26 Bad Supermarket Shopping Habits You Need to Break

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We all know the adage, ‘You are what you eat.’ The same goes for your shopping habits – you pay for how you shop! Bad supermarket shopping habits can cost you unnecessary time and money. Luckily, there are ways to tailor your shopping to prevent waste.

Here are 26 bad supermarket shopping habits that you’ll need to break if you want to make the most out of your trips:

  • Not Making a List
  • Ignoring Your Budget (Or Not Setting One)
  • Buying Fruits and Vegetables Out of Season
  • Shopping on an Empty Stomach
  • Going Back to the Same Aisle
  • Forgetting to Make a Weekly Meal Plan
  • Buying Convenience Food Items 
  • Not Checking for Deals
  • Not Taking Advantage of Bulk Items
  • Buying Organic When it’s Not Necessary
  • Avoiding Coupons
  • Shopping at the Wrong Time of Day
  • Grabbing a Cart When You Need a Basket
  • Not Double-Checking the Pantry, Freezer, or Fridge
  • Not Using the Store Apps for Rewards and Cash Back
  • Buying Name Brand Products
  • Buying Fresh Where Frozen Would Suffice
  • Not Buying Portion Sizes
  • Only Shopping at One Store
  • Bringing the Family
  • Shopping at Overpriced Supermarkets
  • Starting with Produce
  • Shopping the End Caps
  • Buying Useless Bulk Items
  • Buying Heads of Greens
  • Choosing to Go For Fresh Fish

1. Not Making a List

The first and most obvious bad supermarket shopping habit you need to break is not making a detailed grocery list. Forgetting to make a list could result in buying things you don’t need or missing something you do (nobody wants to make extra grocery trips during the week).

Before you head out the door, be sure that you have a list of what you need to buy, grouped in sections (Dairy, Meats, Fresh Produce, Frozen Foods, etc.) for a more relaxed in-store experience.

You can also organize your list by which aisles are closest and furthest from the door while still keeping your items in food groups. This will prevent you from walking to the front and back of the store more times than necessary. Try only to buy what’s on the list to stick to your budget and avoid time wasters!

2. Ignoring Your Budget (Or Not Setting One)

While spending a little extra money here and there is fine, you don’t want to do it every time you go to the supermarket (which is once a week for most families). Take a few minutes to sit down and determine your weekly grocery budget. Keep any money-saving goals, monthly bills, upcoming events, and so on in mind when deciding how much to spend at the store each week.

Once you’ve got your budget, stick to it! It’s never a good idea to spend money you don’t have.

3. Buying Fruits and Veggies Out of Season

Figuring out which fruits and vegetables are in season is an awesome money-saver. For stores to make a profit on the items you buy, they have to factor in shipping costs and how long it takes for the product to arrive at the store before settling on selling price. Items that have to come from other countries during the cold season will have a drastic spike in their price compared to when they can be grown locally.

Use a seasonal produce guide, like this one, to see what fresh produce is best to purchase.

4. Shopping on an Empty Stomach

Being hungry makes grocery shopping a highly unproductive experience. Rather than sticking to your list of healthy options and budget-friendly items, you’re instead looking at those tasty cupcakes, and a vast array of snacks that you kind-of-but-don’t-really need.

Let’s face it: shopping when you feel like you could eat a cow leads to impulsive buying and a mountainous cart. Try eating a meal before you go to the store, or bring a small snack and drink along with you to tide you over until you make it home.

5. Going Back to the Same Aisle

So, we already talked about how you should have a list grouped in food or product types. Be sure that, as you’re heading down each aisle, you’re thoroughly scanning the shelves and refrigerators for the items on your list so that you cross off everything in that category. This can save lots of time and prevent backtracking to areas of the store you’ve already been to.

26 Bad Supermarket Shopping Habits You Need to Break

6. Forgetting to Make a Weekly Meal Plan

You can’t have a list without a meal plan, can you? Well, you can, but it won’t be a very productive list. You can put many general items on your grocery list, like chicken or biscuits, but it won’t be helpful to do so unless it’s for a recipe that you already have in the back of your mind.

Instead of having chicken on your list for whatever you can conjure up during the week, you can have chicken for chicken and dumplings!

