Grocery shopping together: Smart or not so smart?

My wife and I had dental appointments this afternoon, and spent a bit of time afterwards doing some grocery shopping at Wegmans as long as we were in town.  (Combining errands is one of the good ways to save money on gas.)

We both love our food, so watching how much we eat out and how much we spend on groceries is a priority as we work out our personal finance plan.  Grocery shopping is essential, but it also can be a key place to save money.  My wife has really gotten good at making up a shopping list before she goes out.  She also has at least a mental do-not-buy list: those things that we have plenty of and need to consume before buying more.

Do we grocery shop well as a team?

My wife does a lot of the grocery shopping herself, but occasionally (like today) we did some of it together.  If we get back to our goals, which involve reducing the amount we spend on groceries, we have to ask ourselves whether or not shopping together is helpful or not.

In the past, we were less aware of our spending than we are now.  And I’ll admit it:  Part of me really likes the visual stimulation of all of that consumerism.  It’s calming in a way.  Not so for everyone, but it is for me.  Spending more time in stores is a primary factor to reaching an empty wallet.  Doubly so if I make the mistake of going shopping tired, hungry, or both.

Having another person there can help if both are of like mind to shopping purposefully.  If the two people feed off of one another and egg each other on, then forget it.  Shop alone.  Here are a few ways that purposeful shoppers can help one another:

  • If one person gets enticed by something, then the other is there to pull them back to task, give them the evil eye, shame them, whatever.
  • One person might be able to spot a better price on something that the other missed.  It could be a generic brand, or a larger, more economical size.  (I caught a better price today.)
  • One person may have more willpower to set limits if the other wants to wander.  (I’m usually the one who wants to wander and look.  Shame on me.)
  • Remind, but don’t push.  I might ask my wife if we need something or not, or might suggest that we stock up.  But if she doesn’t want to, then I let it drop.  She usually has better intuition than I do.

Basically, it’s the difference between grocery shopping being a team effort, or team sport.  If it’s a team sport, go solo.  I think it used to be more “team sport” for us, but now we’re coming around to having it be a team effort.

John Wedding

Husband. Father. Web publisher. Musician. John has blogged at Mighty Bargain Hunter since 2005, helping people to recognize life's good deals.

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Comments

  1. says

    My wife swears that when I go, the bill is higher because I add stuff that isn’t on the list. I claim that I get extra stuff that is a good buy that we will not waste, so it saves us money in the long run. I suppose we’re both right :)

  2. says

    Although I rarely go shopping with my wife, I would split the “list”. My wife prepares menus each week and shops based on the menu with a list. 2 people can be more effective using a list.

  3. says

    It’s always a double-edged sword. There are times in the past where shopping with a girlfriend was more distracting as we would pay more attention to each other or things that weren’t related to the task at hand. Other times, like you said, one person was able to catch things that the other missed. Overall you just need to look at the dynamic and see how it would be accomplished in the best way.

    • John Wedding says

      Yeah, we actually don’t shop together even most of the time. My wife is good about sticking to the list.

  4. says

    I normally let the wife shop and add my things to the shopping list. Too many arguments break out if either of us want something off the list. Mine is usually a steak and hers a kitkat. Seeing as mine is often more pricey I let her handle the shopping!

  5. says

    I actually like going to the grocery store with my wife and child, it seems like quality time together. Because most of the times we are in such a hurry, I usually get the groceries. However, my wife always makes out the list, so it is a team effort in that respect.

  6. says

    I always go grocery shopping while my daughter is at dance class. I have about 50 minutes to get everything done, which means I have to come prepared (with a list) and not get distracted (by buying things we don’t need). Plus, I’m by myself, so I don’t get talked into buying stuff by my husband!

  7. says

    For the most part my ex and I were better off shopping without each other. I don’t know why, but we would spend less when the other wasn’t with us. I guess part of it might have been focus, but also if we were there together, chances are so were our kids, meaning they want everything, the trip takes longer and is more of a burden. On my own I had a list and was in and out with no one going “Can I have this?”

    • John Wedding says

      Our daughter isn’t too bad but every kid is different, I guess. There’s a reason why they have the candy at checkout. :)

  8. says

    Good post. Making, and stixking, to a shopping list is the most important thing – it doesn’t matter if there is one or two of you.

    By having two, you can get round quicker by splitting the list, and also can spot things (cheaper versions or alternatives) that the other hasn’t.

    However, remember the opportunity cost. If you are both in the supermarket for an hour, instead of one person, is there anything else one of you could be doing elsewhere (perhaps to be earning other income).

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