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Budget Shopping for Food

Updated on October 30, 2011

The Refrigerator is Empty!

Perhaps a better subtitle would be, "My Wallet is EMPTY!". If you are like so many of us who just can't understand why food costs so much these days, more and more of our income is going towards just feeding our faces. Yes we are all victims of the current early 21st century economy and jobs are really bad right now. But the good news is that there are tricks you can do to drastically reduce your food bill at the supermarket.

Let's talk about the pitfalls of how you shop at the supermarket. Find shopping tricks to give you the most food in your shopping bags.


Purchasing Psychology

Usually your supermarket shopping experience is cheerful with wonderful fragrances wafting past your nose. Bright cheerful signs with delicious pictures of food just cascading across your vision. Don't forget the friendly staff cooking up tasty morsels for you to gobble up.

You are in a marketing firestorm of temptation, so how strong are you in these conditions? Did the fudge brownie on the right get to you yet? It is tough to be indifferent when your senses are being inundated with influence. Hang in there while we take a look at the tricks used on us to make us buy everything in sight. Then we can look at the more sensible ways to purchasing our food.

Top of the list items supermarkets use to influence your buying decisions. Check them out.

  • Go for the nose! Did you know many popcorn vendors vent the cooker out where your nose can't miss it.
  • Go for the eyes! Did the fudge brownie above get you, need we say more.
  • Go for the impulse! Influential name brands, candy bars, deli counters all urge you to buy.
  • Go for the wallet! Discounted, on sale, coupons and marked down, but what you see is not always what you get.
  • Go for the children! There is a reason the candy is down low on the shelves,

As we move on remember that any commercial operation is tuned to extract as much money from your wallet as possible. They use professionals in marketing techniques to accomplish this very complex task, now you can politely push back a bit and find the absolute best value for your dollar. At the same time you can send a message to the marketing folks that you mean business too.

Consumer Buying Tips

Now let's tip the spending balance into your favor. By using the supermarket marketing tricks in your favor you can save lots of money while shopping for all your favorite treats.

First watch out for commonly used slight of hand methods that you might not notice. Then avoid the tricks and choose the sensible alternative.

  • High end coupons used on name brands might not be less expensive than a store brand product. A large $2 or $3 coupon on a name brand might still be more expensive than the store or generic brand.
  • Use the Unit Pricing sticker, these are your friends. Always compare similar items against the unit pricing. Just make sure that the the units are compatible, ounces vs ounces or sheets vs sheets. On one occasion a store made the font so small that most people couldn't read the Unit Price!
  • Check the weight or quantity against the competing items. Boxes or containers do not have to reflect by appearance how much is in them. Have you seen huge cereal boxes that are only half full? How about huge candy packages with two small candies inside.
  • Meat sales are really tricky, prime pieces of meat packaged on top of lesser quality meat. Does the color of the hamburger match the percentage of fat advertised? Is the expire date still valid?
  • Generic Brands offer large discounts over the name brands. Most generic brands today are just as good and tasty as the name brands, you must control your bias over assuming that generics are somehow inferior.
  • Buy one get one free is just another way to say 50% off of our very high original price. Did you know that most stores allow you to buy just one of those items and still get it at half price. Do you feel obligated to buy 10 items when they advertise 10 for a supposed quantity price? Well don't do it, you can still buy one for 1/10th the advertised price.
  • Expiration Dates are your friends as well, but don't get caught paying full price for and old product. Many stores will place expired or close to expired items on a rack at the back of the store. Just be sure that you have a plan to use the item very soon after purchase.
  • Deli Ends leftovers are the very ends of the meat and cheese products in the deli. The prices for these items are often less than half of the original prices. Again be prepared to use these items fairly soon after you buy them.

Stay the Course, Eat Frugally.

Once you practice these frugal techniques to your food shopping, the refrigerator will fill up and your wallet won't be empty. You can stay ahead of the game by being careful about how you purchase your food. Want to keep your budget in good working shape? Read about more tips on budgeting at Smart Personal Finances by Don Fairchild.

Happy Shopping!


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    • Don Fairchild profile image

      Don Fairchild 6 years ago from Belgrade, ME

      Thanks B.A. for reading. The only problem I have with those zero balance coupon people, is when I go to find an item at the store and there is none left... Grrr....

    • B. A. Williams profile image

      B. A. Williams 6 years ago from USA

      Good pointers since I am a run in and run out shopper that is shocked at the total.

      I have just started cutting coupons but alas forget to bring them with me if I go shopping. A couple of times I noticed one store that always has buy one get one free if a coupon was used it could bring the price to zero.

      The show on TV of shoppers using coupons and spending say $300 and come out with a zero balance or money in hand amazes me.

      America cries about obesity, but if you notice the things that keep people's weight down are dear in price, isn't a catalyst for the poor person to eat healthy.

      Great article!

    • Don Fairchild profile image

      Don Fairchild 6 years ago from Belgrade, ME

      Thank you for your comments, yes we (my wife and I) do a lot with generic vits and meds. We like some of the new programs for generics for instance at Walmart. Watch for more articles on other cost saving ideas...

      Thanks again


    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 6 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      I personally use generic brands for my meds and vitamins and I realize that they do the job just as well as branded meds and vits do. There are many generic brands out there that are good substitutes, if not far better than, branded products.

    • Don Fairchild profile image

      Don Fairchild 6 years ago from Belgrade, ME

      Thanks Mel22 and roanna,

      I have to thank my wife Pam for this tip. I used to fall for the "WOw 2 and three dollars off must be a bargin", no not true most of the time... And I drool over that fudge brownie picture all the time.... Ha.

      Enjoy, and watch for my other money saving articles, like keeping a tight budget.



    • roanna profile image

      roanna 6 years ago from Virginia

      Great Advice!It is true, that even if you are using coupons, make sure to check if the generic brand is still cheaper without a coupon!

    • mel22 profile image

      mel22 6 years ago from ,

      unit pricing sticker; i use that all the time...and yes, that dessert pic got me.. time to go get some key lime pie...DOOOHHH!

    • Don Fairchild profile image

      Don Fairchild 6 years ago from Belgrade, ME

      Thanks for the kudos, it is appreciated. I am new to HubPages and I am still feeling my way around, kind of like a late arriving person to a movie theater who can't see their seat in the dark. :-)

      Best to you,


    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      Very informative hub. I don't get to use a lot of coupons since I buy the store brand on most items. It is usually cheaper even with double coupons. Thanks!