7. Buying Convenience Food Items

Most of us like to save time in the kitchen whenever we can. Spending 30 extra minutes chopping vegetables or dicing meat isn’t exactly a joy for the average home cook – but it will save you money in the long run.

Just because you don’t have to spend the time cutting up produce doesn’t mean someone else in your family doesn’t. Instead of paying the additional expense for pre-cut, pre-prepped or pre-anything-else produce, opt for doing it yourself or enlisting help from your family members. It can be a really fun activity to do together, too!

8. Not Checking for Deals

Pretty much every store on the face of the planet has a deal once in a while, so not keeping an eye out for deals is a missed opportunity. Check your local supermarket flyers often for promotions and deals to help you decide what to stock up on the next shopping week.

9. Not Taking Advantage of Bulk Items

If you’re bopping around the store and happen to see something selling in bulk that you don’t need today but will need in the upcoming weeks – like more paper towels or toilet paper – you may want to consider spending the extra money now so that you can save in your upcoming supermarket trips.

Items that come in bulk are less expensive in the long run by keeping you from having to buy that item as often. You also save on packaging costs that are passed on to you from the seller.

10. Buying Organic When It’s Not Necessary

It’s important to eat healthily, and buying organic foods is the best way to do that. However, organic produce can quickly burn a hole in your pocket. If you’re looking to save money at the store, consider only getting organic produce when it’s necessary.

Consider buying the “clean 15” as nonorganic and only buying the “dirty dozen” organic to save money.

Clean 15 Dirty Dozen
Avocado Potatoes
Sweet Corn* Tomatoes
Papaya* Celery
Pineapple Peaches
Frozen Sweet Peas Apples
Onion Pears
Cauliflower Grapes
Eggplant Cherries
Asparagus Nectarines
Broccoli Spinach
Mushroom Strawberries
Cantaloupe Kale
Honeydew Melon

*Produce is sometimes grown using GMOs in the United States. Avoid if this is a concern.

11. Avoiding Coupons

Like in-store deals, supermarkets often have either paper or digital coupons that you can use. Be on the lookout for any coupons that you can use during your weekly grocery trips to save you a few hard-earned bucks.

12. Shopping at the Wrong Time of Day

Going shopping at prime times, like on the weekends in the afternoon, is a recipe for crowded stores and empty shelves. Try going to the supermarket when fewer people are going to be there. This is most often right when the store opens or evenings on days that are usually busier for most people – usually any time mid-week.

You can also take advantage of any times the general public will be fighting to make their way home, like on football nights or during the Super Bowl. There’s a chance you won’t find everything you need, but it’s worth a shot if your goal is to avoid crowds and find deals on party items like snacks, paper and plastic utensils, or napkins.

13. Grabbing a Cart When You Need a Basket

While baskets aren’t ideal for a full week’s shopping if you just need to grab a few things for the next upcoming dinners, stick to a basket rather than going for a full-fledged shopping cart. This will prevent you from grabbing anything that you don’t need and keep you focused on the necessities.

14. Not Checking the Pantry, Freezer, and Fridge for Things You Already Have

26 Bad Supermarket Shopping Habits You Need to Break

Though it’s good to have a few items stocked up in your pantry, if ever you need them, you don’t want to waste money each week when what you have is at home. Routinely check your freezer, fridge, and pantry each week for products on your list to avoid buying duplicates.

15. Not Using the Store Apps for Rewards, Cash-Back, and Other Features

Some supermarkets like Walmart, Target, Publix, and Whole Foods have apps that you can download for cash-back, coupons, and reward opportunities. Some apps even allow you to make a list or order for pickup to save even more time!

Be sure to download these apps, or look to see if your local supermarket has one, for exclusive deals.  

16. Buying Name Brand Products

Unless you’re convinced that your name brand product is the only company with the quality you’re looking for, try shopping around for generic brand products, instead.

Because of advertising, brand name products can cost anywhere between 30 cents to 5 dollars more than generic foods – without being of better quality. Imagine how much you could save in a year by dropping even a few of your brand name products!

