18 April 2014

Common Grocery Budget Blunders

In the olden days, back before the days of supermarkets, it was common to visit the grocer, butcher and greengrocer three, four or even five times a week to pick up what was needed for just that day and maybe the next. Those were the days when more backyards than not had substantial veggie gardens, convenience foods were not even thought of and every meal was cooked from scratch, using basic ingredients.

Then supermarkets took over and we started dashing in four or five times a week to pick up just a few things. It was time consuming, but we didn't notice as we were used to shopping that way. We also  didn't notice just how much damage it was doing to our budgets, the plan to make us part with more and more of our hard earned cash was insidious.

These days, there are better options than trusting our grocery budget to supermarkets. And with food prices rising every week, even the smallest increase or mistake at the checkout can show up in big red figures on our budgets.

There are some simple things you can do to avoid being caught by the grocery budget blunders, and you'll notice the savings almost immediately.

Blunder No. 1: BRAND LOYALTY. 

Switching from name brands to generic brands can cut your grocery bill by 40% - 60% without sacrificing quality. In many cases the generic brands contained the name-brand product but with a different label and a lower price. Remember the name brands have to work the high cost of marketing and advertising into the cost of the item.  It doesn't hurt to try the generic equivalent of your favourite brand name and if you don't like it you can always switch back. But it does pay to switch for the things you do like, try it and see.


Most supermarkets and some budget department stores  post labels on the shelf that show the item's price and the price per unit—per 100g, per serving, per portion and so forth. Don't assume the larger size is automatically the better deal. Often it's not, but you won't know that if you don't watch the price per unit. Carry your Pricebook and a small calculator with you and you won't get caught out.


There's a reason that everyday staples like milk and bread are at the back side of the supermarket. It makes picking up just a bottle of milk and a loaf bread a challenge because you will pass by so many opportunities to pick up other stuff on the way to the milk: the bakery (and doesn't it smell great), the deli with its delectable displays, and aisles full of yummy snacks, biscuits and drinks, etc. All of these temptations are placed deliberately so you are bombarded with them on the way to the milk cabinet. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself picking up all kinds of things you hadn't planned to buy. Everything about a supermarket is designed to facilitate impulse buying. Give yourself a head start by not picking up a basket - if you're only buying a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread you don't need a basket. No basket means nowhere to put those impulse buys and more money in your purse.

Blunder No. 4: LACK OF A PLAN. 

Grocery shopping without a list is risky. Your memory isn't as good as you might think. Without a plan you'll buy things because you "might need them" or "because we'll use it anyway" and undoubtedly you'll find yourself coming back for what you forgot—and that starts the mistakes all over again.  Write up a shopping list before you leave home and then stick to it as you shop. And no aisle cruising either - if the aisle doesn't hold an item on your list you can skip it.

Blunder No. 5: CHECKOUT DAZE. 

If you want to save money, keep a close eye on the scanner at the checkout. If the store you shop at adheres to the Supermarket Scanner Code of Practise then watching for errors could put money back into your pocket if your items scan at more than the advertised price.  You also need to watch that each item is scanned only once and that any special deal prices (i.e. buy two get one free etc) are applied to your bill. It pays to check your receipt before you leave the store and get any errors corrected straight away.


Grocery shopping requires concentration: you need to look for the items on your shopping list, compare prices of similar products to get the best price, look for any extra unadvertised specials, then compare unit prices and then to top it off you have to be extra vigilant at the checkout. If you have your children with you this is almost impossible. I know it's hard to shop without them, but try. It will be faster, cheaper and a lot more pleasant if you don't have to keep one eye on the kids and the other on your grocery list.

Follow on Bloglovin


  1. Brilliant. You have covered everything very well, even down to leaving the kid/s at home where possible. I now find shopping with my daughter, now close enough to 14, quite a pleasure but it wasn't always so... Anyway, thank you for what you do. Margaret

  2. I went grocery shopping with the kids yesterday, they were surprisingly good. They each got one treat which was in the list anyway and as a whole, didn't vary too much from the list, came in under budget at $130 for the fortnight, also pretty lucky since we have a nice chest freezer full of meat and it was mostly a stock up of the generic cans of vegetables (or the on special cans for $1)

  3. When I had baby No.2, I left him in a child care centre while I grocery shopped. It was disastrous - the centre staff dropped his only bottle slipping all the milk a few times and then did not call for me over the PA. Finally gave up on them and took him shopping. As he didn't know how to sit in a trolley he was forever diving into shelves or the freezer compartments. Quickly taught him how to behave as his sister did and shopping was less of a hassle. They always went shopping with me after that and I can only recall one time that I had difficulty with them. I had left them looking at some toys in the toy aisle while I shopped as I didn't want to wait around for them to have a good look at some new gadget. It took three announcements from the check-out girl for them to leave the store to go home. They were not inclined to pocket anything from the store as they knew that I would do a search of their pockets before we left he store whenever they were away from me for any length of time. And not treats were bought if they pestered me or asked for them continuously. Treats were for well behaved children and not for keeping them quiet.

  4. Carrying a calculator is easy for almost everyone, since smartphones all have them built in. I use mine to keep a running tally of what goes in my trolley, but they normally have a memory function so you can do both. Even people still hanging onto dumbphones (which, yes, have some advantages) probably have a calculator in their phones somewhere.


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment...I just love hearing from you!

Just a couple of things:

Please don't use your comments to advertise your business or goods for sale, any such comments will be removed.