Grocery stores are commonplace across the country. They have become one-stop food shopping destinations. Need dairy? Yep… they have it. Bread? You betcha. Beans? They have them by the can or bag. Produce? There is a whole section of the store dedicated to it. But when you go to the grocery store, are you shopping smart?
Preparation is the key to being a smart shopper. Lack of preparation means that you may end up wasting time, money, and food. But take heart, there are 15 easy steps that just take a few moments of your time and they don’t cost anything.
15 Smart Grocery Shopping Tips
- Make a list of what you need. This helps reduce impulse purchases which results in spending more money.
- If you have a garden, check to see what you have available. This helps reduce the chance of purchasing something that you already have on hand… and what you have in the garden will taste much fresher than what is in the store.
- Check your freezer for anything you preserved. If you have frozen strawberries from you garden, use those first before buying more. This helps reduce the chance of purchasing something you already have on hand.
- Check what you have on hand of canned goods and compare to your list. If you think you are out of homemade pasta sauce, check to be sure. Maybe a jar got moved behind a row of pickles?
- Determine how much you and your family can reasonably eat in week. This reduces the likelihood of buying six loaves of bread just because it is on sale (and you don’t have room in the freezer). Sales are tempting impulse purchases, but if the food goes to waste, did you really save money?
- Eat something before you go shopping. This is an oldie, but a goodie. If you are hungry when shopping, you are more likely to purchase more items (including items that aren’t on your list).
- Bring enough reusable bags for your groceries. If you have a short list of items, don’t bring a dozen bags. Empty bags are a lot like purses. The more space you have, the more likely you are to fill it up.
- Only use coupons for items you normally buy. Just because there is a coupon in the paper doesn’t mean that you have to use. Manufacturers are trying to entice you to buy their product. For example: if there is a coupon for 50% off eyebrow wax, and you don’t wax your eyebrows… don’t use it.
- Plan on shopping during a (relatively) slow time at the store. This gives you time to find everything on your list without feeling rushed. For instance, going grocery shopping right after work usually means that you are shoulder to shoulder with lots of other people who had the exact same idea. If possible, avoid shopping on the eve of a holiday. Stores tend to be packed with other shoppers.
- Check your refrigerator for leftovers. There may be enough for several meals. If you don’t check, your leftovers may spoil before you think about using them. This is a waste of your time, money, and food.
- Prepare your grocery list by department. It makes shopping easier and you will spend less time going back and forth between aisles. For example: dairy – butter, sour cream, milk, and whipping cream; produce – mushrooms, spinach, and fresh herbs; and bulk – nuts, flours, and beans.
- Eat seasonally. Prepare your shopping list by what is being grown and/or produced in your area now. This saves you money as out-of-season items tend to cost more and are shipped in from a greater distance (and transportation costs are included in the pricing). Fresh peaches in winter? Yeah… they were shipped in rather than from the orchard a few miles away.
- Shop with a budget. Based on your list, determine an approximate budget for those groceries. If you come home having spent double the estimate, chances are that some impulse purchases ended up in your shopping cart.
- Determine how many meals will be at home for the upcoming week. Will there be business dinners? Kids staying with friends or family any evenings? If you say yes to any of these, shop accordingly.
- Buy what you and your family like. If green beans are on sale, don’t buy them if you and your family doesn’t like them. Food waste often comes about from either not using something before it goes bad or that it simply is not eaten after being prepared.
Take the time to do some planning before you head to the grocery store. Your efforts will save you time and money. Now start checking to see what you have on hand before you write out your list.