Friday, February 09, 2007

How To Shop For Groceries!!

We used to be horrible at buying groceries, but I've recently discovered the secret to making the most of our grocery shopping trips.

Up until a couple of years ago our regular grocery bill was over $300 per trip. It wasn't always over $300, but it would almost always be over $200. Now when we go shopping it rarely costs more than $150. How did we do it? We simply fixed some bad habits and developed some good ones.

The worst habit we used to have was going shopping cold turkey. By this I mean we basically said, "Time for groceries!", jumped into the car and headed to Safeway. Once there we would cruise up and down each isle picking out what we needed/wanted. Let's look at the benefits and disadvantages of this shopping method.

  • We always had lots of good snacks and treats around the house. (at least for a couple of days)
  • It was easy
  • It was very expensive
  • We would usually come home and be stuck for something to eat for dinner (oh yeah, we should have picked up some food for dinner! Ooops!)
  • We always forgot to pick up vital items
  • We would end up buying items that we already had at home ("Well, we have nothing for supper but, on the bright side, we do have three bottles of ketchup!").
  • Our meals were generally quick and easy ideas with low nutritional value.
  • We'd generally spend all of the money that was available on the one big shopping spree, leaving nothing for incidentals during the week (like more milk or more bread).
The first change we made to our shopping method was to prepare a list before going to the store. This made a big difference. The list took care of the forgotten and double item problems. We were now usually able to put together a couple of meals with our groceries (which tends to be the primary purpose of shopping, right?) The list also helped to decrease the number of junk food items that make it into the cart. The list might still contain a couple of junk food items and that was fine, because the list prevented us from grabbing every junk item we saw.

Recently we've discovered the greatest tip of all: Planning out your meals for the week!

I sort of stumble upon this idea by accident. There were a couple of weeks when the grocery money was pretty tight. To make sure we had enough food to make it through the week I compiled a list of inexpensive dinner ideas for each day of the week and picked up only the items I needed to fulfill my list. I was amazed to return home with the stuff I needed for under $40 with a few bucks left over for incidentals during the week.

This worked so well that I now use it all the time, not just when we're strapped for cash. Now we can pick up a weeks worth of quality groceries for under $100, easily. Every weekend I make my list of meals, then I start my shopping list based on those meals. Next I throw in the non-edibles (soap, detergent, tp, etc.) and any staple items that need replenishing. This becomes the "must have" list and it usually runs anywhere from $70-$120, depending on the number of staples that need replenishing. After this list is compiled I then add the extras like cookies or ice cream or any non-essentials that are just nice to have around. The number of extras is usually inversely proportional to the must-have list.

With this planned meal method we now experience:
  • Lower food costs
  • Better meal management and better quality meals
  • No more, "Nothing for Supper" issues
  • Less junk food
This is truly an awesome tip! It's too bad it took us 9 years figure it out!

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