Here Are 5 Financial Mistakes That Cost You When Grocery Shopping

I’m constantly reading and writing about ways to save money when you grocery shop. It’s the reason why I started writing Super Saving Tips in the first place back in 2014. It’s kind of funny really, because all of us spend so much of of our time and money on the grocery shopping experience that you’d think after a reasonable amount of time doing it, it wouldn’t be so complicated. But it is if you want to avoid these financial mistakes.

Cash register drawer representing financial mistakes when grocery shopping

That’s primarily because of two reasons. First, grocery stores are really, really good at the strategies involved in making you buy more of what they want you to buy and getting better at it all the time! Second, and this is the killer, we are all just plain lazy when it comes to grocery shopping. And in the 21st century, we are worse than ever. So if you want to know why you are making costly financial mistakes at the grocery store every week, just look at yourself in the mirror!

5 Financial Mistakes When Grocery Shopping

Mistake #1 – You just totally wing it

You are a busy person, no doubt. That’s even truer if you work all week and are tired and stressed at the end of the day and on weekends. So when that happens all the time, you find an easy way to deal with grocery shopping and that’s a “quick trip” just to pick up something for dinner and that my friends is a big mistake when you do it all the time. Talk about budget busting and laziness combined, you will always pay more for unplanned trips and purchases when food shopping.

Prepared foods always cost more than any do-it-yourself home cooked meal and second, it’s nowhere near a healthy way to go, is it? Once in a while, there’s nothing wrong with filling the hole in your schedule and meal planning, but when you are shopping too often like that and doing it every week, the result is disaster!

The bottom line here is that “winging it”—shopping without a plan and rushing for time—will cost you big time.

Mistake #2 – Falling for grocery store strategies

This is where the store strategists really shine and you don’t have a chance to win. The layout of every single supermarket, no matter the chain, is made with a very specific goal in mind. That goal is to tempt shoppers every step of the way!

The grocery stores are strategically designed to make you want more. Expressions like “eye level is buy level” means products positioned right in front of you are likely to sell better. That’s why you should make it a point to shop the lower and higher levels of the shelves to find the best deals.

When you walk into a supermarket, your goal is to spend as little money as possible, yet the supermarket wants you to spend as much money as it can wring from your wallet. So in a real sense, it’s a war between you and them. And guess what? If you aren’t well planned, just like in any war, you can’t win.

The best defense against having no plan is to make a great shopping list before you go. Your grocery list is paramount when it comes to saving you money. When you have a targeted list, you will simply just spend less than without one.

Note: Keep a list of things you already have in your home pantry and check it before you shop. That way you won’t end up buying more of something you already have.

Mistake #3 – Shopping in bulk

It’s easy to think that you’re getting a better deal when you buy in bulk, but that’s not necessarily so. Instead, analyze the cost per unit and see if it is worth buying the larger option. In many cases, the products on sale cost less even in smaller packages than any bulk-sized items.

With the sizes in the warehouse clubs (which I seriously bash unless you are shopping for a really large family), we all believe that bigger is always better. That is simply not true and a big mistake!

On a regular basis, your local supermarket sale prices will beat the warehouse club everyday prices.

Mistake #4 – You are brand loyal

Just because a box of crackers isn’t from your favorite name brand doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying. Supermarkets today have store brands/generic brands that are often significantly less expensive and can be as good as or even better than brand name products. Many items are actually made at the same factories as the brand items under a private label contract.

Brand name products can cost anywhere from 10% to 40% more than generic or store brand items. Additionally, store generics usually have a product guarantee that if you don’t like the item, you can get a full refund. So why not try them and cut your shopping bill?

Mistake #5 – You never check your receipt for errors

This one is just plain laziness if you don’t do it. Monitoring the register when the cashier is quickly scanning your food items and ringing you up to make sure there are no pricing mistakes is not easy to do (especially if you’re bagging at the same time). That’s why after checking out, you need to check your receipt before you leave the store.

You may have a false sense that today with all of the computers involved, errors just don’t happen. But I am here to tell you that almost every time I shop, I find an error. Usually, it’s a mistake by the cashier who may punch in a fruit or fresh veggie item incorrectly if it doesn’t scan, but it also happens when prices haven’t updated properly and sales prices may not have entered the system, or your digital coupon wasn’t applied.

From punching in the wrong produce code to missing out on a currently promoted sale, it’s possible you’re overpaying if you aren’t reviewing your bill. It takes just few minutes to review a receipt, but before you exit for home, do it even if you’re owed just 50 cents. It all adds up to saving your money!

Final Thoughts

In reality, there are dozens of weekly mistakes you make when you grocery shop. Some of those bad habits are hard to break, maybe even impossible. The one you hear about not shopping with your kids may be one of them.

But if you know what you are not doing in an attempt to save money, why not at least defend your money and try? That’s why something simple like making a list or checking your receipt works so well. It saves money every time. Today, with inflation rising by the minute, you can’t afford to make many financial mistakes. You need to save…now!

Is saving at the grocery store a challenge for you? If so, can you make a commitment to avoid these 5 financial mistakes that throw your hard-earned money away? What other ways can you think of that you waste your money now that you can change?


  1. Bobby

    I dont think im in the majority here but every time I try to go to the store too fill my fridge I just get more angry at all the inflation happening. But like you have wrote before I make out my list after looking at the add for the week. I’ve been pretty good at keeping my savings for what it’s worth pretty high. Do the best you can and try too save some money. Hopefully this inflation rate will decrease in the future.

    1. Bobby, I’d say your feelings are right on the spot. It’s a real challenge these days to try and shop, eat healthy, and not break your budget and for a while it’s going to stay just that way. That’s why you do the things you’re doing to at least limit the damages. Try to find the store that has the best prices, coupons, and selections that you like best and that may even mean going to more than one store each week to shop the specials that all stores use to get you in the door. If you have more than one neighborhood market, see if that helps in getting a few needed items for less. Thanks for reading and good luck to you.

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