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grocery store

Mistakes easily made with the grocery store.

Have you ever run into the grocery store for “just a few things” and ended up with “a few things too many”?

Or have you gone in with items in mind, but then just walked around aimlessly up and down each aisle and ended up with way more than you were expecting?

What about when you log on for your click-and-go order and just start clicking on the items they “suggest” for you from either previous orders or because “others also bought” with items?

The thing is, we are all guilty of this. And sadly, with how the price of groceries has increased over the last year, it is something that needs to be discussed, and better habits started to be formed.

The importance of a grocery list

One of the main reasons for creating a grocery list is so you know what items you absolutely need. Whether it be because you ran out of something, you need it as a specific item in a recipe, or because it is on the menu for this week’s meal plan, having specific items outlined is key.

The other benefit is that you are not guessing as to what you need, leading you to possibly overspend on duplicate items or not-needed items.

And it allows you to have less frequent trips (or virtual clicks). Which has been proven that the more store trips you make, the more you are to make impulse purchases. Meaning, more opportunities to break your grocery budget.

How you organize your grocery list can matter

There are several ways you can go about organizing your grocery list. The trick is making it efficient so that when you shop, you don’t wonder. Because if you wonder, that’s when unnecessary spending can happen.

Meal Plan

My tried and true suggestion is to start with your meal plan for the week. Go through what you will need to prepare each meal.

Take Inventory

Know what you have, and don’t have before going to the grocery store. As annoying as it may seem, standing in front of your fridge and pantry before making your list will help you know what you need to add to your list. However, this can be a double edge sword. It can make you realize you don’t have something, that maybe you don’t necessarily need (i.e., does not fit in with your meal plan for the week and could risk going bad before being used/eaten). A trick my husband and I have done to try and lessen our standing in front of the pantry or fridge and avoid “over needing” when writing out our grocery list, is a handy dandy magnetic notepad. We keep this on our fridge, and if we run out of something we use regularly (milk, eggs, butter, etc.), we can add it at the moment.

Map out the store

Think through the layout of your store while creating your list. Start with the back and work your way forward. Making a “map” of which aisles you need to hit to grab items on your list helps eliminate that “wondering” I’ve been talking about. You go in, go to the area you need to go to, and grab the items needed, all while working your way back to the front near the cash registers.

Categorize your list

This is helpful when you know your store layout. You can put all your dairy together in one section, then list all your grains/bread needed, and produce can be paired together… you kind of get the picture here. Hopefully categorizing your items will help you not forget something in that area, making you circle back to a previous area.

Know your amounts

Knowing how many items or amounts of an item you need is important too, especially if you are trying to copy a recipe. The last thing you want to do is get home from the store (or pick your grocery haul up from your online order) and realize you needed an extra cup of an ingredient, or one whole item to complete your meal/recipe. This not only helps you make the recipe/meal correctly and proportionally, but it also reduces the waste of ingredients. You’re not over-guessing because you don’t want to short-change yourself on an ingredient, but you can’t find a way to use said ingredient later before it goes bad because you bought too much of it.

Shop Store Brand vs Name Brand

Remember, the majority of the time, store-brand items are a fraction of the price when comes to name-brand items. And typically, you will not find a difference between the two besides the costs. And a little unknown fact, some items are the same exact thing, just packaged in either name brand or store brand! Step out of your comfort zone next shopping trip and try the store brand of a name-brand item. See what your thoughts are. If you hate it, all you have to do is deal with it until that item runs out. And if you don’t notice a difference, you could end up saving yourself large dollar amounts in the end.

Let your grocery list help you

Outside of making sure you have the right ingredients, and the right amount of ingredients, your grocery list is hopefully going to help you eliminate extra strolls around the store, or stop you from buying unnecessary purchases.

When looking at coaching clients’ budgets, the grocery budget is one of the first places we suggest to start cutting back, especially if you express to us during meetings that you don’t meal plan, or make regular grocery lists.

Let your grocery list help you by not overspending. It’s a great way to help you budget, especially if you are on a tight budget, and trying to find ways to cut your budget.

If you need help tailoring your budget or creating one, schedule a meeting with our Financial Coach, Lindsey Curry. She can help review your existing budget and help you find ways to “trim the fat”, or if you’re just starting, show you helpful tips.


November 4, 2022

Lindsey Curry

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