Grocery shopping can be daunting. Have you ever found yourself wandering the aisles of the store aimlessly? Have you ever given into temptation, impulse buying junk food in the checkout line or spending loads of extra money on items that weren’t even on your list? Or worse — you forgot the list entirely!
With a few simple tips to help you save time, energy and money, you can navigate the grocery store with confidence.
The Importance of Efficient Grocery Shopping
Efficient grocery shopping is all about eliminating stress and making your trip to the store more productive, faster and less expensive. By learning and adopting even a few of the many simple tips in this guide, you can easily improve your grocery shopping experience:
- Shop with a list and stick to it. This helps you avoid spending too much on items like junk food and impulse purchases, which aren’t healthy or nutritious.
- Check your fridge and pantry before you go. This ensures you don’t buy more of items you already have.
- Meal plan and prep. This helps make cooking and eating at home much easier. Cooking a large amount and bringing leftovers for lunch or freezing extras helps your meals stretch longer and further. Compared to pricey meal delivery subscription services, learning to shop effectively saves on packaging and money. Getting organized helps you shop quickly and ensures that you get everything you need in one trip.
- Price match. This helps you know when the price is right and which grocery store near you is more affordable.
- When is it better to buy in bulk? Things like batteries, toilet paper and light bulbs are often priced more affordably when in bulk. Buying cheese and meat from the case as opposed to the deli counter helps you save money on your groceries. Likewise, buying snacks in big bags and redistributing into smaller bags is cheaper than purchasing individual container. Buying frozen seafood to thaw it yourself is another trick to effectively navigate the store.
- Take a moment to actually calculate the cost of items on promotion. You might not be getting the deal you think.
Before You Go
Whether it is a paper list that you keep on the fridge door or a digital list that family members share, find a way to keep track of what you need. Make sure you add things to the list right away so you don’t forget to add it later on.
Plan out a weekly menu and add items you need to the list. Take some time to clean out the fridge and pantry to clear space and see what you already have so you don’t end up purchasing duplicates. Plan your menu according to what’s on sale for the week.
Most grocery stores send out mailers, emails or have information online so you can easily see what the specials are. You don’t have to cook every night, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate when you do. Plan for a night of leftovers or a night of family foraging through the pantry.
While some thrive on coupon clipping, others find it a time-consuming nuisance. If you don’t want to fall into the rabbit hole of couponing, there are some express services with options, like websites that do most of the work for you. Many groceries also have reward cards or online coupon clipping options that can be applied with the swipe of a card or a phone number.
Remember, just because you see a coupon, it doesn’t mean you have to buy the item. Don’t let a coupon trick you into unnecessary purchases. Only use coupons for items you were already planning on buying.
If you are shopping on a budget, keep your budget in mind before you arrive at the store and keep an eye on the bottom line. Hold onto your receipts and enter them into a spreadsheet or do a quick price comparison to determine what stores give you the best value.
Probably one of the best time-saving tips is to organize your list according to the layout of the store. Preparing your grocery list by aisle should be relatively easy, especially if you are familiar with the store. Instead of weaving in and out and going up and down every aisle, you’ll only go where you need to. The less you see, the less tempted you’ll be to pick up extra items you don’t need.
How to Make Your Grocery Shopping More Efficient
Ideally, you don’t want to end up in the grocery store more than once a week. Consider visiting the grocery store during slow times so you don’t waste valuable time in the checkout line, face to face with the candy bars. Believe it or not, picking the line with the least people, regardless of the number of items in their carts, is the best time-saving technique.
If you love your big-box bulk store, try visiting only once a month to stock up on staples and visiting another store for fresh items more often. Remember, just because it’s in bulk doesn’t mean it’s a good deal, especially if you didn’t plan on buying it in the first place.
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If you know when your store stocks fresh fruits and vegetables, stop in to get your pick of the best. When picking fruits and vegetables, take that extra few seconds to see, smell or even squeeze it. Learning how and where to store certain produce and herbs also helps stretch their shelf lives.
When you see a sale in the store, stock up if it’s something you use. If it’s a good deal, it’s better to save now than to pay full price later. Comparison shop by looking at different brands for a certain kind of product. Usually, the store brands are more affordable and the quality is similar. Don’t be afraid to give store brands a try.
If you are pinching pennies, buying frozen veggies as opposed to fresh is a great way to save. Or adopt a Meatless Monday or go vegetarian, as meat can be expensive. If you love local produce, look into a co-op or farm share and remember you can always deep freeze meat, veggies and even big casseroles so you have something on hand at all times. Take time to read labels, avoid sugary drinks like soda and juices whose costs and calories add up.
Avoid What’s Unnecessary
If you’re only going to use half an onion in the chili recipe, have another recipe to utilize the other half. Using things that you already have is one of the best ways to avoid unnecessary purchases. If you already have certain spices, use those for seasoning as opposed to wasting money on pre-made mix packets or pricey spice blends. Grow your own herbs to reap the rewards again and again.
Don’t shop hungry! When your stomach is growling, it’s easy to splurge on junk food. When you consider how little nutrition is in the package, it’s just not worth it. If possible, go to the store alone. Not only will you save time because you’ll be more focused, but nothing will sneak into your cart like it sometimes does when you’re shopping with kids.
If you are crunched for time during weeknights, there are plenty of healthy options from the humble sandwich to pre-packaged healthy foods, like hummus or guacamole. Crockpot dinners are easy, cheap and tasty. Throw them in the pot in the morning, and by dinner time you’ll be ready to rock.
Don’t waste leftovers. Leave a sticky note to remind you when there’s something that needs eating in the fridge. Plan to have a leftover night once a week or bring them for lunch. If you are second guessing an item you put in the cart, put it back.
Fight the pressure to fill your cart. Grab a basket, if you can. Grocery stores play slow music for a purpose: to keep you moving slowly in the store for as long as possible. Consider bringing along some upbeat music to put some pep in your step.
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