The Grocery Game – Can you save 15% on your groceries?

We all have to buy groceries in order to have food to put on the table during the week; well most of us do at least. Each week we make the trek to the grocery store, to get food, for some of us this is a fairly inexpensive outing but if you live in a big metro area or buy organic everything this could end up being a pricy trip.

For us, a family of three + 1 cat, we typically spend about $150 or so per week on groceries, living in one of these before mentioned metro areas. Now that’s not overly expensive all things considered and works out to about $50/week for every person in the house divided evenly or about $7.15 per day per person. We eat fairly well with lots of fresh veggies and fruit and to top it off we’ve got a picky eater for a daughter.

Some people will be surprised that the number is so high and others the exact opposite. Now when I look at that number I know it can be lower. To prove this I’ve been playing a little grocery store game with myself lately. The game is pretty simple:

What didn’t you need to buy!

The steps to the game are pretty easy:

  1. Go to the store and get what you need for the week, make sure you take the receipt.
  2. Sit down with that receipt and go through it line by line asking the question: what didn’t we need? Essentially, did you need the item purchased or not.
  3. Add up these items.
  4. Next week – repeat and see if you can beat last week’s score and what is the lowest amount you can get.

I’ve been playing the game for a few weeks now and inevitably I have items on the list that we didn’t need. The game is very simplistic but it shows a few very important things:

You will buy things you didn’t need

For example this week, I bought a jug of apple cider. Now this is something that can easily be replaced by drinking water, even if its boring. Or you can simply buy apple juice which can come in a can for less than a dollar. Snack food is often a big component of this amount for me. Don’t get me wrong these extra items rarely go to waste.

You buy things you think you need but really don’t.

The next item that creeps onto this receipt are things that you thought you need but really didn’t. Again to use my receipt from this week, which is sitting beside my laptop right now, as an example, are apples. Arguably a good thing to have on the list but what you didn’t know is that we had a bunch sitting in the fridge that could have been eaten first. Again this isn’t going to waste because we go through apples pretty quickly but it was something that I thought we needed but didn’t this week.

You got seduced by a sale.

I got lucky this week because all of the things that were on sale in the cart were things we actually needed. But let’s not kid ourselves if we see a ridiculous sale on something non-perishable we can easily be seduced into getting it even if we don’t need it at the moment. I will freely admit that I have made these purchases buying boxes of crackers or 6-packs of diet coke when they are drastically slashed. These are calculated purchases intended to save me money in the long run. But this also apples to being seduced by the idea of saving a lot of money on something we won’t use.

How to use the Grocery game to your advantage.

Now for the most important part of the grocery game: use it as incentive to buy fewer things you didn’t need. Going back to those apples I mentioned earlier. I need to make sure to remember to double check if we still have apples before going to the store next week and I can take that extra charge of $3 off next week’s receipt.

For arguments sake let’s say that in the course of a week we can trim about $20 of purchases that we didn’t need from the grocery store trip. This will amount to about 13% of the budget (in our case) and if we can keep it up over the course of a year it amounts to just over $1,000 for the year. All of a sudden that doesn’t seem like a small number.

The caveat here is that we can probably reduce our grocery bill a lot more if we needed to or really wanted to but my intent isn’t to be as frugal as possible. It’s to use a simplistic game to remove unnecessary spending and show you that being more conscious of your spending can allow you to spend less without any real need to cut back.

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