The Checkout Checkup

If you think you're spending too much at the checkout counter, give your shopping habits an overhaul.

by Gary Foreman


If you feel food costs are going through the roof, you are not alone! 

The good news is that groceries are the largest category of spending that we can moderate without making major lifestyle changes. You actually have some control when you push your cart through the aisles.

Not All Groceries Are Food
All of us buy non-food items at the supermarket, and yet we may think of them as part of our grocery budget. With the rise of "super centers," more people are combining their grocery shopping with other shopping. This is convenient, but not always the cheapest solution.

Nine familiar items account for $17 billion in annual sales: laundry detergent, peanut butter, fabric softener, toilet tissue, diapers, coffee, toothpaste, paper towels, and shampoo. With the exception of peanut butter and coffee, none of these is a "food item."

Other bill boosters are pet food and liquor. And don't forget greeting cards and DVD rentals that figure into many of our grocery bills!

Take these purchases into consideration when you figure what you actually spend on feeding your family.

Know Your Habits
The best way to reduce your bill is to study your family's habits and see where you can make changes to save money. Every family's situation is different.

Begin by analyzing your receipts. What items are the most expensive? Work on them first. Can they be eliminated entirely? If not, are there lower cost alternatives?

Junk food drives up grocery bills but so do other things. Your diet also makes a big difference. Vegetables and starches cost less than meat and so a diet that includes a lot of meat will be more expensive than others.

Likewise, some specialty foods and those labeled as low calorie, low sugar, and low salt will add heft to your bill. The same is true for convenience items, such as frozen foods and pre-cut veggies. 

With a few changes -- such as cooking more "from scratch" and buying less expensive personal care items, for instance -- you can probably cut your total by a considerable amount.


Gary Foreman is a former purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and ezine.