Thursday, December 8, 2011

How do you grocery shop?

Something I've learned in the 5 years I've been married - grocery shopping is an art. Grocery shopping on a budget is an even harder art. It takes time, brain power and planning. It's not rocket science, but it does require you to be mindful and purposeful. I admit, I used to not have a clue how to grocery shop. I'd go in, buy a bunch of random ingredients and even though I covered everything we needed and then some, I'd way overspend. Then, during the week, food would end up going bad because I bought too much, or didn't feel like thinking about what to cook every day, so we'd spend money on eating out.

I think we as a society tend to over-grocery shop. We buy way too much food. This includes me. In some countries, they only shop per day for the groceries they need. An every day trip to the grocery store? You couldn't pay me enough! But they may be onto something, shopping for only what they need. Makes sense, right?

So, I finally decided that I needed to get with the program, stop wasting money and wasting food. I didn't know what I was doing when I started. Sometimes I still don't. But, I came up with a plan and while its not perfect, and I'm not super great at it yet, I'm working out the kinks...and its really, really simple.

How do you grocery shop? Do you walk in and go, where in the world do I start? Do you just go through and get a bunch of random ingredients? Do you just shop for sale items? Do you get the easiest things to make/warm up? Do you stock-pile? There are a billion ways to shop. There is no one right way, and the way I do it is probably one in a million ways to do it. Here is my way, and I'll tell you how I save money by doing it. (and I'm not talking about couponing either. I'm not a big couponer and I'll share why in another post.)

Questions I ask myself before my weekly grocery trip:
1. What meats are on sale?
2. What meals haven't we had in awhile?
3. What do we already have in the house?
4. What are we out of?

First, I spend a little time planning my meals for the week. I am planning a post on how I do that, but for now you will have to wait. :)

Next, I make a list. A list of all the ingredients I'm going to need for each dish. These are not extravagant meals, so there's not a billion ingredients. And sometimes I already have some of the ingredients, but I get all I need based on my meal plan and the staple things we are out of.

I ONLY shop by my list. No grabbing extra things that I think I might need. There's no need for that when you menu plan and list all of your ingredients (the ones you don't already have).

That's it! Have you figured out what my secret plan is? My secret plan is only buying what we need for that week.'s so simple that I can't believe I never thought of it before. But I'm glad I did because now I'm saving money, I'm not wasting near as much food, and I actually enjoy grocery shopping. It used to be such a duty, such a chore, but now I can honestly consider it a delight.

Some notes about how I shop: I don't stock-pile (although I know ladies who do this and it totally works for them), I don't buy a lot of extras (no pre-prepared snacky foods or frozen easy meals), Of course, there are staple items I need every week, like eggs, milk, oats, Cheerios, fruit, etc, but for the most part, I only shop by my list. And I will report that the the last several grocery runs, I have spent $20 less than our budgeted amount. That may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it adds up. I will say, sometimes its hard to resist things I want to get, but when you shop on a budget, you have to be discerning about what you really need and what you want. I always want too many extra things that I don't really need.

What about you, how do you grocery shop?
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