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Debra Caffrey is the Education E-newsletter Editor for FredParent. She also writes, blogs, and assists with events. She is the proud mom of 8-year-old Aidan. She is passionate about cooking, meal planning, and smart grocery shopping, and is excited to share her ‘Practical Pantry’ with you.

 

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Practical Pantry

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There are a million ways to try to curb your grocery bill, and a ton of blogs and articles about how to do so. It can be overwhelming! It seems as though people are always looking for an easy answer or a quick fix on this subject, but, just like losing weight, there are no quick fixes! The key to taming your grocery spending is by way of long-term mindfulness, planning, and commitment to using what you buy. For my detailed advice on how to save more by actually shopping less, click here. For my complete tutorial on how to meal plan, see here. And, if you’re curious how much you should really be spending on groceries, check this out. If you already follow these tips religiously but are looking for more ways you can cut out some expenses, here are a few more out-of-the-box tips I have that can help you be a little more insightful while shopping and hopefully save you a few bucks along the way:

unusual ways 21) Bring a Snack with You: We all know that you shouldn’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, because the sights and smells of all that delicious stuff will make you crazy and buy more. And, the store knows that about you! For more on how supermarkets trick you into spending, click here. But even if you have already eaten before heading to the store, you still might get hungry during your shopping trip. We all know what “hangry” feels like, but being hungry can seriously blur your ability to think properly at the grocery store and be diligent about sticking to your list. Even with eating breakfast first, I tend to get a little hungry halfway through my shopping trip. All those delicious snacks can find their way into your cart if you’re thinking with your growling stomach and not your sensible head! My strategy? I always throw a granola bar or some nuts into my bag for a “halfway hunger pitstop.” It REALLY helps! I also bring a bottle of water, because we all know that dehydration can feel like hunger sometimes! Always bring a small snack with you (not just for the kids, it’s most important for you!) and while you’re at it, make sure to have chewing gum as well!

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2) Wear Headphones and Put Your Phone Away: As far as the cell phone goes, it’s really easy to get distracted while you’re chatting away. As a mom, I know that being at the grocery store completely alone feels like a vacation (the grocery store seriously is my “happy place”) and you might want to catch up on phone calls, but seriously, don’t do it at the supermarket. You truly need all your wits about you and focus to concentrate on your shopping. Additionally, if you really want to get hardcore, bring a pair of headphones and listen to your own music to drown out the music system in the store. As part of detailed marking strategies, supermarkets only play songs with a certain tempo that makes you more likely to buy stuff. Seriously – this is a real strategy that is employed! Don’t get influenced.

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3) Bring a small notebook and pen: You should already have your shopping list with you as well as a pen to cross items off. But keeping a small pad of paper in your bag is also a great idea that can indeed save you money. You can use it to jot down items you’d normally throw into your cart on impulse. Write down the item as well as the price and/or when the sale date will end, and then you can decide if it’s worth purchasing on your next trip before the sale expires. Sometimes, I see something on sale that I need, but I’d rather wait to see if I will also get a coupon for it the following week. I’ll scribble it down in my notepad so I can remember this when I’m making my shopping list for next time. If you’re anything like me, you might already need to write tons of notes to yourself to remember everything you have to do! It’s also a smart idea to write down items you think your family members might want/need, and then ask them about it later on, rather than just buying them assuming they will be eaten/used. I also like to jot down items I see that might inspire me for future meals but that I’m not ready to buy yet. For instance, if I see that a bag of cole slaw mix is on sale through the next two weeks but it’s not on my menu for the week, I’ll write it down so when I’m meal planning for the following week, I know I have a cheap side dish for dinner one night!

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4) Make Friends with the Butchers: You obviously should be courteous and appreciative to the entire supermarket staff, but of all departments, my recommendation is to be best friends with the butchers and meat people. Many times, if you’re looking for a certain cut or size of meat that is not there, it is just not yet packaged but available in store. Asking nicely for what you’re looking for just might get you to save money as opposed to settling on a more expensive cut of meat that you see instead. Further, sometimes if you ask, the butcher will cut something down for you to the size that you want. That way, you’re not paying for more than what you’ll use. Bottom line: you never know what the meat department can do to accommodate your needs until you ask first.

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5) Check Your Receipt: Once I returned home from shopping only to realize after the fact that the cashier forgot to scan half of my coupons, totaling up to $10 of savings I missed out on just because I didn’t check my receipt while still at the store. I’ve learned to never make that mistake again. It’s very easy for human error and computer and scanning problems to interfere with your hard work of trying to save money. Do yourself a favor and pull to the side after checking out to quickly scan your receipt, making sure everything looks correct. I often find that an item will ring up and charge me twice even if I’ve only purchase one. It happens all the time! It’s a lot easier to walk back to the customer service desk and nicely explain the mistake than go home and kick yourself for not seeing the error until it was too late. The customer service desk is happy to assist you and reimburse you for whatever errors the scanner or register might have caused. And also, don’t have the “ah, it’s not worth it” mentality about correcting the problem. That attitude will never help you realize that big savings is based on small actions.

The more you engage in these little tweaks to your grocery shopping, you just may find yourself saving some money in the long run. Remember – being mindful of meal planning, sticking to a list, and smart shopping while at the store is the long term key to success when it comes to saving money and becoming a savvy shopper. Good luck!

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