5 Unnecessary Items I Spent 30 Dollars On When I Broke The Cardinal Rule Of Grocery Shopping

A recent shop at the grocery store revealed some upsetting truths about myself. First of all, I realized that I truly hate grocery shopping – it is boring, and borderline stressful. Second of all, I realized that the cardinal rule of grocery shopping certainly holds true: don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

It is one of the quickest and easiest money-saving tips people will give you. If you go to a grocery store prepared to spend on food, and are super hungry while doing so, you may find yourself loading your card with a lot more unnecessary items than you would have if you had a full belly and the will to just stuck to your list.

I have a pretty simple list when I grocery shop – we don’t get too creative over here, and we also don’t tend to purchase a lot of snack foods or “extras”, so it is often just the basics: eggs, sometimes meat, lots of vegetables, and little Flavor-Town things we’ve run out of, like soy sauce or chicken stock. It is a list that is basic enough for me to go grocery shopping every week for around $50 and make plenty of good, nutritious meals out of.

But when I found myself in the aisle with my best friend, super-hungry, borderline lethargic, and trying to figure out what we wanted to cook for dinner together, I also found myself throwing things into my basket that had nothing to do with my meal plan for the coming weeks, and actually were low-key terrible for my overall health.

I learned (the hard way) that I can’t exactly pull off a weekly grocery shopping on an empty stomach, lest I arrive home with boxes of snack foods I’ll never eat, and no actual things I can create meals out of.

Because yes, I forgot basically all of the things that were actually on my list. But here are all of the other things I spent an extra $30 on this week at the store this week by going shopping while hungry. (You may see a pattern here — delicious, sugary, and generally not worthy of eating for actual fuel).

1. A box of Ritz Bits cheese crackers.

I don’t actually remember the last time I ate these things, although I can only imagine it was in some sort of summer-camp setting in my early youth. The demand for these has definitely gone way down, because regular Ritz crackers (which really still hold up) are over $3, but Ritz Bits crackers were only about a dollar. But my growling tummy saw them on the shelf and H-A-D to have them immediately. I spent a lot of time in the aisle deciding if I were Team Ritz Bits Cheese or Team Ritz Bits Peanut Butter, and decided on cheese. It was sort of a mistake, because the cheese ones aren’t very good. The peanut butter ones probably aren’t much better, though. But it is okay, I spent hardly over a buck to figure it out.

2. A lot of Watermelon seltzer.

I had to start buying bottles of seltzer instead of cans because I am a pro at opening a can of seltzer, having a sip, and then forgetting it and finding it hours later once it has gone flat. I broke my rule immediately when I saw that watermelon-lemonade flavored seltzer has been released for the summer (!!!!!). My belly got super happy the second it saw that, BUT my local store only sells it in cans, which means I’ve had to buy three cases so far of canned seltzer (against my better judgement, because I know that I’m going to continue to sip-and-ditch my drinks). So I’m not exactly jazzed about having spent $12 on cans of seltzer that might very well go to waste, but I’m hoping I’ll remember to sip them all the way through to make this one worthwhile.

3. Cadbury mini eggs. Like, way too many. 

‘Tis the season to overindulge on egg-shaped chocolate. I really can’t help myself this time of year – basically, if I see a display of Cadbury mini eggs, I’m buying one-to-three bags in that exact moment. I like to pretend that they’ll last me more than two days, but they for sure will not. And I spent $3.69/bag on three of these just this weekends, so that’s a cool $11.07 spent on chocolate that I certainly didn’t need.

4. Ice cream.

It is kind of a rule that we can’t keep ice cream in the house because neither Drew nor myself have literally any self-control when it comes to ice cream. If we have a carton if it in the freezer, we’re basically eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it is gone. But I saw the boy’s favorite low carb chocolate ice cream and grabbed it for him – even though it was an extra $4 added to our weekly food bill that we wouldn’t normally spend. Worth it, I guess, because it is lowkey cute as heck to watch him eat ice cream from the carton like a child. But maybe something we should avoid from now on for both our wallets and our waistlines.

5. Cake mix.

This is a weird one indeed, because I absolutely love baking, but I love actual from-scratch baking, not boxed-cake-mix baking. And I’m good at it, too! And I hardly find it more time consuming than using a mix. But something possessed me to toss some cake mix into my basket so I could have it on-hand just in case I need to whip up a Funfetti cake really really fast one day (which, tbh, could happen – I do love cake). This was on sale for only $1, but even though it isn’t exactly going to make or break my financial life, I’m still definitely trying to be mindful about how a handful of little $1 treats can add up (as evidenced by this sad, hungry-Mary grocery haul).

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Unsplash

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  • Sarah Pick

    oh girrrrl, mini eggs! Solution: just move to the UK where you can pick up a bag on mini eggs for £1. And we’re lovely people 🙂

    • Holly

      As a British person who currently lives in the US, I can’t even begin to explain the heartbreak level of paying almost $4 for a pack of mini eggs at Walmart when you know that they’re £1 at ASDA (AND IT’S THE SAME STORE). The only good thing is that they do taste relatively similar to the British ones (they’re also slightly bigger), unlike cadbury’s bars, Malteasers etc. You’re right though, we are lovely people!

  • Sara

    I cannot believe you spend only $50 on groceries a week for two people! Our grocery bill is more like $150/week.

    • Lexie

      I’m in Portland and I spend about $70/week! We cook three nights/week and don’t go out for lunch!

      • Sara

        This is amazing to me. We only eat at home (maybe out to dinner once or twice a month) so maybe that has something to do with it?

        • Annalisa Tombelli

          One Word: Aldi.

          I’ve been shopping there for seven months, and have found everything I need with the exception of:

          1) My favorite diet soda
          2) My favorite lite dressing

          Result? We spend $32-$54 a month for two people (and that includes dessert!).

          Pro tip: try going on a diet while shopping at Aldi. My husband and I gained tons of weight our senior year (right before we got married, got into grad school, and moved across the country). Three months ago we went on a 1200 calorie diet, and I’m down to my almost ideal size 31 pounds later.

          Aldi is a sweet companion!

        • Lexie

          Ugh I wish we could be that disciplined! It’s just something my husband and I really enjoy doing and plan around. We did cut out brunch and neither of us ever go out to lunch, so maybe that’s a balance?

  • Ali

    Ugh, MINI EGGS! This time of year I find excuses of why I need to go to the store just so I can add Mini Eggs to my basket. I am looking forward to them not being in the store anymore so that I’m not tempted, even though I will miss them terribly until next year.

  • Squiderous

    I know this is besides the point, but I need to know what brand makes watermelon seltzer, because that sounds amazing.

  • Rosa Gregoire

    Pour the can in to a glass! I forget cans too, but not glasses.

  • Lava Yuki

    I spend very little on groceries, but I spend a lot on coffee and buying lunch, so I just make breakfast and dinner at home. I am one for picking the cheapest stuff at the supermarket, especially for similar items. Like Kale here is 79c, while Spinach (which is almost the same in my eyes being green and leafy) is €2.50 for the same amount, so I go for the kale. I do the same for fish (cod being cheaper than hake etc) and household stuff by buying supermarket brands as opposed to expensive brands that try to coerce you with puppies and babies on their ads .