How to Get Out of a Supermarket Without Overspending

This is not the first time that we’ve visited the subject of how to get out of the supermarket with at least some money left in your bank account. Still, who doesn’t need an occasional reminder—a mental tune-up—to remain vigilant and razor-sharp when it comes to making our food dollars stretch until they scream.


Don’t go in hungry

You believe that you can simply dash in to pick up the infamous few things. But if you’re starving, you’re a dead aim for a couple of steaks and a load of snacks. You know what I’m talking about. This is because of Rule #1: Anything can happen when you are hungry.

Don’t try to remember

Sure, playing Brain Age on your kid’s Nintendo Switch has revitalized your dead brain cells, rendering you the mental acuity of a youngster—but don’t push it. Without a list of the exact items you’ve come to purchase, who knows what could happen?

It’s normal for our brains to slip into neutral in the face of fabulous food. A written list is the crutch you need desperately to make sure you do not slip and fall, so to speak.

Don’t take your plastic or checkbook

Cash—currency, clams, folding money, smackers, greenbacks—this is how you should be paying for your supermarket purchases.

What? Not convenient, you say? Well, of course not, silly. That’s the point. Convenience is the reason you’ve been dropping the equivalent of a mortgage payment for food every month. Making the process a bit less convenient is an easy way to slow that mindless drain on your income.

Not safe? Get a grip. That bevy of credit cards you carry with you and that $1,000 smartphone aren’t exactly chump change. Are you worried sick about getting rolled in the Walmart parking lot to grab those items?

Keep your cash in a safe place at home and take just the amount that you intend to the grocery store. Then avoid putting a sign on your back, “Carrying Cash!”

Don’t grab a shopping cart

Most of them have wobbly wheels anyway, so just walk on by when all you need are those few items. Surely you can carry the “few things” you need. Or get one of the hand-held baskets. The point here is that you won’t be buying more than you can carry.

Don’t dawdle

This is not the place you want to hang out just to soak in all the great sights and smells from the bakery, deli and rotisserie chickens. If you weren’t hungry when you arrived, you will be soon.

Get what you need and get out of there. For every ten minutes you delay, plan on spending about another $40.

Don’t deprive yourself

Work some “flex spend” into your budget. We all want to try new things, and in the candy land of choice known as the grocery store, this can lead to expensive last-minute choices.

In my experience, the best way to combat this is not to fight it. Decide to allow yourself a little flexibility—say, a five-dollar allowance or a single impulse item each week. That’s the way to avoid the feeling that you’re drowning in deprivation. You’ll be less likely to go overboard.

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11 replies
  1. Ann says:

    I am on a limited budget for food for 1 person and I shop once a month, mainly chicken breast at a low price and eggs,it helps with food cost if when on a Diet and trying to loss weight as there is no buying expensive bakery, snack items.i started a garden a couple of years ago and it did well for vegetables .last year it did especially well for the covid pandemic.

  2. Miriam Kearney says:

    During covid-19 I have been doing my grocery shopping online. One of the benefits is that I can always see the total of what I’m buying in the cart and if I think it’s too high I go back in and see what I can take out. Much easier to do than when I get to the register and she’s already run it in.

  3. Katie says:

    WOW! “For every ten minutes you delay, plan on spending about another $40!” That one is sticking with me, Mary. Thank you!

  4. Hayley Goff says:

    I download my coupons, check kroger krazy get my paper coupons, get my kroger cash back coupons and check ibotta and only buy items that are on my printed list other than meat and veggies that don’t have coupons. I usually get over $100 at the register and after the coupons come off I pay $75 or less. I don’t buy junk food, snacks, or cookies unless they are almost free after coupons and cash back. I don’t buy soda unless it is almost free with coupons and cash back. I make about $ dollars back a week using ibotta and send it back to my bank account. Made $30 last week as I had some free coupons and cash back from ibotta. Score. Fetch is good too. I turn the points into lowes or home depot card and fix things around the house. Last year I replaced the garage wall due to termite damage with lowes and home depot gift cards.

  5. Laurel T. says:

    Life must be different in Colorado. I try to minimize my trips to the store to reduce virus exposure, so not using a cart is not viable. I definitely use a list and often submit my orders online and let the store bring it out to my car. Don’t like to do that when I’m stocking up on fresh fruits and veggies though.

  6. Barbara Giroux says:

    I Always bring a List, my own tote bag and keep my coupon folder in the car. I always shop at the same market, where I know the people and the layout. I try to pack an extra $10.00, just in case they are having a sale on something, (like pasta) that I Always need and will use.
    Thanks for Sharing, Everyone.

  7. Bill STOCK says:

    Calculate cost per ounce. From shelf label or with your calculator. Giant economy size is not always the best buy. Try store branded items.

  8. Carol Barker says:

    I try to not buy what is “straight ahead” view. Look to the bottom shelves or top shelves…..a lot of times those brands that are stocked there are less costly.

  9. Pat Williams says:

    When I go to the grocery store I make my list so that I only have to go into the aisles where there is something on my list. Yesterday I did all of my shopping (everything was on sale) and only went into the produce department and 3 other aisles. The grocery store isn’t one that I want to browse.


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