We've all got to eat, which is why we don't question spending money at the grocery store. But if you're someone who pays attention to where your money goes, you know that a hefty percentage of your pay check is spent at the supermarket. The grocery store is a money-making business. And they use tricks to get you to spend more than you need to (like placing all of the most expensive items at eye level).
While you can't cut groceries out of your budget, there are many ways you can avoid over-spending on groceries. Don't let them swindle you -- learn 20 ways to save money at the store in the slideshow below.
We started with nine tips and have now added 11 new ones to help you save.
Do you have money-saving tips for the grocery store? Let us know!
The Offender: The Inner Aisles
Grocery stores are designed in such a way to have the essential ingredients such as dairy and produce on <a href="http://www.curbly.com/users/diy-maven/posts/2289-top-20-ways-to-save-money-at-the-grocery-store" target="_hplink">opposite ends of the store</a>. This forces most shoppers to pass through all the aisles, often times picking up items they don't need. Try to skip the middle of the store and stick to only the items you need.
The Offender: Toiletries
While buying toiletries at the supermarket may be easy, you're paying a price for that convenience. Save those items for the pharmacy, where they are usually cheaper.
The Offender: Brand Names
You might be used to a particular brand of cereal or sugar, but the generic options are usually cheaper. The grocery store brands often use name-brand products with their own labels on it; and they offer it at a better price. Just check the ingredients to be sure you are getting the same product.
The Offender: Prepared Foods
Don't buy the pre-made foods such as potato salad at the store, when you can purchase the ingredients and make it for a fraction of the price at home. And it'll taste much better fresh too.
The Offender: The Middle Shelves
Since we tend to look at items that are at our eye level, grocery stores know to place the <a href="http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cheap/331Ways/DailyLife/groceries.asp " target="_hplink">more expensive items on the shelves we see first</a>. When shopping, look at the higher and lower shelves for cheaper items.
The Offender: Shopping With Children
While sometimes we can't avoid shopping with children, it's best to try to buy your groceries when they're not around. Children will often want to buy food items that you don't need, and it isn't always easy to say no.
The Offender: Grated Cheese
Just like with pre-packaged lettuce and pre-cut fruit, grated cheese costs you extra for the convenience it brings you. But it's not that hard to grate your own cheese. With a less expensive block of cheese, and a cheap box grater, you can start saving money on this ingredient.
The Offender: Shopping When Hungry
Many of us go to the grocery store after work and before dinner, which is when we start to get hungry. If you buy your groceries when hungry, you'll <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-willpower/201107/the-neurobiology-dont-shop-when-youre-hungry" target="_hplink">purchase more than you need</a>. Try to get the shopping out of the way on the weekends, when you can shop on a full stomach.
The Offender: Forgetting Rain Checks
When an item that most people use (like olive oil) goes on sale at the store, it sells out quickly. Inquire about <a href="http://couponing.about.com/cs/aboutcouponing/a/raincheck.htm" target="_hplink">getting a rain check</a> on that item. Some grocery stores offer an extension on sold-out sale items.
The Offender: No Grocery List
You might have an incredible memory, making it able to remember everything you need from the store without having to write it down (an admirable and uncommon skill). And while writing a grocery list does help many of us remember what we need to get, more importantly, it keeps us from buying the things we don't need (if we stick to our list).
The Offender: Price Comparision
Almost all supermarkets list the unit price of their items. It's wise to look at these as they make it easy to see which brand really gives you the best deal for your money. This way you can avoid being fooled by overly packaged items with little inside.
The Offender: Pre-Packaged Salad
Yes, it's convenient to have your lettuce in already-clean-and-trimmed plastic tubs, but it also costs nearly three times the price. If you buy your own head of lettuce, wash and trim it right away, and have it ready to use, you won't even notice the difference (and you'll save quite a few bucks a month).
The Offender: Canned Beans
Many people opt for canned beans because they're too intimidated to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/susies-beans_n_1062584.html" target="_hplink">cook their own</a>. But making a good pot of beans is really easy. So fear it no longer, and start saving some money by buying the bags of dried beans instead of cans. While the difference in price is not enough to break the bank, these little changes will add up.
The Offender: Pre-Cut Fruit
If someone is getting paid to do a job that you could easily do yourself at home (like cutting up a mango or watermelon) you're going to be paying for it.
The Offender: Out-Of-Season Produce
You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: eat the produce that's in season. Not only will it taste infinitely better, but it will save you serious money. Because it costs them less to produce fruit and veggies that are local and in season, it costs less for you to buy it.
The Offender: Bottled Water
Bottled water is a billion dollar industry, and it's coming out of your pocket. An average 16 oz. bottle of water costs about a dollar, and it's recommended that you drink four of them a day; that equates to $120 dollars a month on something you can get for free from your faucet.
The Offender: Spice Mixes
Fancy spice mixes and marinade rubs can easily set you back $5 a piece. This is the biggest waste of money since you can make your own spice mix with seasonings you most likely already have on hand (a large portion of most of the mixes being salt).
The Offender: Microwaveable Popcorn
This item is a major culprit of wasting your money. Sometimes you can pay almost double the price just for the convenience of having individual microwaveable bags. But what you're really doing is paying more for inferior popcorn. Save money, pop your own, and enjoy the real flavor of freshly popped corn.
The Offender: Fresh Herbs
You're literally throwing money away by not starting your own herb garden. Fresh herbs cost a small fortune at the grocery store. Often times you can buy an entire plant for less than you can a few sprigs at the supermarket. And while not everyone has space for a garden, most people can fit at least a few pots somewhere in their home.
The Offender: Exotic Spices
While experimenting with your cooking is a good idea, it's not always wise to buy those spices at your local grocery store. Taking the time to make a trip to an international market can save you a ton (almost 10 times in savings) on spices and specialty ingredients.
WATCH: How To Do Your Grocery Shopping