- PLANNING is a key step! Every expert coupon shopper already knows this, but even if you don’t use coupons, take a few minutes to plan before you go. Starting with this step will save you 10-30 minutes of actual shopping time. Questions you need to ask beforehand: What’s my budget? What’s on sale? What favorite items do I need to restock?
- MAKE A LIST, CHECK IT TWICE. If you are shopping for a specific recipe or menu, then you already have an idea of the items you need, however, it’s still a good idea to WRITE IT DOWN. If you’re shopping for a large family, it’s even more important to make a list before you go. There’s nothing worse than having to make multiple trips to the grocery store over the span of a few days, just because you forgot the basics like toilet paper or milk, bread and eggs. Making a list also helps you stay within a specified budget — stores are designed for impulse buying, which can make you go over your limit in a hurry! And if you are a fan of coupon shopping, match up any available coupons with items on your list before you go. I’ve created an easy to use grocery list (sorted by category) that you can download free at Scribd. The link is listed below.
- KEEP A RUNNING TALLY TO AVOID “GRAND TOTAL SHOCK”. As you add items to your cart, start adding up the cost of each. As I shop I add an item and round up to the next dollar — it’s faster for me to add $2 + $6 etc., than to add $1.78 and $5.59. If you’re comfortable adding in your head, great! If not, then just include pen & paper or a calculator into your planning steps. In California, where I live, we are not taxed on food items, but are on others, so rounding up is a great way to allow for the taxes as well.
- SHOP OFF HOURS. If you can, avoid peak times! Saturdays and weekday shopping during rush hour (5-7 pm) are times I avoid the grocery store altogether. If you’re unsure what peak times are at your favorite store, just ask the cashier or store manager next time you’re in.
- SHOP ONLINE. It’s not for everybody, but several of the chain stores (Albertsons, Vons) offer online shopping and grocery delivery for a fee, usually between $10 and $15. I’ve used this method several times in the past couple of years, and for the most part was satisfied. The only drawbacks: it can take a significant amount of time to initially set up your online profile and personalized grocery lists, AND you have to select an available delivery time (they fill up fast).
- SHOP ALONE if you can. The less distractions, the faster you can get through your list and out the door. If you are a stay-at-home parent and do most of your shopping while your spouse is working, consider trading childcare with another parent. You both get to shop relatively hassle-free!
- INSULATE YOUR REFRIGERATED ITEMS. Keep an insulated bag in your trunk. Transfer refrigerated or frozen items to the bag in order to avoid having to immediately return home.
** Download a 1-page grocery list here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/7815100/Household-Grocery-List