You could be one of the people who visit the grocery shop almost everyday; in fact, I used to do that too. Even now, I make random visits to grocery stores or supermarkets if the need arises, and I see no harm in that.
In one of my previous stories on Medium, I highlighted the fact that the average American wastes at least one pound of food per day. But where is the source of the waste? If you are wondering, it is the grocery store. Even if it is prepared food, the source of that food is again the grocery store.
What Makes You Spend More Money on Grocery?
The answer to this question is a simple 5-letter word:
I started buying my own grocery when I moved to Canada from India as a student. I was 26 years old, and till then, I lived with my parents. My dad used to do most of the grocery shopping, but I helped my mom out with emergencies. My dad used to get annoyed when my mom asked him to get something immediately and he used to ask her this.
“Why didn’t you add it in this week’s grocery list?”
He just did grocery shopping once a week in the local food market, and that helped us through the entire week. When I never bought grocery, I did not understand why my dad made a big fuss to purchase grocery then and there when needed.
But when I started buying grocery for myself, it began to make sense. Food waste accounts for most of your grocery bill, and needless to say, I learnt it the hard way. When I came to Canada as a student, my first grocery bill was over a hundred Canadian dollars. I was hungry and just bought everything I wanted. A couple of weeks later, I wasn’t able to prepare most of the grocery I bought, and more than half of it went straight into the garbage bin.
I hated myself so much for that, just because of the fact that I wasted 60 dollars so easily. The next day, I went to the same grocery shop, but this time I did not buy anything. I just walked around the aisles analyzing the other shoppers and noting how much they were buying.
You Need Much Lesser Than What You Want
All retail outlets are designed to get as much money out of you as possible. They are designed to feed on an average consumer’s ‘greed’. For argument’s sake, let us use a better word — they feed on our ‘wants’.
Retail grocery stores, be it Walmart, Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws, or other chains in North America, all have huge shopping carts. When we pick one of those shopping carts, our mind decides to keep filling it with products as much as it can hold.
When I looked at the people shopping there that day, I realized most of them were filling their carts with products that they wanted, more than what they needed.
Very few had a shopping list, but even those few were most definitely shopping out of their list because their bills where much longer than their lists. This is because when you see something and your mind says “I want that”, you end up putting it in your shopping cart.
I want that. But, do I need it?
But before you put any item into your shopping cart, you have to pause and ask this question. If you need it, feel free to put it in your cart, but if you don’t, put it back on the shelf.
The 5-Step Process to Reduce your Grocery Bill
I follow this simple 5-step process to reduce my grocery bill, and it turned out to work great for me. I now spend only 25% of my money on grocery bills than I used to.
Step 1: Make a ‘Strict’ List
If you are one of those who make a list before you go to a grocery store, I applaud you for that. But how many times have you followed that list strictly?
We fail to follow the list 99% of the time because of two reasons. The first, being that we do not make a proper list, and the second being that we are distracted when we enter the grocery store.
All retail outlets are designed to distract you
I do not blame you for getting distracted. That’s what retail stores are designed to do. They do not care what you do with your purchased grocery, all they need you to do is to pay for them. So, if you make a list of all the items you need and try to strictly follow it, you can significantly reduce your grocery bill.
Step 2: Limit Your Shopping Time
Do not spend more than 20 minutes inside a grocery store. Look at the list, go to the respective isles, put the items in your cart and checkout. Keep doing this and after a couple of visits to the grocery store, you will be in and out in less than twenty minutes.
The more time you spend at the grocery store, the more prone you are to distractions. The more you get distracted the longer your bill would be.
Step 3: Modify Your Shopping Habits
Sometimes, buying fresh fruits and vegetables may not be very good idea. For example, during the winter in Canada, the ‘fresh’ vegetables on the shelves in a grocery store would already be starting to rot away since they either get wet during transportation or handling.
I used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, but then ended up eating a little and throwing out a lot. If you shop for a big family and it gets consumed quickly, that isn’t an issue, but if it is a small family, then you must limit purchasing perishable goods.
Frozen fruits and vegetables stay ‘fresh’ longer, and there isn’t a much of a difference in taste or nutrients. They are frozen, thawed and either consumed or prepared to be consumed. They stay in the freezer for more than a year and are very easy to maintain. Instead of buying 10 kg of fresh vegetables, consuming 1 kg and throwing the rest in the garbage, buying 1 kg of frozen grocery and consuming it over time will save you a lot of money.
Step 4: Revisit Your Shopping Cart
While you might try to follow your list strictly, you will end up with a little bit of extra stuff. Before you check out, look at the items in your cart again. I do this every time and I end up putting some items back in the shelf again. By doing so, you will get an idea of how much your bill is going to be and you will try to cut down some of it.
If you fail to do this and go straight to the checkout, you will get the bill on the screen after the cashier scans all the items and to keep your dignity up, you will end up paying all of it.
Step 5: Reduce. Reuse. Reoptimize
Learn from your mistakes. You might end up buying a product that you think isn’t worth the price you paid for. Next time, try something else. You might have purchased extra quantity of a product than what you actually needed. Next time, reduce the quantity.
Never stop optimizing your shopping list. Include all the details possible — brand of the items, quantity, etc. Once you do this, you will see that in no time, you will end up spending only 25% of what you used to purchasing grocery.