17. Buying Fresh Where Frozen Would Suffice

While fresh fruits and vegetables are necessary for a healthy diet, they’re not always necessary for every meal. Rather than buying fresh strawberries, blueberries, or tropical fruits for your morning smoothies, try using frozen produce instead.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are less expensive than fresh produce because of the time it takes to package and ship the items. Fresh produce requires faster packaging and shipping – which means more money that you have to spend.

Not only is frozen produce less expensive, but it lasts longer. Fresh produce will last a week or two, at best, while frozen fruits and vegetables can hold out in your freezer safely for months.

18. You Aren’t Buying Portion Sizes

Another way to overspend is by buying too much food. Along with making your list and preparing your meal plans for the week, you should determine the collective portion sizes of your family. This will help you to plan according to what you should be eating, rather than what you can eat.

You’re killing two birds with one stone with this tip – maintaining a consistent weight and saving money!

19. Only Shopping at One Store

Though you might have a favorite store for weekly shopping, keep in mind that different stores will offer various deals and products. Taking a trip to a couple of stores on your shopping day will help you to get the most out of each supermarket. Though this wouldn’t save on much time, it could save you money with various coupons and additional options to choose from.

20. Bringing the Family

They’re wonderful, and you love them. ut they’ll most likely cost you extra money. Unless you have no other choice but to bring them, children (and maybe even husbands) should be left at home to avoid any useless items being secretly tossed into your cart.

21. Shopping at Overpriced Supermarkets

While your local organic, vegan, trendy supermarket may be cool, it probably isn’t the friendliest to your pocketbook. If you’re trying to stick to your budget, you may want to avoid any supermarkets that amp up their prices. Your average store likely has similar products for much less money.

22. Starting with Produce

Though it may be tempting to start crossing produce off your list as soon as you get in the store, this section is filled with tons of colorful, aromatic items that will make your mouth water and probably make you put more in your cart than you need.

Rather than beginning in produce, head to the canned, frozen, and packaged goods first while saving the meats and fresh produce for last.

You should know that supermarkets actually put the produce section FIRST on purpose. Studies have shown that people tend to buy much more when starting with the produce section.

23. Shopping the End Caps

Brand name companies will pay pretty big bucks to have their products placed on the end caps of a store’s aisles. This is because the bright, eye-catching displays naturally attract shoppers and coerce them into buying without giving a thought to the price. To avoid spending more money than your budget can handle, check the price of end cap items, or avoid them entirely.

24. Buying Useless Bulk Items

While we recommended earlier that you buy items you’ll use in bulk whenever available, you should avoid buying in bulk just because. It may seem like a good deal to buy lighter fluid in bulk, so you’ll have it handy, but if you hardly use the grill or light a flame, it doesn’t make much sense, does it?

25. Buying Heads of Greens

Though it probably seems fresher to buy a head of lettuce, if you’re looking to get a variety of leafy greens in your diet, you’re probably better off buying bagged salad products.

This saves money since you won’t have to buy whole heads of different greens and leads to a little less effort in the kitchen. It also cuts down on waste – you know, just in case you forget to chop up that head of lettuce that’s been sitting in the fridge for a few weeks.

26. Buying Fresh Fish

Fish is chock full of fatty acids and protein to keep our bodies healthy and ready to go. So it’s no shock that shoppers head for the fresh fish when they shop for high-quality foods.

But, as it turns out, fish that’s fresh in the supermarket most likely was frozen at one point for preservation during travel and then thawed out to be “fresh” to buy. These extra steps by employees and shipping companies increase the dollar amount, meaning you spend more money. 

Frozen fish is the same quality — and maybe even better — considering it hasn’t been thawed out and refrozen over and over again (and won’t be until it makes it to your house!). Plus, it’s less expensive.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it! Twenty-six bad supermarket shopping habits you need to break to keep that flame out of your pocket. Although it doesn’t seem obvious when you’re amidst all the candy aisles and desserts, the way — and when — you shop impacts how much money you spend and how much time you waste in the store.

Preparedness, before you step foot through the door, is one of the best ways that you can avoid getting off track financially, along with smart in-store habits to prevent impulse purchases and time wasters. Make your list, stick to it, and whatever you do, don’t shop hungry!


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