How many times do you go into a supermarket each week?
Why do you go? Do you do a big shop and a little one?
Do you forget things and then have to go back?
Do you wait til you run out of food and then go in to buy a few meals worth?
Do you shop every day for what you need that night?
You might never have thought about this, but let me tell you the big two supermarkets are onto it. If you go into a supermarket more than once a week without a clear plan, they LOVE you. Like really LOVE you! The more trips you take through their doors, the more you are likely to spend at each shop. And they have perfected the art of getting you to spend. If you go in without a list, they love you more because you'll be open to all their promotions and suggestions.
Take a look at this summary of the Trolley Trends research recently undertaken. I don't know about you, but I was a bit freaked out when I recognised myself in some of this data. (This is an Australian survey, but if you are in the US or UK I'm sure you'll find things are similar - if not please let me know! I'd be fascinated). Supermarkets can offer great convenience but just because they open flexible hours and are a one-stop-shop for all the things you need, don't be fooled into thinking that their main game isn't taking as much of your money away from you as they possibly can.
Here is list of ways to keep as much of your hard-earned cash in your pocket as possible:
Never go into a grocery store hungry. Ever. You always buy more than you need. If necessary, buy a 50c bread roll from the bakery section first, take it outside and eat it before going back in to do the shop.
Always make menu plan. There are great templates online that you can download (google them - there are heaps), but they aren't necessary. Just make a list of what you will have to eat for dinner each night of the week. Take into account nights when there are more or less people around because of things like sport, late nights at work or visitors. Then plan for lunches and breakfasts. "Planning" doesn't mean intending to cook an elaborate meal three times a day - it just means you are making sure you have enough weet bix in the house for breakfast all week and enough sandwich fillings for lunch. Then use this menu plan to make list.
Remember to take a comprehensive list. When making the list, check through your pantry or stockpile to make sure you are not buying something you already have. Try to include everything you need from spices to treats and then resolve only to buy things on the list...Oh, and remember not to leave the list in the car. That's usually where I come undone.
Pay attention to the concept of S(O)ULE food. Seasonal, unprocessed eating really does save you money.
Make as few trips to the supermarket as you can. Drop into a local greengrocer or butcher everyday if you must, but know that the more times you enter a supermarket the more chances they have use their tricks to get your money. This might mean that you do a supermarket shop once a month but buy fresh food more often at smaller store.
Be careful with rewards cards. I've written here about how you can use the process of data-ming for good by showing a clear preference for local, ethical foods. But the big two are about to use the masses of information about you they are collecting every time you swipe your loyalty card to start advertising to you in a whole new way. And it won't be limited to groceries - it will be things like insurance, banking products, and whatever the hell else they can think of that you might hand over money for. Of course, this targeting has the possibility to save you money...but not unless you are vigilant! You can read more about this here.