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While a lot of people lost income during the pandemic, many also found themselves spending much less. Entire spending categories, from travel and entertainment to salons and dining out, were erased when the country went into the first wave of pandemic lockdowns.
I saved money in many of those categories, but there was one area in which my spending skyrocketed during the first few months of the pandemic: food. I was ordering delivery more than I should have been, but I was also spending a lot more at the grocery store as cooking became one of the few hobbies I could still partake in. Here's a simple trick I used to get my supermarket spending under control.
I only buy what I can physically carry home
After a couple months of filling up an entire cart on grocery store trips and consistently leaving with a total over $100, I decided to make a new rule for myself at the grocery store: I'm not allowed to buy more than I can physically carry.
Because I live within walking distance of several grocery stores, I stopped driving to them altogether and started walking to force myself to stick to this rule. I bring two reusable bags and fill them up, knowing that each time I put an item in my bag, it's another thing I'm going to have to lug home.
If you don't live within walking distance of a grocery store, there are still ways to force yourself to be more selective with what you buy. You can simply stick to two bags (or however many you find reasonable), or you can opt for using a basket instead of a cart when you shop.
Of course, buying less on each grocery store visit wouldn't really work if I simply started to make more shopping trips. So, I also limited the number of trips I make. I go to the farmer's market once each week and then allow myself to go to the supermarket once every other week, rather than popping over there every time I need one or two things.
How much I've saved since changing my grocery shopping habits
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was spending more money on groceries than I've ever spent before. My total for groceries in May came out to nearly $500, with me spending over $100 on most of my supermarket trips.
Since I started walking to the store and limiting my trips, I've been spending about $250 to $350 per month on groceries, and my visits usually cost me around $50 to $75 each. This is still more than I spent before the pandemic, but that's to be expected given that I'm home a lot and not really eating out.
I'm aiming to keep my monthly spending on groceries below $300 from now on so that extra money can go into my savings account. I've also been able to use my rewards credit card to earn extra credit card points on groceries through all this, which helps me save even more. My favorite credit card even offers discounts and free delivery with a major food delivery app, so I save money when I order in too -- even though I try to limit my spending on deliveries.
Food is one of our biggest spending categories, and it's one of the few spending areas that we have a lot of control over. Whenever I want to rein in my budget, I look to my food expenses first. A few minor adjustments never fail to save me hundreds over time.