10 Mistakes You’re Making At the Grocery Store


I used to dread going to the grocery store, but now I love it. I love it because I make the conscious decision to shop when my husband is home from work so that I don’t have to take any kids. Not only does this mean I get a little break from things like parenting, I get to get into the car all alone and not listen to horrible music from terrible DVDs, and I don’t have to talk to 78 different strangers who want to talk twins with me. It also means I get to shop and take my time (once you have kids, you’ll learn the value of a solo shopping trip just for groceries). But that doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes at the store; I do. I make terrible mistakes at the supermarket, and they cost me in a major way. My grocery budget each month is probably three times what it needs to be because of some of my mistakes, and I’m going to try and learn with you all how to stop making these mistakes and make my shopping trips more productive and less expensive. Here are the top 10 mistakes we make when we go to the grocery store.

Shopping without a list

How many times we have to say this is just beyond me, but apparently a lot. Listen to me acting as if I make a list when I shop. I do, but I never remember it, and I always ignore it. And then I buy more. And then I forget things. And then I have to go back for one little container of something and end up spending another $100 on things I don’t really need.

Shopping hungry

I buy so much when I’m hungry in the store. My husband once did the math and realized that I spent $50 more than what was on my list when I shopped hungry because I wanted everything I passed. It can be a huge waste of money when you shop hungry.


Take your time through the store. When I rush, I always end up having to go back because I forget things, get the wrong stuff and make mistakes. It’s not a good idea to rush through the store. Save the trip for when you can take the time you need to shop effectively.

Buying produce in a bag

It’s usually always cheaper to buy it by the pound, but people are usually just in such a hurry they grab it in a bag. Think about it; you’re getting more than you need of something that’s not going to last a long time in a bag, and paying more. Don’t make this mistake. Take the extra time to fill a bag yourself.

Not checking dates

I do this all the time, especially with milk and things that expire. I always just assume that if it’s in the front, it’s good. But many people did through the supply to get the stuff that has the longest ‘good’ time frame and they leave the oldest stuff in the front. I once bought milk a few months ago that expired two days after I bought it.

Not checking quantity

This is something that many people are not aware of. To keep prices ‘low,’ many manufacturers have lessened the quantity of items you buy when shopping. For example, I bought brownie mix ones and could not figure out why the mix wouldn’t even fill the pan. After all, I’d made the same brownies a million times and never had that problem. Upon reading the instructions to see if I did something wrong, I realized that it called for a smaller pan – because there was less mix in the box now.

Not checking for online coupons

My store, Publix, has online coupons and they’re sometimes very good for me. I only use the ones I need, which are those for diapers and household items I buy anyway (I rarely find coupons for food we actually eat). I ‘clip’ them into my account and enter my phone number when I swipe my debit card and it automatically adjusts my price to reflect the coupons I saved to my account. It’s so easy and usually saves me a few dollars at every trip.

Not talking to the meat man

The meat man is the best man. He knows what is up. I always ask him for meat, because it’s always better than what they have there. For example, my husband is a steak snob and only likes filet mignon, and they don’t always have it, so sometimes I might be tempted to get something else. Instead, I just ask the meat man to cut me some filet, and he does it to my specifications. Additionally, if you need something and they only have it in large packages, just ask him to break it down for you. It’s their pleasure.

Buying frozen instead of fresh

Yuck. Frozen food is not good. I’m sure it’s not bad, but I have such a hard time eating things that have been frozen. I need it fresh, or don’t tell me it was frozen before. Seriously, I just went to the seafood counter the other day and asked for two pounds of the same peel and eat shrimp we always eat (it’s delicious) and I was shocked when the seafood man said, “Sure, I don’t have two pounds here, but let me grab another bag,” and went to the freezer section and got frozen, bagged shrimp! I asked him for the fresh stuff, and he said, “This is the fresh stuff. This is what we always keep here.” Do yourself a favor, buy fresh.

Shopping the interior

It’s never a good idea to focus on the interior of the store. Shop the exterior; it’s much healthier. The options here are much better. You need fresh veggies, fruit and meat and this is where you are going to find those things. Ignore the middle – except for coffee.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


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