Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Successful Shopping

It has been said (I don’t know by whom) that failing to plan is planning to fail. This is very true when it comes to something as seemingly simple as grocery shopping. What starts out as an innocent trip to the corner market can become disastrous within minutes. Before you know it you may end up with a cart full of over-priced “what the heck am I going to do with this” items.
Here are some hints to help you become a successful shopper:

~~NEVER go when you are hungry. Grocery stores are designed to lure you to certain areas with their delicious smells. Rotisserie chickens, fresh baked breads, fried items at a hot food bar, etc. And let’s face it…when you are hungry everything looks good and has a chance of ending up in your cart.

~~NEVER go without a shopping list. (hints for writing a good shopping list later) If you’re just running in for 1 thing it may be ok, but otherwise don’t do it. A list gives you direction and keeps you from going up and down all the aisles to see what looks good to you that day. Everything will look good and have a chance of ending up in your cart. Then you get home and realize you don’t have what you need to make what you thought looked good or have anything to eat with it. Try to get a map of the store from the customer service desk and then arrange your list in the order of the aisles.

~~ALWAYS compare prices. Know which stores in your area have the best everyday prices on meat, dairy, produce, and other items you purchase often. Check the unit price (per ounce or pound) to see which is the least. You might need to bring a calculator. Value size is not always the best deal. Store brands are very similar in quality to name brands – don’t be afraid to try them. I’ve read that the most expensive items are placed at eye level so make sure to look up and down on the shelves. Read all the sales flyers weekly (many stores will email them to you), and clip coupons. Keep your coupons together in an envelope or baggie and use them before they expire. Try to combine sales and coupons for the lowest prices. Get a savings card for each store you go to and use them. Many stores have sections of reduced price meats, produce, and bakery items that are still good quality. Check these areas first. Stock up on really good deals of something you will use and freeze it. In season go to the local farmers’ markets.

~~DON’T buy what you don’t need. Remember that something is only a good deal if it’s something you will actually use. You’re wasting money buying something because it is super cheap and then having it sit in your pantry forever. If it’s such a great deal that you can’t pass it up, go ahead and get it and then donate it to a food pantry, homeless shelter, or needy family.

~~CHECK your receipt before you leave the store. Next to each item on my shopping list, I usually mark down what price the item should be, and then total it up while I’m waiting on line – another good reason to bring a calculator. If the amount I’m charged is higher than what I expected, then I compare my list to the receipt and ask for a refund of the difference at customer service. If the amount was lower due to an unadvertised special then whoo-hoo! I can consider picking up a few more of whatever it was. If the amount was lower because the cashier did not scan something, or entered a code incorrectly, then I am always honest (and you should be too!) and bring it to their attention.


Keep a magnetic notepad (available at most dollar stores) and a pencil on your refrigerator. If you start running low or finish something you use often: milk, juice, eggs, rice, paper towels, etc. write it on the list. I always start at the bottom of the page so I can just rip off the list and not waste the rest of the sheet.

Make out your menu for the week. Take a sheet of paper and divide it into 7 rows and 3 columns. For each day, write down what you will have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A 4th column can be added for snacks/desserts. Go through your pantry and freezer to see if there’s anything needing to be used up. Check the recipes for what you want to make each day, and add items that you will need to purchase to your shopping list. Make sure to defrost meats ahead of time so they are ready to go. Try as much as possible to stick to the menu, but you can be flexible too. If you’re just really not in the mood for what you planned then go ahead and pick something else to have. Try to always cook an extra serving or 2 and freeze your leftovers in plastic containers. Put a piece of masking tape on the side or lid and label what’s inside and the date that you froze it. If you have a large freezer and/or lots of leftovers, it helps to keep a list of what’s in there. A dry-erase board is great for that. Make leftovers part of your menu rotation. They’re great on weekends or other times when you will be in and out all day and would rather reheat than cook. Small amounts of meat/veggies/rice/pasta can be combined to make soups.

If the leftovers build up to the point of you wanting to scream, invite friends over for a smorgasbord night. Have them bring salads, wine, fresh breads, and desserts then enjoy the buffet and their company.

I would enjoy hearing your suggegstions and ideas as well.
You can share them in the comments section.
to Denise Keegan for designing my new signature logo


Leslie said...

love the idea of a magnetic notepad on the refrigerator. also, i have one, so that makes me feel like i won the test!
now, if only i could somehow make it so that I absolutely need those random cookies at Trader Joe's instead of just wanting them.

Stephanie Nikolopoulos said...

Great tip on starting the list at the bottom of the notepad! I never thought of that but that's a great save on paper.

Anonymous said...

Buy in season. It's healthier and cheaper.

Anonymous said...

fyi, the store brands aren't always chaper. check the prices!

Miss Hannah said...

Pretty much everything at TJ's is Hannah-approved. Especially since they let you return it if you don't like it! And their prices are usually very reasonable for such great products. Too bad we don't have one here : (

Anonymous said...

I am off to shop with these new tips, thank you.

Denise Keegan (spunky) said...

good tips i totally agree, great post