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There is no secret behind the best way to grocery shop. It simply requires a bit of upfront effort and planning. Put the time in now and you’ll be amazed by the results.
In the past, I would go to the grocery store whenever I needed an item we were out of. Most weeks this meant at least 2-3 visits to the grocery store after work plus 1 or 2 trips on the weekend.
I felt like the grocery store was my home away from home. Shouldn’t a home away from home be on a beach somewhere warm or at the very least my mom’s house?
Smart Ways to Grocery Shop
#1 – Meal Planning
We used to eat out a lot. By a lot, I mean 3-4 times a week. It was fun for awhile but it was burning a whole in our pocket.
It wasn’t until I thought through the true cost of eating out , that I learned how important a weekly meal plan and applicable grocery list is. Planning out your meals and the groceries you need to make them is probably the best way to grocery shop.
Without a plan I easily wasted 45 minutes in multiple trips to the grocery store a week. With a grocery list in hand to cover a week’s worth of meals, I no longer make multiple trips to the grocery store every week. I had never even considered the time grocery shopping multiple times a week was costing me.
The grocery store is about 5 minutes out of the way on my drive home and then I have to find the item or items I need and wait in line to buy them. That’s an easy 15 minutes each night I stop at the grocery store maybe more.
The time savings element is a nice bonus that has come from meal planning. However, the true beauty of meal planning is the efficiency in which I can get my grocery shopping done now. I am no longer stressing over what to buy or make for dinner after a long day of work because I already have it figured out.
#2 – Do Not Grocery Shop On An Empty Stomach
Aside from the time element associated with multiple trips to the grocery store, there is a potential hidden cost. Shopping after work on an empty stomach opens the door to impulse buying.
Ever find yourself grabbing jalapeño stuffed olives or a container of cashews simply because they look good? Sure you’ll gobble these up when you get home but could you have waited 30 minutes until dinner was ready? You would have saved yourself $5 and some extra calories. When you are trying to save money these impulse buys can be a killer.
#3 – Use A Grocery Shopping App
I imagine there are several apps available designed to make your trip to the grocery store easier. I personally have been using the AnyList app to create a weekly grocery list and am very happy with it.
It is a fantastic tool that has simplified my life without much effort on my part. You can store recipes to your family’s favorite meals in the AnyList app and then click the items you’re out of each week to add to your shopping list.
I also created a “Common Items” list of groceries that we need but don’t fit into a recipe like cereal or milk. Before leaving my house, I take a quick inventory of these items and click on the items we’re low on to add to my shopping list.
The grocery list is separated by categories in a similar manner you would find them at the grocery store. This makes grocery shopping smoother. I highly recommend checking out the AnyList app to help organize your grocery shopping list.
#4 – Decide The Best Grocery Store(s) To Shop At
In conjunction with having a grocery list ready before heading out to the store(s), it’s probably worth flipping through the weekly ads for the stores in your area. This will give you an idea of what’s on sale and where the best place to shop is for the week.
I am not advocating going to every store in your area because one of the items on your list is on sale there. Rather, based on the weekly ads decide which one or two grocery stores have the best deals for what you are shopping for that week.
Grocery Shopping Example
Let’s say you plan to make two meals using eggs, tomatoes and chicken for the coming week. Grocery Store 1 has tomatoes and eggs on sale and Grocery Store 2 has chicken thighs on sale.
You will need 5 pounds of chicken thighs, 2 pounds of tomatoes and 4 eggs for the week. At first glance Grocery Store 1 sounds pretty good since it has 2 of the 3 items on sale, but that is only part of the story.
Here’s a breakdown of what you will spend at both stores:
Grocery Store 1:
- $3.49 for a pound of chicken thighs (5 pounds will cost $17.50)
- $1.49 for a pound of tomatoes (2 pounds will cost $3)
- $1 for a dozen eggs (4 eggs will cost $0.25)
Total Cost at Grocery Store 1 is $20.75.
Grocery Store 2:
- $1.99 for a pound of chicken thighs (5 pounds will cost $10)
- $1.99 for a pound of tomatoes (2 pounds will cost $4)
- $1.49 for a dozen eggs (4 eggs will cost $0.75)
Total Cost at Grocery Store 2 is $14.75.
Despite two items being cheaper at Grocery Store 1, you will save more money shopping at Grocery Store 2 because the main item you need is cheaper at Grocery Store 2.
The weekly sales ads are designed to get you in the store on lower cost items. The stores are hoping you will then do all your shopping there out of convenience.
Consider how much you will use the sale items in the coming week and hit up the 1 or 2 stores that will give you the best deals overall. The idea being you want to save as much money and time as possible without driving around to several stores for the best deal on one or two items.
Recap On The Best Way To Grocery Shop
Are you willing to put forth a bit of upfront work now to save yourself money and time in the long run? Compiling a list of recipes and their ingredients is the hardest part of creating a weekly shopping list. However, once it is done there’s minimal effort each week to create that list.
If you are using the AnyList app and have your recipes saved, all you have to do is click on the items you need for each recipe. The items will show on the grocery list screen, where you can cross out the items as you put them in your shopping cart at the store.
If you aren’t in the habit of cooking every meal or simply don’t have the time, double up a recipe. Then, save the leftovers for another meal when you’re too busy to cook or take them to work for lunch the next day.
If you really want to get creative, you could make a few extra grilled chicken thighs one night. Then, you could shred them for tacos the next night. Not as easy as a complete set of leftovers but still nice and quick with a little variety.
For most people, cooking dinner 4 nights a week is doable. The secret is to plan not only what you will be cooking on those nights but what nights each week you will be cooking. If you know Monday’s are bad, then make sure you have leftovers lined up for that night from the weekend.
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