It’s inevitable that sometimes we just run to the grocery store willy-nilly and end up spending a ton of money without anything really to show for it. That is why I have developed a system of 7 things I need to do BEFORE I jump in the car and head across town to the grocery store.
Grocery shopping lately has turned into almost a sport. Sometimes it is a contact sport at that. I do not want to get too far off topic, but getting myself into a decent mood before heading out should be on the list, but I don’t always have that luxury. I always run into the “full aisle” shoppers, as I call them. You know the ones. They park their cart to the right of the aisle in good grocery shopping etiquette but then proceed to the other side of the aisle to get what they need. But no! They cannot just pick up a can and return to their cart. They must stand there reading each label, comparing prices, and blocking the aisle. Come on, lady. I know you see me waiting for you.
So with the exception of gearing up for battle, here is my list of 7 things I do before heading to the grocery store.
Determine Why You are Going Now
Have you made a proper plan for shopping? Is this the best time of day for you to go? I like to keep my shopping at approximately the same time each week so that I can both avoid crowds and make it as leisurely as I want. Do I want to peruse the holiday aisle? Do I want to pick out birthday or other cards and need more time than usual? The reason that you are choosing right now to go is important to make sure that you are going to be able to stay on task and within your budget.
I know a lot (more than like to admit to it) that are emotional shoppers. Going shopping and spending money acquiring things just makes them happy. Just like some people deal with stress by eating or drinking alcohol, shopping addiction is a “thing”. Make sure that you are shopping because you need to; not because you just want to go spend money.
Set Your Budget
Those darned “impulse buys” are one of the biggest pitfalls of grocery shopping. You know the ones. The shiny, pretty, 50% off items in the clearance aisle that you don’t need but it seems like such a deal. Not being able to purchase these items without having to sacrifice something that you DO need is a surefire way to keep yourself in check.
Before you even leave the house, know how much you are willing to spend. Make sure that realistically (based on your list) you can achieve the goal budget.
A little trick I’ve learned to help myself along: most of us purchase similar or the same items at almost every shopping trip. Knowing the average prices on your staple items helps you set a realistic budget and know when you are going a bit overboard.
Do an Inventory
I know I am not the only one who has done this….
You get home from the grocery, start to put away your items and realize that you bought another bag of sugar when you already had 2 in the pantry.
Ok, maybe it’s not a huge deal with pantry staples, but it’s when you double buy a perishable item and one expires before you get a chance to use it. That’s just wasting your hard-earned dollar when the solution is so simple.
Check and see what you really need, not just what you think you need.
Do this especially with items that someone other than you has added to the grocery list. I can’t tell you how many times City Spouse has written down “ground beef” on the list only for me to go out to the deep freeze and see that there are a few bags left. Don’t buy things unnecessarily if you can avoid it.
Make a Meal Plan
I hear numerous people who when asked couldn’t tell you what they are having for dinner each night. This seems crazy to me. If you don’t know what you are going to cook, how do you know what to buy?
Make sure that you keep a list of the family’s favorite meals handy, and try switching a night or two with a new recipe. I typically do this on the weekend, as after working all day I want to make something that I know we will enjoy eating.
Make sure that you are planning in your breakfast, lunches (even if you just take sandwiches to work) and snacks. It’s very easy to plan just your dinner menu and then get hungry and make a run for a high dollar snack from a fast food place. (And if you are hungry, I guarantee you are getting and spending more than necessary.)
Try it for a month and see how it works out. I bet once you get the hang of it, you will wonder how you ever survived without one.
Look for Sales and Coupons
Before I explain what I do on this step, I want to stress that you do not need to purchase something just because it’s a great deal. I don’t care if it is only going to cost you a quarter. That quarter is still wasted money if you are never going to use it. Only use coupons for items that you would be buying anyhow. This is why this step falls so far down the list.
After you have taken your inventory, made your meal plan and list for the store, you can run to your stash of coupons (or digital coupons if you are shopping at a store that offers them) and match up what is on your list with a coupon for it.
As far as sales, I tend to glance at the front page (where the best deals are) to see what meat is on sale before meal planning for the week. But even if pork chops are on sale and you already have some in the freezer, don’t purchase again if you don’t have to.
Have a Snack
I am a huge proponent of the fact that you should never shop on an empty stomach.
At my local grocery store, there is a coffee shop and bakery right as you walk into the store. It never fails that I will give in and purchase something if I hadn’t already brought along my travel mug of coffee and had a snack before leaving the house. And I beat myself up for days if I spend $5 on a cup of coffee without a gift card.
Not being hungry also keeps you more alert and focused on the task at hand. I hate being distracted or going down an aisle, believing that I put an item into my cart (when I didn’t because I was drooling at the smell of the freshly made donuts) and get home without it.
Do yourself a favor and grab a granola bar.
Grab Your Reusable Shopping Bags
I hate those thin plastic grocery bags. Not only do I never seem to remember to take them back to have them recycled, but if I do remember them, the bin is stuffed so full it’s overflowing, and I have nowhere to put them anyhow.
And don’t get me started on how many times I have had one tear and I break a glass jar or something. (It’s typically that $5 jar of sun-dried tomatoes I splurged on for one of my favorite dishes and had run out of my homemade ones.)
Remembering to grab my reusable bags saves me a lot of headache in the long run.
*Hint: after putting away my groceries, I take my bags back out to the storage bin in my trunk meant especially to house them. That way I have them with me when I go, I only have to get into the trunk and grab them.
Need meal planning help? Don’t forget to grab our FREE Meal Planning Printables below!