3 Grocery Shopping Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

The biggest expense in my household is currently housing. But second to that is food.

Grocery prices were only up 1.3% on an annual basis as of December 2023, according to that month’s Consumer Price Index. Yet the high cost of food has been wreaking havoc on a lot of people’s personal finances — mine included.

That said, I partially blame myself for that. See, I’m not always so careful when it comes to buying food. But I’m trying to do better by avoiding these mistakes that I’ve made in the past. And you may want to steer clear of these blunders so you can save money on groceries.

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1. Not loading digital coupons to your cart

The other week, I was at my local supermarket when I noticed that canned tuna was on sale big time. When I went to check out, I noticed I didn’t get the sale price. So off I went to customer service, only to find out that the problem was me. I hadn’t bothered to load the digital coupon for the sale onto my store savings card, which explains why the discount didn’t come through.

Now thankfully, I check my receipts for accuracy when I shop for groceries, so I noticed the error. And the customer service person I worked with was good enough to give me the discount.

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But do yourself a favor and always do a quick scan of the digital coupons your local supermarket is offering before you shop for food. And then load those coupons onto your card — it takes under a minute. That way, you won’t miss out on sales.

I totally get that for some people, it’s impossible to go to the supermarket kid-free. But if you’re able to do so — maybe at night, once your partner gets home from work — it’s worth it. Unless your kids are super well-behaved and desire nothing, when you shop with kids, you’re likely to be distracted and conned into buying extra food items.

The last time I had to drag my daughters to the grocery store with me, they started bickering over something silly. I was so focused on them — and not on what I was buying — that I purchased the wrong yogurt flavor for my son.

Fast forward a few weeks, and those yogurts are still sitting in my fridge, uneaten, because my son isn’t a fan. I’ll probably suck it up and eat them even though I’m not a fan either to avoid wasting the $5 I spent.

What’s more, even when my kids are perfectly well-behaved at the store, they almost always want something — usually of the junk food variety, though not always. Not so long ago, my 9-year-old requested fresh lemons. My first thought was, “Well, better that than junk food,” only junk food might’ve been cheaper.

If it’s challenging to find a time to shop without your kids, try enlisting the help of a neighborhood friend to do a swap — you watch their kids for an hour on a random Wednesday so they can run errands, and then have them do the same for you. I used to do that before my kids were old enough to attend school, since my husband worked long hours outside the house.

3. Forgetting it’s not just stores like Costco that sell things in bulk

Many people join Costco for savings on bulk purchases. But you don’t need a membership to a warehouse club store to benefit from bulk discounts. If there’s an item you buy at your local supermarket, look around, or ask around, to see if there’s a bulk version right there.

A while ago, I realized that my local supermarket had a section at the end of the cereal aisle with bulk boxes that cost less per ounce than the standard-sized ones. Do you know how many times I overpaid for cereal (which, in my opinion, is ridiculously overpriced to begin with) due to not realizing that small section existed? If I had a dollar for every time I made that mistake, I’d have enough to buy…more cereal.

Nobody’s perfect. And even when you shop for groceries regularly, you can still make mistakes. But do your very best to stop making these at a time when food costs are still up. Your wallet will thank you.

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