be done in moderation. Similar to my point above about discretionary grocery in your grocery budget, perhaps you could budget a certain amount in your overall budget if you are in a situation where you find yourself eating out often due to your schedule. Generally though, it will be much better for your health and your finances if you eat meals that were prepared at home.