Forget hoarding toilet paper—these new grocery habits may actually save you money

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  • New shopping habits could potentially help to save money on groceries.
  • Majority of shoppers changed how and where they shop.
  • If you pay for groceries with a credit card, make sure you use the one that gives you the most cash back on groceries.

Why did toilet paper disappear so quickly from store shelves and online when the COVID-19 pandemic started? 

According to an article and video on Business Insider, when the pandemic hit, toilet paper sales increased by 845%, which translates to $1.45 billion worth of toilet paper in a single month. Business Insider interviewed NYU Professor and marketing and consumer behavior expert Priya Raghubir, who stated “Toilet paper allows them [consumers] to exert some kind of control over a universe that is completely out of control.”

Now that toilet paper is pretty much restocked, what does the pandemic say about how our grocery shopping habits have changed? 

Can new habits save money?

Overall, the coronavirus has impacted where consumers are shopping, how they are shopping and who is shopping for groceries. And some of these new shopping habits can potentially save money as well.

According to the annual U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends study from the Food Industry Association released last month, “the amount of grocery dollars going to online transactions likely doubled in April compared to what it would have been.”

Here are a few interesting statistics from that study:

  • Shopping Online: Nearly half of respondents (49%) shopped online in May, with 21% shopping online for the first time. 
  • Shopping Faster: 89% changed how they shop, with 32% shopping faster.
  • Shopping at Fewer Stores: 78% changed where they shop, with 40% shopping at fewer stores.
  • Shopping Solo: Over one-third (36%) said they made changes in who does the shopping whether it’s one person in the household who shops (24%) or a relative or friend (11%) does the shopping.

So, how can the above changes in shopping behavior potentially help save money? Shopping online enables you to easily and quickly comparison shop as well as finding coupons and other promotions. 

A good rule of thumb when food shopping is having a shopping list and, of course, sticking to it. We’ve all strayed from our list from time to time, but spending less time in stores and going to fewer stores should help you stick to your list and budget. 

If one person in your household shops instead of two, it can help decrease the chances of overlapping purchases or getting items that aren’t on the list. And if a friend or relative shops for you, he/she will likely stick to your list.  

With rising prices on key grocery items, what other ways can you save money?

You have most likely noticed an increase, or at least a fluctuation, in prices at your local supermarket, from meats, poultry, fish and eggs to fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, whether you go in person or shop online. 

According to the USDA’s Food Price Index, May 2020 saw food prices going up by 4 percent compared to May 2019.

Industry analyst Phil Lempert in an interview with CNBC, said, “Prices are going to continue to go up for a while. It’s probably two to three years until we can have a more efficient supply chain and then they can be reduced.”

The change in shopping habits mentioned above can possibly save some money.

In addition, to the above tips, here are a few other ways you can work to save money on groceries:

  • Choose store brand goods: Oftentimes, generic or store brands are less expensive than name brand items. 
  • Try to avoid food waste: If you don’t think you and your family will eat all of the chicken breasts in a family-size package, you can freeze what you won’t eat or look to buy a smaller amount. 
  • Look for coupons: You don’t need to go extreme with the couponing to save money. Even saving a few dollars is money back in your pocket. Just make sure you are still buying only what you need and not adding extra items just because you have a coupon. 
  • Buy in bulk: If you have the storage space, it’s often cost-effective to buy large quantities of paper goods and other products that won’t spoil if you don’t use them immediately.
  • Meal plan: Related to the tips above about making a list, try planning out your meals for the week. If you can use some items in multiple ways, it’s another great way to stretch your groceries and your dollar. For example, you can roast a chicken for dinner one night and use the leftovers to make chicken salad or add it to some pasta sauce for another meal. 
  • Sign up for your grocer’s membership card: Oftentimes, this is completely free and it grants you access to the in-store promotions the store is offering. There are also several free apps that can help you save money on groceries.

And…using the right credit card is another way to save money. See which of your credit cards offers the best rewards for spending. Some offer cash back or extra points for certain grocery stores. 


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as financial advice.

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