Yesterday was grocery day for me. I used to never like grocery shopping because my wife and I would spend at least an hour in the store filling a cart to spend a boatload of money. Then we would get home, put it away and feel like there was nothing to eat. And we would waste about a half hour to an hour every night trying to decide what we wanted to do for dinner. Most of the time we would just decide to order out. This led to spoiled food, wasted money, and unhealthy bodies.
Since my wife made the decision for us to eat better our grocery shopping has become more streamlined. I think the longest we’ve spent getting groceries recently was a half hour. And not only have we cut our bill in half, but we also don’t open the fridge and wonder why we don’t have any food now, even though it’s usually half empty now. Here’s how.
Before we go shopping, usually the day before, we decide what we want for each meal of the week based on when we’ll each be home. Then my wife goes through each recipe to figure out how much we need of each thing and makes the shopping list. She divides everything into categories: Fruits, Veggies, Meat, Grains, Snacks, Pets, Paper/Chemical, Frozen, Dairy, and Other.
This helps us stay on track while in the store. If we just have a list in whatever order we think of things we will be comparing the list to what we see at the time and will be more likely to grab extra things. Or we will have to keep stopping to see what on the list we should try looking for next. This adds more time to the trip, not only with the standing time but also the backtracking.
If it’s a store you’ve been to before, picture in your head where everything is as you make the list. That way you know ahead of time where things would be. Most grocery stores have the same general layout but with the fine details changed.
You’ll usually enter the store into the produce section. The deli tends to be behind that. The back wall will have meats and the butcher area. The aisles near the produce tend to be bath, beauty, and baby, followed by canned goods. Boxed goods tend to be after that with paper and cleaning products before drinks. The far end of the store is frozen and dairy since these items should be in your cart for the shortest amount of time.
Of course, not every store will follow this layout. But it usually doesn’t take too long to figure it out if you aim for large categories like that when organizing your view of the store.
The last thing you need to do before you leave could be one of the most important ones. Even if you do nothing else to prepare for grocery shopping you’ll want to eat something.
If you go to the store hungry you’re more likely to buy extra things. You’ll keep seeing things and thinking about how good it looks or how it would be the perfect thing to have instead of something else on your list. But then you still get all the things on your list. Before you know it your cart is full and your wallet is empty.
At The Store
I’ve been seeing more stores introducing the small carts lately, which fill the space between a basket and a full-sized cart. If you aren’t used to planning out your trip or don’t know the store as well I would suggest grabbing one. They fill up easily which prevents overspending, but you also don’t have to carry a basket around, getting heavier as you add more things for multiple meals.
The only thing I don’t like about these is how difficult it is to get things out of the bottom basket. The top basket is always too close to the bottom. We tend to get a full sized cart now, mainly for that reason, but we usually only barely cover the bottom of the basket before we are done. The only reason we managed to fill the bottom yesterday was that we had our reusable bags taking up a quarter of the space.
Make sure you stick to the list. We usually do pretty well with sticking to the list because we only go where the items we need are. This keeps us out of the center of the store for the most part. There are a couple aisles we go down partially just to get one of two things then we go right back out as soon as we get it. In general the things your body doesn’t need but you will buy if you see them are in the aisles. If you want to save money and stay healthier you should steer away from the aisles.
As with anything, there will be some exceptions. You may need to get some spices or condiments or other bulk items which they only put in the aisles but most of the things in your cart won’t be from there. When we went yesterday I think we only went down 2 aisles. One was for a can of coconut cream. The other was for some seltzer.
You really could apply this strategy to any shopping you do. If you need to get clothing you could plan out the colors and styles you are looking for ahead of time so you don’t get distracted and end up with a closet full of clothes that still have tags on them. If you need to get new tableware you can figure out which specific things you have and need so you don’t get distracted and buy another set of rocks glasses even though you’ve never gotten to a point where all the ones you have were dirty at the same time.
Or, you know, other things people splurge on when they know they shouldn’t. As long as you plan ahead you should be able to control yourself better.