Organizing your grocery shopping can easily help you be efficient and avoid unnecessary spending. Knowing what you need (and/or want) and where to find it will save a lot of time and energy. Here are some things I follow to be within my budget.
- Browse through the ad catalogs
Just take a quick look at various catalogs (print or online) of various grocery stores and decide on the best price.
how I do it: I browse through the catalogs from various stores that we get in mail. I take note of items that I need and their prices and note down the best price and date of offer as long as the store is in my driving route for that particular shopping trip. Else I combine it with any other trips that I am going to take near that store in the near future. Whichever works well for me.
- Make a list
It goes without saying that you should have a list before you go shopping. Check your fridge and pantry for diminishing supplies. Check your meal planner for ingredients you might need. Check your planner if you have a party coming up. Check if anyone else needs or wants something. This way you will neither forget items that you absolutely need (saving another trip) nor end up buying items, that you could have done without.
how I do it: I use old grocery bills to make lists. I note down things in my excel sheet planner as and when I remember them and when my scheduled grocery run comes up I just write everything down on the piece of paper. I categorize them by store names, making it time efficient. I usually plan my meals for two weeks, so I know what I would need for what I’m going to cook.
- The minimalist approach
Talk with the people that live with you (room mates/partner and kids if they are old enough to have a say) and decide on what you want to cut back on. Write them down, if you have a short memory. And make sure to take note of this when you are making the shopping list. You can categorize them as optional or completely skip. That way you can buy optional ones if you are within your budget that month.
Though I am a minimalist buyer, I do buy things impulsively and this immediately reflects in my budget. Of course we do indulge, but less often.
how I do it: I keep an eye on my grocery bills and my budget and see if I’m spending more on something that neither healthy nor needed. I consider them binge items. Healthy food items like fresh vegetables, fruits, rice, pulses and spices etc are my basic necessities. Things like chips, flavored yogurt, ready pasta sauce, ice-cream etc are indulgences. And I have realized that the more you tune-out the indulgences the healthier you and your bank account will be. Then I speak with my husband if he would mind if I stopped buying them, or bought them less often.
- Group your shopping
Now that you have your list ready and categorized by store, you can group your items by stores that are nearby and can be covered in a single shopping trip. I decide to do this when I have low priority items that can be bought later. Or if I feel like I might add few more items for the stores that are not in the same shopping center or neighborhood. Sometimes I need garden supplies or things that I cannot find in the same area. I put off buying them as long as possible because I hate to make two or more shopping trips in the same week.
how I do it: I don’t like shopping. I don’t like spending too much time in the stores. So I break my shopping trips if I have too much to buy. I get bored and exhausted if I spend a lot of time looking at items to buy. So, I group my items by stores that are nearby and buy them all in one trip and then make another trip for stores at a different location. For this reason I have been accustomed to buying from the same shopping center even if the prices are little more than the other stores because of the deviation in my driving route. It will cost me time and energy that I value more than a few cents. If I have to make that extra trip, then I usually do it very early during the weekend when there is less crowd.
- Pay by card whenever possible
You can always lose track of spending of the loose change. I used to deal with cash and it would be a nightmare at the end of the month. I had to write each and everything down when there would be no receipt or when I lost one. Even then, there would be some amount spent that was unaccounted for. Now I use cash only when absolutely necessary and make sure to Ziploc the receipts or note it down on a piece of paper and put it in the Ziploc.
If you pay by card and use net-banking, you will have a track of where and how much you have spent. Making accountability easier at the end of the month budgeting session. You can forego the saving of receipts (except for cash payments) or avoid printing out receipts whenever you can and save paper.
how I do it: I pay by card for most of my shopping and I can track everything on my net-banking account when I do budgeting and verify it against the receipts that I have got. I even go one step further and group the items as grocery and non-grocery so saving the receipts make it easier for me to add up the amounts in respective categories.
And of course, as soon as you get home, make it a priority to put the items away in the fridge and pantry. It just gets messy and ugly if it stays on the dining table or kitchen floor for long.
Groceries are inevitable part of our life and so is shopping for them, unless you can spend on concierge services to do it for you. Hope these five tips will help simplify it for you and make it feel less like an avoidable chore. I don’t guarantee that you will grow to like it, but I can guarantee that these steps will make it efficient and save you some money.
Tell me if you are super shopper and have some more tricks up your sleeve. Drop in with your comments and I’d be glad to hear your views. I might even incorporate them in my steps if they prove to be efficient.