One thing I've nearly always done right is to shop from a grocery list. Now, this doesn't mean I don't slip an un-listed item or two into my cart prior to checkout. But it does mean I’m less likely to buy more of what I don't need. Plus, it virtually guarantees I don't return home to discover the one thing I really needed is not in my bags! There are many costs of not shopping with a grocery list, but some are much worse than what you might expect! In this post, learn what not to do—and how to avoid doing it.

5 Costs of shopping without a grocery list 

1. You will waste cash.

Shopping without a list most frequently translates into shopping without an organization system. This means you shop without coupons, money-saving apps, awareness of weekly sales and deals, and other money-saving helps.

  • What the research says: Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School say that an unplanned shopping trip will generate 23% more unplanned purchases—up to 44% more if you go by car!
  • What to do: Use those store sales ads—they will reduce unplanned purchases by 25% even if you forget to make a grocery list. Also, be fast and efficient as you move through the store—this can reduce unplanned purchases by as much as 82%.

2. You will gain weight.

In today's culture, you will look long and hard to find anyone who wants to gain weight! But if you shop without a grocery list, you’re at a greater risk to do just that.

  • What the research says: Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say that shopping with a grocery list has a positive impact on incidence of overweight and obesity issues as well as a positive correlation with cost savings.
  • What to do: If you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, a grocery list is your biggest ally to do that. Also, shopping farther ahead of when you need the groceries can assist in reducing weight-increasing impulse buys.

3. Your grocery bill will begin to rival your mortgage.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for most American households, the only bill that tops the monthly food bill is the monthly housing/utilities payments. The best way to trim your grocery bill is to use a grocery list.

  • What the research says: The BLS Consumer Price Index shows nearly 20% of monthly expenses go to food (at home and away from home). Shelter (own or rent) comprises approximately 32% of monthly expenses. That’s 52% of your paycheck right there!
  • What to do: In addition to a grocery list, begin tracking your monthly grocery expenses so you can set a reasonable budget.
  • Resources to help: You can use an app like GrocerEaze or Grocery Mate (both free) to create your lists and track your spending.

4. You will shop at the wrong stores for the wrong things.

Even the least disciplined shopper usually has an idea about one or two items that are cheaper at Store A versus Store B (if not for grocery, this usually holds true for gas). So you can just imagine how many items you could score for less—for the same items—if you were paying attention!

  • What to do: There are two ways to approach this issue—to scout out low prices before you shop, or ensure you don't pay too much when you shop. Or you could do both!
  • Resources to help: KCL's handy stockpile price list will make sure you don't buy an item that is overpriced. A free price match app like Grocery Pal sends you to the stores with the best weekly sales. Enrolling in a free service like Walmart's Savings Catcher (scans for lower prices and credits you back the difference on an eGift Card) makes sure you are reimbursed if you pay too much. Over time, you will be able to develop your own local price book—a list of the stores that typically have items you need for the cheapest prices.

5. You will miss out on free cash and other rewards.

Even worse than wasting cash (#1), when you shop without a grocery list, you will miss out on opportunities to earn extra cash and other valuable perks—just for shopping!

  • What to do: Even if you can't seem to get on board with drafting and using a grocery list while you are in-store, at least you can use some of the neat, free apps that are now available to get paid for what you buy.
  • Resources to help: Check out these 4 great savings apps and this other awesome app!
The High Costs of Not Shopping with a Grocery List (They’re Worse Than You Think!)