I’ve been grocery shopping as a grown up for long enough now that I have learned a few things I want to share with you today.
How I make my grocery list, the route I walk through the aisles (yes this is important) and also getting the best deals and the best quality food. Time is money and no one has time to aimlessly wander through the grocery store.
In my last post about meal planning, I touched briefly on decision fatigue and how having so many options can lead to making decisions you didn’t plan for. This also applies to the grocery store and one way to avoid this is to make a specific list and stick to this list.
It’s important for budgeting and also for ensuring that you don’t buy too much or too little of something.
The first step to having a comprehensive grocery list is to pop open that fridge and see what’s in there. Is it totally empty? Do you have anything that needs to be used before it goes bad? Leftovers that can be transformed? Ideally this should be happening before you make your meal plan, but it’s also a lot to digest. (ha)
Find out what you have, what you can do with it, and write it down. Cross check your meal plan, see what’s in the freezer, and don’t buy things you already have.
Moving on, grab your meal plan and associated recipes and find out what you need to buy. Seems simple, but can be tedious and a lot of people skip this step thinking they can just do it by memory. I cannot tell you how many times I thought I knew what was in a recipe only to realize I forgot something really important. Here’s how this looks for me:
If you only plan for dinners, like me, you’ll need to find out what extras you’ll need. For us this usually looks like apples, eggs, cheese sticks, lunch meat, bacon etc. You might not need a set plan for those mid-day meals, but it’s important to put them on the list. It may be helpful to plan it, but if you’re new to meal planning it can get overwhelming. Don’t stress yourself out! Practice makes perfect.
I shop at a grocery store that has online coupons, and their app has their weekly advertisement on it. If yours doesn’t have coupons, it likely has a weekly flier of all the sales that you should be checking. If you realize that chicken is on sale, and ground beef is not, you may want to re-evaluate your meal plan to include more chicken meals. You don’t have to, but if your goal is to save $$ then shopping the sales is the best way to get started.
They send out a variety of different coupons to my house as well, some very useful- like onions. Some, though are kind of a trap to get you to buy things you wouldn’t normally buy. Don’t fall for it! The 50 cent off coupon for *insert name brand product* will never be a better deal than the store brand (that is probably made in the same factory by the same company, but….. 🐸🍵)
Although I have been known to buy Sargento cheese slices if there’s a coupon because it is actually better. You’ll have a better idea of what works best for your family than me, so use your best judgment!
There have been many instances where I bought all the vegetables I needed for two weeks worth of meals, only to realize that many vegetables didn’t last that long. I remedy this by only buying one week’s worth of vegetables and then popping back in the store for the rest at a later date.
Pantry items such as rice, dry beans and canned goods are usually great to have a stash of in your house.
Speaking of pantry items
I only had one new year’s resolution for 2018 in an attempt to save money. “Get good at dry beans”
My daughter is picky about meat but loves beans, so I found myself buying oodles of canned beans. They’re convenient and already cooked so it seems like an easy choice, but if you look at the price vs. how much you actually get, I quickly realized that dry beans were a better value. This article breaks down that math for you.
I had tried many many times soaking the beans, boiling, soaking for different times, salt, no salt, I just really struggled with dry beans. They never turned out right and I wanted to “get good” at dry beans!
I read this article that gave me a lot of great tips. I usually put them in a crockpot for 4 hours on high (I add a few spices sometimes, but not salt, it makes them smooshy for some reason) and it works perfectly.
So, now you can ‘get good’ at dry beans too, it’s worth it!
Alright, bean tangent over, let’s talk about..
Everyone’s grocery store is different, but what I like to do is start on one side and weave my way through the aisles so that I end up at the checkout lane. I can usually buy 145$ worth of groceries in about a half hour. With a toddler in tow!
I only have a couple things that influence this route
- Dairy products, I like to put in the cart last because warm milk or ice cream makes me queasy.
- Which side of the parking lot I park on (one side is closer to pantry items, one side is closer to produce.
- How much produce I need to buy, I might hit the deli before the produce depending on what I need
I go down each aisle I need only once (usually…) I check off my list as I go, and I write my list BASED on the aisles.
Typically looks like this: produce, deli, meat, cans and broth, dry goods and sauces, snacks, cheese, butter, eggs, milk and other dairy.
I usually have no reason to be in the frozen aisles, so I avoid them altogether since frozen pizza is just too tempting. Your mileage may vary.
I skim through those aisles, grab and GO. Your planning has been done before you get to the store so your brain doesn’t even have to be activated, just check off your list and run!
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be such a nightmare. Use your coupons, shop the sales, and most importantly STICK TO YOUR LIST. Don’t get lost trying to make hard decisions while you’re there. The more familiar you are with your grocery store’s set-up and sale schedules, the easier this all becomes.
If it seems like a lot of work, I promise it gets easier and you can email me with any questions you have. I could ramble on about this stuff forever. That’s why I’m here! Also let me know if any of you have a specific route you take to navigate the grocery store or if you can think of any other ways to cut down on browsing time.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my tips, I’m looking forward to hearing from you!