If you have promised to do a better job slashing your grocery budget, you don't have to do anything extreme to improve on your supermarket saving skills. Try implementing these simple tips to keep money in your wallet.
1. The early bird catches the sales.
Maybe you looked through the store circular, planned your meals, wrote a grocery list and even cut a few coupons to plot out your future savings. There's nothing worse than taking time to do that only to have other shoppers beat you to the store and buy up all the stock. To beat serious shoppers at their own game, get there early so you can get the deals. It's also easier to shop when it's less crowded and it permits you to get in and out faster.
2. Shop without distractions.
Don't text or talk while shopping unless the conversation has to do with grocery shopping, especially at the checkout. It's easy for an item to ring up differently than you had expected. If you are chatting or texting away, you and the cashier may not catch the error. If you have kids that tend to derail your best-laid plans, shop when you can go alone.
3. Staring can save you money.
If possible, try to put all of your groceries down on the conveyor belt before the cashier starts to ring items up. This way you won't have to load the items while the cashier is scanning. This frees you up to watch the price of each item flash on the register during checkout. Monitor each item as it is scanned. Limit small talk and pay attention to the screen. A prolonged gaze at the register can help you spot potential mistakes and keep you from throwing off your spending.
4. Give yourself a limit.
You may have picked up a few items that aren't a real priority for this grocery trip. Though you might have done some mental calculations and thought you had enough, you might quickly discover that you made an error and the bill is now higher than you thought. Put these items that I call the "maybes" toward the back of the conveyor belt. You can even rest them on the metal at the end of lane so they don't move ring up accidentally. Based on the subtotal, decide at that time if they stay or go. In an effort to not go over budget, hand those items over to the cashier if you run over.
5. No zigzagging allowed.
Have you ever aimlessly wandered up and down each aisle of the grocery store only to end up with a cart full of items you weren't planning on getting? This can throw your budget into a tailspin. If you don't need anything in a certain aisle, then skip it. Also, analyze the grocery store layout when shopping to discover the most budget-friendly areas. Marketers know how to get you to grab things that you otherwise weren't planning to buy. If you want to place it safe, the perimeter of the store is usually safer and healthier.
6. Beware of multiple deals.
Consumer expert Andrea Woroch explains, "When you see a sign promoting '10 for $10' or 'five for $4.50,' you are often tempted to load up on the bulk savings. However, these aren't necessarily the best deals available and such offers can trick you into thinking you are getting a great deal. Get your calculator out to test the per unit cost and compare with other brands to find the cheapest price. You don't need to buy all 10 or all five as promoted to get the savings. Supermarkets know that shoppers feel they are getting a better deal. The bigger the number, the better the value appears. But, one for $1 is still as good as 10 for $10, so limit it!"
Karen Cordaway is a teacher, website owner and writer who currently teaches personal finance to children.