Grocery shopping is something we all have to do, and to some it’s more enjoyable than others. The grocery store is a great place to “people watch” as it’s a mosh posh of personalities, lifestyles, time restraints, and generations of age differences browsing the isles either shopping intently, shopping impulsively, shopping blindly, oooorrr just trying to keep their cool while their kid has a temper tantrum over not getting the sugared cereal they wanted. For me personally, while I don’t mind grocery shopping, it’s one TO DO item I prefer to be efficient about because I don’t care to spend more time there than I have to, I don’t care to back track through the store for forgotten items, and I don’t care to get annoyed at the check-out counter due to unorganized and in-efficient “check-out practices”. Now granted, while you cannot control everything that happens on “their” end, you CAN do your part to make the process of shopping for groceries as smooth as possible by taking action steps to reduce the probability for a tension headache to appear before you walk out of there!
Here are some of my own tips that I personally use when shopping. If you ever find yourself thinking “I’m just going in for a few items… won’t take long” .., only to find when you leave that an hour+ worth of time just *poof* disappeared, now super frustrated because you’re REALLY in a time crunch .. then consider these tips below and see if they could help cut out the waste from your next shopping trip!
17 Grocery Tips The Smart Grocery Shopper
1. Always go with a list. The list, it’s aaaalll about the LIST! The efficient grocery shopper has one, and without one you may as well just throw your money away. Better yet, light a match to it. Not only does food get wasted every week, but money gets spent that is better left in your pocket. Prepare your list by checking the pantry, fridge, and freezer making sure you’re not forgetting anything. If you’re cupboards are really bare and you’re drawing a blank, think to yourself in categories: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, To-Go items, Pets, Laundry, Bathroom, Grooming/Hygiene, Cleaning, Party, Holiday, Kids, Lunchbox, Travel… you get the idea. This will help jog that memory. Write down what you need, in an organized fashion (next tip). Now stick to that list!
2. Organize your list! It may sound silly to some, but it really works! When writing out your list, think about the layout of all the departments in your grocery store. Organize your list by the floor plan of the isles. Think about the natural flow, or pattern you would walk to get from point A to point B. How I do it at my store is I typically shop the perimeter of the store, make one big loop, zig zag not too far out of my way to a few isles based on where I’m at in the loop, and then continue on the loop back to the cashier to check out. Bada bing bada boom baby! You’ve completed the grocery store agility course lol j/k!
3. Plan out a weekly menu. This is the best way to ensure that your list is complete, and that you have enough for all of your family meals throughout the week. I’m single, so it’s just me and the pup! BUT, I still plan our meals! YES! I plan the dog’s meals! Hey, when you cook for your dog (he does not eat kibble or store bought food), it’s like a kid with another mouth to feed! Same difference!;) I often plan a weekly menu and much of it gets duplicated the next week with a few meals changed out. I shop weekly because I buy alot of organic fresh food. But for whole families, a tip is to duplicate your menus and shop for two weeks at once. Be sure to plan a leftovers night.
4. Have a budget. When I go to the store, I know exactly how much I can spend, or want to spend. Then I try my best to stick within that limit. If you don’t know how much you can spend, you’ll certainly spend too much and mostly likely buy items you don’t need.
5. Do a rough running tally. If you want to stay within your budget, it’s best to know where you’re at. That way, when your cart is cutting it close, you can decide whether you really need that 5 lb. bag of lobster on sale, 3 bags of chips, the extra case of beer, or the $8 pie you were eyeing in the bakery. I keep a running tally on my grocery list, just rounding off for quick math. An item costs $1.85? I say $2. Rough estimates, no calculator needed, and provides spending cushion.
6. Keep a list on your fridge! When you run out of something, don’t leave it to your memory. Jot it down immediately and you’ll never have to run back to the store because you don’t have toilet paper!
7. Make a pantry checklist. This may not be necessary for single folks who don’t keep enough in their pantry to easily lose track of it. But, for bigger families it can be very helpful to post a checklist of everything you normally stock in your pantry. Especially for bigger than bigger families! Put a slash next to each item for the number of items you have .. if you have ten cans of stewed tomatoes, put ten slashes. Then, when you use something, turn the slash into an X. This makes it much easier when it comes time to make your list.
8. Stick to your list. I know, redundant right? The first reason is to keep your time spent there efficient. The second reason is to avoid impulse buys. They are almost always unecessary, and even if it’s just a couple dollars, it can easily add up add up to $15-100 for a trip (depending on your family size). Over the course of a year, that can mean thousands!! Tell yourself you will not buy anything that’s not on your list unless it’s an absolute necessity.
9. Carry a marker. YES, I am that lady you see in the isle crossing things off my list as I put them into the cart. I like to mark my progress as I go and know exactly where I stand. I also find that crossing items off not only keeps me organized, but keeps my mind focused (no eyes wandering to brightly colored food packages), and it gets me moving faster through the store. It also cuts down on having to look through and read the list 10 times before getting half way through the store. (Annoying!) Cross it off, move on to the next one. Having the visual is stimulating to the senses and improves efficiency of getting that task done done done! tteeeeeeEEEEEEEENNNNN -HUT!
