Unconsciously Spending at the Grocery Store

Do you know how much money you will spend at the grocery store when you pull your cart up to the register? I never seem to have any idea. I usually try to estimate the cost as I place my groceries on the conveyor belt, but I am usually off by at least $30. I am one of those people who go into the grocery store for $50 worth of items and walk out with a receipt for $150.

I consider myself a reasonable shopper. I clip coupons, research the store circulars, and head to the grocery store with a relative plan of what I want to buy. I don’t waste money on overpriced, convenience items or junk food and I typically save at least 20% of the cost of groceries by using coupons and store sales.

Still I am always amazed at how much money I spend at the store. I find myself throwing various odds and ends into the cart. I try to remember if I have spaghetti sauce at home, convince myself I don’t have any and come home to find I have three jars in storage.

I’m happy to say that we do eventually eat whatever I purchase at the store. Eventually we will eat all of the spaghetti sauce, or pasta, or rice, or whatever staple food I decided to purchase on sale that day. Eventually I will go on a month long hiatus from the grocery store to ensure we eat all the food in the pantry, but I am still frustrated by the urge to spend so much at the store.

The grocery store is the one place where I seem to purchase unconsciously. I am lured by fresh produce and visions of tasty dinners. Each time I leave I consider creating bi-weekly menus to avoid this type of impulse shopping, but I like the spontaneity of creating meals on the fly. Maybe I could comprise and plan some of the meals in an effort to shop just a bit more consciously?

8 thoughts on “Unconsciously Spending at the Grocery Store”

  1. I hear you. I struggle everytime I go to the grocery, Walmart, etc. I just see so many things and it’s so hard to resist. I am on cash only right now so that is helping IMMENSELY. I have my list and my cash and that is that. If I had chosen to let myself buy with my debit card today I’d have had probably $100 plus. I had cash and spend just under $20.

  2. I have the same problem. Exactly the same. It doesn’t help that I don’t have much experience cooking, so I end up buying random stuff and hoping I cam make meals out of it.

    Plus, until recently I didn’t pack lunch. I would go to work every day and hope I found food or order from our delivery, both of which are not good. I finally starting taking control of food in my life. I found this awesome site. I can browse through thousands of recipes. Then when I find one I like I can add it to my cookbook (for later use), I can add it to a meal plan (pick a day I want to make it) and save all the ingredients to a shopping list. It’s pretty slick. It ensures I have a list when I shop (the only way I won’t impulse buy) and that I know I will have a balanced meal instead of hoping.
    No I don’t work for Meals Matter. Hah!
    Here’s the site.

  3. @Ryan — Great site. I love that you can choose a recipe and create a shopping list. I also love that you started “taking control of food in [your] life.” That’s a great way of putting it!

    @Jolie — I’ve thought about going the cash route quite often, but I almost never go to the ATM, since we perform all of our banking online. In the past I have actually purchased grocery store gift cards using my credit card and tried to spend only the amount on the cards. It definitely kept me more disciplined, but more often than not I still went over budget. Perhaps I should try again?

  4. We have the same problem so our solution has been, shop less often. If we overspend by the same amount each time we enter the store, entering less often should save us money. This month we hit the major chain store once and we’ll try to get by with just Trader Joes for produce and milk.

  5. I struggle here too. My solution has been to shop using a basket instead of a cart. You get a lot more particular when you have to lug everything around! I haven’t measured it officially, but I bet I save somewhere between $10-30 per trip. I’ll be curious to see if this works for anyone else.

  6. make your own spag.sause and never buy something just because you’ve a coupon for it. Generic might not look as good but its the same thing. Not like I’ve got bank but, I waste more time pacing the isle comparing stuff. I pretty much know what I want now so shopping for me is predictable

  7. @ Miss M — Great suggestion. I am trying to cut shopping trips back to once every two weeks, rather than once a week.

    @Juice — I totally agree. I try to use a basket rather than a cart whenever I can. Over the years this technique has saved me a ton of money!

    @William — The backpack tip used to work wonders for me. When I lived in the city I would only buy as much as I could carry. I lived at the top of a big hill and the grocery store was at the bottom. I knew if I bought too much I wouldn’t make it home šŸ™‚


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