When More is Less

Posted on Posted in Grocery Store Traps

Surprisingly, a trip to the movie theater reminded me of a great lesson that can save you money in the grocery store.

Approaching the movie theater concession stand I decided to order my usual medium bucket of buttered popcorn (yeah I realize that movie popcorn is not the most frugal purchase but we all splurge once in a while).

That’s when the cashier asked, would you like to upgrade to a large bucket of popcorn for only 50 cents more?

Well I almost jumped at the chance. For only 50 cents more I could skip my usual medium size bucket and get the larger bucket of popcorn. Sounded like a great deal. No frugal minded person would refuse, would they?

But then I thought about it a fraction longer I was by myself and I never even finish a medium size bucket.

Yes, the larger bucket of popcorn was the better deal but for me it wasn’t the better value because at the end of the movie all that extra popcorn would be sitting uneaten at the bottom of the bucket essentially 50 cents wasted!

The Best Deal May Not Present the Best Value for Your Family

Its surprising how often this same scenario plays itself out at the supermarket but the cost is often much greater than a mere 50 cents.

It frequently happens in one of two instances:

We notice that the larger or bulk size package is cheaper on a per unit basis than the smaller size package. In the shopping cart goes the bulk size purchase.

We find a great sale! Wanting to be frugal and maximize the savings we buy extra quantities in order to stock up.

These moves frequently turn out to be great money saving strategies.

Yet, ever so often we realize that a frugal deal is not so frugal if we end up wasting what we’ve bought. In fact, a recent study found that we throw away nearly 14% of all the food we purchase.

Your Savings May Be Going to Waste

Let me give you the perfect example. I love bananas and whenever I see a really good sale I cant help but to buy two or more bunches. Yet, what inevitably happens is that some of the bananas get eaten but most just sit around the kitchen where they eventually turn brown and mushy. Days later they are simply thrown away. Any perceived savings from the sale are now down the drain.

The large one gallon container of milk was my natural choice. It seemed so much cheaper than the half gallon or pint sized containers. The half empty spoiled containers of milk in the fridge, however, finally convinced me that the more expensive (per unit) half gallon cartons of milk were actually the better value because milk didn’t go to waste. Likewise, Ive since stopped stocking up on bagged lettuce that’s on sale only to see the extra bags wilt in my refrigerator crisper.

To Find Out If You’re Getting the Best Value Check Your Trash Can

So how do you tell if your bulk sized purchases or the practice of stocking up on items during a sale is a money wasting or a money saving move? Simply do a trash can audit. Just check to see what items you’re throwing away on a consistent basis.

Find yourself throwing out those extra large bags of carrots or tossing that 20 pound bag of potatoes that sprouted roots, then you may want to avoid bulk purchases of these items.

Notice that you’re discarding a lot of half eaten value-size containers of yogurt. It may be time to settle for the slightly more expensive regular size containers.

By examining our trash and what we throw away, we can avoid the sale and bulk size portion spending traps. What are some of the bulk purchase mistakes you’ve made? Do you have tips for determining when its better to buy in bulk or stock up on sale items?