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Save Money and Time at the Grocery Store

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Anne Fisher

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Grocery shopping drains a lot of our personal resources, both in terms of dollars and time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food is the third-largest household expense for American families. For a family of four, the average monthly grocery bill runs between $642 on the most-thrifty budget plan to $1,282 on a liberal budget based on the USDA’s September 2017 Cost of Foods Report.

According to a Marketing Science Institute study, the average consumer who approaches grocery shopping without an organized systematic method ends up at the checkout counter with approximately 66 percent of the items in the cart being unplanned purchases. Below are 10 strategies that can help you get organized to trim some fat off your grocery budget and, as an added bonus, decrease the time you spend on this chore.

■ Shop only once per week. Planning your grocery list so that you get a full week’s worth of groceries in one shot will reduce impulse purchases, save gas, and give you more time to do something more fun than grocery shopping.

■ Organize and clean out your refrigerator and pantry once a month. Use up what you already have before buying more. SuperCook.com is a recipe search engine that lets you search by ingredients that you already have on hand to find recipes from the most popular cooking websites. This is a great way to find recipes to use up food that you have on hand before re-stocking the pantry and refrigerator.

■ Make a grocery list and stick to it. To make the most efficient use of your time and money, plan your meals and snacks for the week before you shop, and buy what’s on the menu. By planning ahead, you can make your shopping list based on what you already have, what you still need to buy, and what’s on sale. Also, plan meals so that you have leftovers for lunch the next day, or freeze leftovers for a quick meal another day.

■ Download coupons. You don’t have to scour the Sunday newspaper and use scissors to use coupons. Websites such as Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and redplum.com are great places to see what coupons are currently available in your area. You can print the coupons, or, even better, load them to your grocery store loyalty card.

■ Always shop on a full stomach. You’ll buy fewer snacks and impulse items if you’re not hungry when you shop. Consumer studies show that shoppers are more likely to spend more if their appetites have been stimulated beforehand. It will be much easier to resist the rotisserie chicken, bakery items and other snacks if you are not hungry. This will help your budget as well as your waistline.

■ Shop alone. The more people shopping together, the more impulse purchases will end up in the cart. Moms and Dads, if at all possible, shop without your children.

■ Know the prices of frequently purchased items. Learn the price range of the items you buy most frequently so that you recognize a great deal when you see it and stock up on that item.

■ Know the store layout. Make your grocery list in order of the grocery aisles where items are located, and only visit those aisles. The more aisles you walk down, the more likely you are to add items to your grocery cart that you didn’t initially plan to buy.

■ Take advantage of rebate apps. You can earn cash back on your groceries with apps like Checkout51, Ibotta, and SavingsStar. These services offer weekly cash-back deals on a wide range of goods and services. All you need to do is take a photo of your receipt showing that you purchased the item in order to receive the rebate.

■ Purchase non-grocery items at discount stores. Buy non-grocery items such as detergent, garbage bags, and toiletries on sale at a discount store instead of the grocery store. Prices on these items are usually lower at discount stores, and you can often find them on sale.

By spending some time planning before you head to the grocery store, you can reduce your grocery bill significantly without giving up the foods you love. As an added bonus, you will spend less time in your car and in the store and will have more leisure time to do the things you love.

Anne K. Fisher is a teaching instructor in finance and the College of Business Scholarship administrator in the ECU College of Business.

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