I used to work at Trader Joe’s, you know, that place where everyone seems like they’re having too much fun? To be honest, I really liked working there; one of the funnest retail jobs I ever had. But it also opened my eyes up to how people wasted so much money at grocery stores. And it also gave me some helpful insight on ways to save money.
They’re easy hacks once you learn to use them, and soon you’ll be spending less on each food run you make.
Look to the Back of Shelves
One of my duties (among many) was to stock the shelves, and it was an easy task. But when I first started stocking produce, such as bags of kale, spinach, or carrots into the shelves, my manager taught me to put the ones labeled with a later expiration date up in the front, and the ones that were new in the back.
When you’re shopping for produce (or any perishable items, like meat), make sure that you take the time to check the dates and reach for the back. Then you won’t be bringing food home that’s ready to go bad, take it out a few days later to cook, and realize it’s already spoiled. This is one of the great and easy ways to save money when shopping.
Know What’s Really Organic
It turns out that even though something is labeled organic, it sometimes doesn’t even mean anything. For instance, you could buy organic mushrooms for $4.99 or save yourself the money and buy regular mushrooms for $2.99 which are basically the same. Certain produce use little to no pesticides when growing, like mushrooms which are all grown inside in a controlled environment; no need for pesticides (or their skin is thick enough, like a watermelon, that pesticides aren’t even able to reach the inside).
Thankfully there’s a list of what to buy and what not to buy organic. And knowing this is one of the great ways to save money.
What NOT to Buy Organic: Mushrooms, avocados, pineapple, onions, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
What You Should Buy Organic (a.k.a. “The Dirty Dozen”): Strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Last Tip on Buying Organic: Before making a final decision on the produce you’re buying, check out the organic produce as well. Sounds counter intuitive, but sometimes certain organic foods are cheaper.
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Coupon App – Shopular
I talk about this app in my post on 5 Amazing Money Saving Apps for Groceries, but it really is worth mentioning here as well. Apps like this are one of the great ways to save money at the store.
How it works is when you start to approach a grocery store, it automatically lets you know of any coupons or deals that you can get when shopping there. Then all you have to do is show the cashier your phone with the app open to the coupons you want to use, and they’ll scan your phone. No need to cut coupons, it’s as simple as that.
Look Below Eye Level
When working at Trader Joe’s, I learned that some of the most expensive items are at eye level. So let’s say you’re shopping for coffee (or whatever necessity you can think of.. Coffee’s a necessity right?), well the first thing you see is at eye level, therefore making it the easiest thing to grab and go.
But one of the great ways to save money is to look down. Some of the cheaper options (that are almost always the same), are going to be a a few shelves under eye level. It’s an easy hack to remember, even if you’re in a rush.
One Impulse Purchase
Trader Joe’s is FULL of impulse purchases, as are many grocery stores. And they especially get you right at the cash register (like with TJ’s sweet sriracha bacon jerky… oh gosh). Now I would usually say, “Resist! Don’t do it!” But that doesn’t always help. Instead, I’m going to suggest that you get just one (relatively inexpensive) impulse purchase.
Reason for this? Well it’s two fold; first of all, some of us are able to resist a time or two and then we might feel as though we deserve to get a few things that aren’t on our list since we’ve been so good (or you just feel plain restricted when shopping). So getting one impulse purchase allows you to not go overboard, but still get something you like.
Second, you haven’t really grown into the ability to say no to impulse purchases when shopping, and that’s ok. But in getting just one impulse purchase, you’re satisfying the part of you that feels like you need something fun to take home and snack on, but you’re not overspending at the store.
Now I didn’t learn this from working at Trader Joe’s (since TJ’s doesn’t have one), but I did learn this from shopping elsewhere. So yes, you can cut coupons or use Shopular, but why not add on your local grocery store’s rewards programs to cut back more costs. It’s not a credit or debit card, and it’s one of the best ways to save money on groceries.
I’ve been able to save a lot of money by joining a rewards program at the store. I get to take part in all of those deals and save some money. Think of it this way, the store is basically giving some of your money back to you by the time you swipe your rewards card.
It was interesting in my time working at Trader Joe’s to see how people wasted money and learning from it. And just using a few of these tips can prevent you from cringing at the total on your receipt. So even if you’re in a hurry, using these six ways to save money on groceries doesn’t take much time at all and can help you stay on budget.
Now I hope these tips were helpful and if you have any tips yourselves on ways to save money at the grocery store, email me or let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you do!