10. Buy in bulk when it makes sense. If you can save money over the course of a month or two by buying in bulk, plan to do so. But be sure that you’re going to use all of it before it goes bad — it isn’t cheaper to buy in bulk if you don’t use it! Some of the best items to buy in bulk are the dried goods: From paper products, baggies, tinfoil, plastic wrap, all the way to pasta, cereals, baby formula, soap, aspirin, lubricant, and condoms, etc. <~Just making sure you’re still paying attention!
11. Clip coupons. Whether you are single, or have a family of 8, coupon clipping means gas in your tank to get to salsa class with your hot instructor, or the kids soccer practice! I know, I know it’s such a hassle to do! And who wants to turn into the coupon Nazi, right? I’m certainly not THAT uptight about coupons (especially being single), but I keep my eyes out for them. If I was a mommy of 4, it would be a different story! And is it really that hard to clip a few coupons for the items you really want to buy? Any more today, they have a lot of electronic coupons you can bring right up on your phone to scan too! And you can save 10-20% of your bottom line with coupons. Cha-Cha anyone?
12. Only use coupons for items you were already planning to buy. Don’t let them trick you into buying something that’s not on your list, just to “save” money! Pay attention to the ad gimmicks and ask yourself, “How important is it really?”
13. Look for specials. Every store has specials. When there’s a sale for items you already use, don’t be afraid to stock up! Can never have too much toilet paper! Be sure to look for them in the newspaper, email updates, or when you get to the store. They often have unadvertised specials — look on the higher and lower shelves for deals, and read the signs in the produce department! They write specials right on the item description, can be easy to miss! Use discernment when shopping the specials. Don’t buy them unless they’re things you always use,…what’s the point in that? Like buying 3 bunches of flowers for $12 on sale, (they’d look nice in the kitchen), but oh, wait! You’re flying out tomorrow on business and will be gone for 3 days. OR let’s say there’s something you’ve always wanted to try and there’s a really good deal on it! Like that sea salt caramel chunk vanilla icecream that calls your name every time you pass the freezers… that you never choose to buy because you don’t want to spend $7 for the tub that’s just going to go right to your ass anyway! But now it’s on sale for $3.17 AND you have a .50 cent coupon! The point of life IS to live it and try new things.. we can’t always deprive ourselves of new experiences just because it’s “not on the LIST”! And besides, you’ll work it off in salsa class.
14. Cut back on your “one-item” trips. They waste gas, and almost inevitably, you buy more than that one item. If you plan ahead, make a weekly menu, and shop with a list, this should drastically reduce the number of trips you make for a small number of items. But if you still find yourself running out for a few items, analyze the reason — are you not making a good list, are you forgetting some items from your list? Stock up on the things you frequently go out for.
15. Go during slow times. One of my favorite times to shop is early mornings. But during working hours or other non-peak times is good too. A tip for Moms: Shop when the kids are in school! It saves you so much aggravation, and your fellow shoppers will appreciate it too! For the rest of us: Avoid the school rush hour 3-4 pm, definitely avoid right after 5 p.m., on paydays, weekends, and near major holidays. There is nothing more annoying than a grocery store full of people who are tired, cranky, and just want to get home.. or the kid who is throwing the temper tantrum and screaming in your ear in the check out line.
16. Organize your groceries on the conveyer belt. Often I see people just unload their cart and toss all the items on the belt for the cashier to sift through.. only to complain later the bananas got squashed under the gallon of milk. Tossing your groceries on the belt like teenagers do their clothes on the floor of their room, not only is inviting a problem with transporting your food, but it takes MORE TIME for the cashier to sift through your stuff while she’s ringing it out! It holds up the line, it takes longer for the bagger to group items together, and it kind of defeats the purpose of shopping efficiently in the first place! Take the time to group items together…. I tend to group heavy items together first so they go in the bottom of the bags. Produce with produce, frozens together, non-food items like cleaning products get their own bag, etc.
17. Be prepared to check out!! While standing in line waiting for Suzy Q to figure out the card machine, and after all your items are organized neatly on the belt, get your store savings card, cash/credit card, ID, and coupons out ready to go! If you have to write a check, now would be a good time to get that done!;) Nothing more annoying that people who wait in a line for 5-10 minutes only to get to the cashier and not be ready to check out! What?! Seriously. Yeeeeaaaaa, don’t be that guy! Or girl;)
Well, there ya have it! Seventeen personal lucky tips from the swanky princess herself! Cherish them, put this little golden nugget in your back pocket and don’t be scared to use it! After all, a swanky life does not include frazzled anxious easily irritated shopping experiences due to lack of preparation! To be swanky is to be cool, and to be cool is to have a LIST honey! Work it honey, work it! And let me know how it goes!