How to Spend Less when Shopping

Shop for Less in Uganda

More than half of all grocery purchases are unplanned! No wonder creating and sticking to a list can bring down grocery costs.

But that’s not the only way to save money at the supermarket. Over the past two years, so many people have published a lot of tips for saving money on your grocery bill.

Some of these have been obvious, others less so. All of them can help you save at the supermarket. Here are some of the best:

Craft a list, and stick to it
This is the basic rule of shopping. The list stands for your grocery needs: the staples you are out of, and the food you need for upcoming meals. When you stray from the list, you are buying on impulse, and that’s how shopping trips get out of control.

Sure, a magazine only costs Shs 5000, but if you spend an extra Shs 5000 every time you make a trip to the supermarket, you waste a lot of money.

Evaluate unit pricing
The largest pack up is not always the most cost-effective. Shops know that consumers want to buy in bulk, and so they mix it up: sometimes the bulk item is cheaper, sometimes it’s more expensive.

The only way you can be sure is to take a calculator. Our super markets posts unit pricing for most items, which makes comparisons easy.

Ditch the basket or trolley:
If you are dashing into the supermarket to pick up milk and bread, don’t use a basket. Baskets induce people to buy more. If you’re limited to what you can carry, you’re more likely to avoid impulse purchases. Only use a basket (or shopping cart) if it’s absolutely necessary.

Do not scrutinize things you don’t need
The more you interact with something, the more likely you are to buy it. Virtually all unplanned purchases come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment.

Do you know why grocery stores place those displays in the aisles? They want to intentionally block traffic. They want to force you to stop, if only for a moment. It only takes a few seconds of idly staring at the cutlery to convince you to buy them. Stay focused.

Live on the edge
Health-conscious shoppers know that the perimeter of the store is where the good stuff is. The baked goods, dairy products, fresh meats, and fruits and vegetables are generally placed along the outside edge of the supermarket, while the processed stuff can be found up and down the aisles.

But shopping the edges isn’t just healthier, it’s cheaper too. Stock up on the fresh food first, and then venture to the middle of the store.

Thrust aside brand loyalties
Be willing to conduct experiment. You may have a favorite brand of cereal, for example, but does it really matter? Go with what is on sale for the lowest unit price.

You may find you like the less expensive product just as well. If you try a cheaper brand and are disappointed, it’s okay to return to your regular brand.

Choose generic
Better yet, try the store brand. Generic and store brand products are cheaper than their name-brand equivalents and are usually of similar quality. But do you know why you’re reluctant to try generics?

The power of marketing. Most generics have unappealing packaging. If they cost less and taste the same, who cares?

Make one large trip instead of several small ones.

Each time you enter the super market is another chance to spend. By reducing the frequency of your trips, you’re not only avoiding temptation, but you’re also saving money on overhead (time and fuel).

Buy from the bulk bins
Some stores offer bulk bins filled with baking ingredients, cereal, and spices. When you buy in bulk, you get just the amount you need, and you pay less, much less.

Check your receipt
Make sure your prices are scanned correctly. Sale items, especially, have a tendency to be in the computer wrong, and yet few people ever challenge the price at the register. You don’t need to hold up the line: simply watch the price of each item as it’s scanned.

If you suspect an error, step to the side and check the receipt as the cashier begins the next order. If there’s a problem, politely point it out. It’s your money. Ask for it.

Shop alone
In Why We Buy, the author notes that people tend to buy more when shopping in groups than when shopping alone. “But men are especially suggestible to the entreaties of children as well as eye-catching displays.”

People complain that they always spend more on food when they shop together. They are right. If possible, shop alone.

Shop on a full stomach
Studies show that persons who shop when they are hungry buy more. This is certainly true for me: If I go to the shop for milk on a Sunday morning without eating breakfast, I am likely to come home with donuts and orange juice and cookies, too.


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