#989 Stick To Your Grocery List To Save Money

6 Nov

grocery store produce

Photo via flickr by Christopher Reilly.

The rule of “never shop when you’re hungry” is rivaled by this thrifty tip – never shop without a list…and never deviate from the list. The easiest way to rack up unintended costs at the grocery store is to go without a grocery list. You end up overbuying, buying something you already have or buying things you don’t need. The best way to avoid this is to take an inventory of what you have at home and sit down to make a shopping list.

Keep track of what you need. I usually rewrite the list after a full inventory and in the order that I go through the store…no doubling back, which saves time.

First, keep a grocery list on the fridge where you write down what you’ve run out of throughout the week. When you inventory, start with list and then sit down to compose a 5-day menu. Check all the ingredients that you need and see if you have them. Well organized cupboards, refrigerator and freezer helps you quickly see what you have and what you don’t have. Decide on what you have to buy, what you have already and what you can do without or make a substitution if the item is too expensive. Recompose your grocery list as you go through what you need for the meals. You can keep a running tally of estimated cost for each item.

When you’re done your list, you’ll have a rough estimate of what it will cost, if the cost will fit your budget (a must have!) for the week. Your list will be tailored to exactly what you need. If you want to be able to take advantage of a sale to stock up on an item you regularly use, build a little room in the budget for essential extras that will be saving you money in the long run. Remember, you can always use what’s in the cupboards and make sure you’re eating up your leftovers in a timely manner to save money. You can make the items you bought for your 5-day menu stretch for seven days like this: five days eating from the menu, one day eating leftovers, one day eating from the cupboards/freezer/fridge, which equals seven days of eating and one grocery shop per week.

At this point, you may see what coupons you have and should use them if they fit what you are already buying. Don’t let your coupons lead you astray. I’d say about one in 10 coupons actually fit my life and buying habits – all the rest are trying to get me to try a new product or buy my usual product plus something else. If you see a coupon that is for a product you use and regularly buy, then save it and organize them so you know which coupons you have for what kinds of products and when they expire.

Photo via flickr by Isadora Taft

When you get to the grocery store, remember to stick to what you have on the list and not pile in extras that catch your eye. It’s probably best not to bring the kids with you as they have less impulse control and might end up begging for some sort of pre-packaged junk food. Which you can say no to, or give in…it’s always good to have a conversation about budgets and money with kids so they start learning early. When you say no, explain to them why and how your budget works. If you want to avoid this or think you’ll cave, then leave the kids at home.

The “stick to the list” rule should also hold true if you are going to any other store – home improvement, department store, ect. to pick up items. If you have what is on your list, then leave the store and don’t buy any extras, like a neat gadget that you’ve suddenly been convinced you need or some other item besides what you went there for.

And it’s true – be sure that you’re not hungry, no matter what kind of shopping you’re doing. I find I’m agitated and unfocused when I shop hungry. I end up spending money on something to eat when I have a fridge full at home.

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