Stick to the shopping list

There are temptations abound in a grocery store, and unlike other stores, it’s reasonable to convince yourself that you 'need' these things, Hamm writes.

Kyle Bursaw/DeKalb Daily Chronicle/AP/File
In this September 2012 file photo, Katie Myers, 25, puts gluten-free chocolate Chex into her cart while shopping at a grocery store in Sycamore, Ill. Hamm recommends pledging to not buy a single item that’s not on your grocery list.

Yesterday, I mentioned the idea of using a “time limit” to keep yourself from spending too much time in a specific store. It’s a tactic I find useful, particularly when I visit a store that’s full of temptation for me where very few things are items I actually need, like a bookstore.

In other stores, though, I find such a “time limit” to be difficult. If I’m going to the store to buy groceries, for example, and I have a list with forty items on it, it’s pretty hard for me to gauge exactly how long it’s going to take. It takes time to find the items, compare sizes, and pick the right one, after all.

Of course, when you spend a lot of time wandering up and down the aisles, it’s incredibly easy to find something that’s not on your list but that you can easily fit into a meal at home. I do this all the time.

I’ll be strolling down the aisle looking for eggs and I’ll notice that they have fresh feta in stock, which both Sarah and I love sprinkled on our salads. 

I’ll be looking for orange juice and I’ll spot apple cider (which is pretty much the taste of fall for me).

I’ll be in the cereal aisle intending to buy some Cheerios from my kids when my eyes will spy some Grape Nuts (my favorite dry breakfast cereal).

You get the idea. There are temptations abound in a grocery store, and unlike other stores, it’s reasonable to convince yourself that you “need” these things.

Different tactics are in order.

For me, the best solution to curb impulse buys in a grocery store is to simply remind myself that “the buck stops here” when it comes to my grocery list. I make my shopping decisions before I ever walk in the door, in other words.

I simply pledge to not buy a single item that’s not on my grocery list.

That doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to temptations. What I’ll often do is take a mental note of anything that seems interesting and talk the purchase over with Sarah the next time we make a grocery list (assuming, of course, that the item is actually important enough for me to remember it).

Doing this forces me to make my grocery list carefully and thoughtfully, but the end result is a much lower total at the checkout aisle.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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