How Your Grocery Bill Can Go Up 20% Without a List

It’s a very busy Saturday. I’ve got 4 loads of laundry to catch up on, the house to clean and people coming in two hours for dinner. Hubby volunteers to go to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things for me and while I really appreciate the gesture, I graciously turn him down. You see, our budget is $50 a week for groceries and somehow when my darling hubby goes he manages to spend $30 of that on unnecessary items. You know; snacks, junk food and bits like that. Although he walks in with just 3 items on the list, he’s an impulse shopper and comes home telling me how we really needed more Doritos!Impulse shopping will always put you over your budget and retailers know that and position things in the store so that you’ll have to walk past the “goodies” to get to what you really need. A savvy shopper knows this and is prepared.

First off with a list. A list is a way to cut down on huge amounts of impulse buying. Recent research showed that 20% of what we buy is unplanned but that number is decreased if you write it down and stick to the plan.
Unless I’m going in to look, I make a list and then put the blinkers on, moving quickly past all the week’s sale items, past the candy and snacks and to the food we really need. Research shows that my $50/week grocery bill would be increased by $11.50 if I didn’t consciously make a list and only buy things on the list.

There is 25% less unplanned buying by shoppers who use a weekly flyer to get their information and then compile a list from that which also takes planning but is a good idea and can easily be done each week to plan your meals around the sales items.

One last thing I thought was interesting in the study is that impulse buying goes up by 23% if the shopping trip itself was unplanned but goes down 13% if the trip is part of a weekly or major regular shop.

Your mom always told you never to go to the grocery store hungry and you dismissed it as an old wive’s tale but it really makes sense that when we go starving we buy things to satisfy the hunger and not things we need.

A recent Consumer Report discussed impulse buying and warehouse stores. This is a question I get asked a lot as you can really save money by shopping there. However, if you impulse buy at a regular grocery store you may go over your budget by $5. Grab something you don’t need at a warehouse store and you just spent $100.

Avoid browsing the aisles. Sometimes I get distracted and wander up and down and during those moments I’m more likely to get off task and buy things I didn’t come for and we don’t need. If it’s not on my list from home then I mustn’t have thought we needed it and we probably don’t. Keep focused on the store layout and know what you need.

If you’re just running in for the essentials, why not go to a smaller neighborhood store? Sure you may spend more than at the grocery store per item but you’ll avoid the desire to browse and spend.

Research taken from Unplanned Category Purchase Incidence: Who Does It, How Often and Why by David R. Bell, Daniel Corsten, and George Knox.

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