We often wonder if there is really a way we can streamline our grocery shopping. One of the largest line items in our budget is food. It is also the one that can get out of control easily, if we don’t watch it closely. Fortunately, food can also be the easiest line item to lower, if you know the ropes and pay close attention to what you are doing.
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With the grocery stores being low on supplies right now, streamlining your grocery shopping can be even more important. There are some who find themselves out of work, which means the little income we have needs to stretch even further than before. Knowing what to buy, and then how to use it when you get home has just become a major consideration.
Need a little help? Try these tips and see just how much money you can save, and how far your food budget can stretch:
Streamline Before You Leave the House
Long before you leave home, streamline your grocery shopping with a list. Shoppers who make a list and stick to it will cut your spending by 25% or more on average. When that list is organized by section, the percentage can be even higher. You will be more focused on the list than on displays, loss leaders and other tactics designed to remove you of your money.
To make your list, do a pantry, refrigerator and freezer inventory. One benefit to this is that you don’t buy duplicates. Unless you use it almost on a daily basis or a large family, 10 cans of corn just takes up space in your pantry.
Take your inventory lists and create a meal plan. List out the meals you plan to cook for the next couple of weeks. Write down the items you do not have to complete these meals on your list. (The Ultimate Guide to the Art of Homemaking has some great forms to help you with your grocery and inventory lists!)
Learn to create one meal that can stretch into two or three. Look for creative ways to use the leftovers. A pot of Vegetable Beef Soup can be made with leftovers, and is one of those meals that will stretch, just by adding a few more vegetables or water. Add a loaf of homemade bread and your meal will be filling and delicious.
Once the food portion of your list is completed, check for any other items you may need. Once your list is completed, organize it according to the sections in the grocery store: fresh fruits & vegetables, bread, canned goods, dairy, etc.
Paper and Cleaning Products
A sure-fire way to streamline your grocery shopping is to refrain from buying paper products. Before you add paper plates, paper towels or other ‘use and toss’ items, first determine if there is a way you can refrain from buying them altogether.
Paper towels are the first thing that comes to my mind. Instead of using them to dry your hands or wipe up spills, consider grabbing a dishtowel, a dish cloth or a sponge. These things can easily be washed and reused.
I do confess to buying paper towels. However, we primarily use them when the Country Boy is frying fish or chicken strips. Since we don’t eat either of those much, one roll can last quite a while. Which also means I have more time to wait until they are on sale.
Paper plates, cups and napkins are the same way. It really doesn’t take long to wash your dishes. Washing dishes can also be a way to grab a few minutes of quiet time for yourself, or spending quality time with a child or spouse.
Most of the laundry detergent available has a high percentage of water. Making your own laundry detergent is an easy way to streamline your grocery shopping. Plus, it works as well or better than store-bought. In addition, you can pick and choose your own scents, or keep them scent-free if you choose.
Cleaning supplies are also expensive. Armed with a few regular household products like vinegar, baking soda and lemons, you can make a wide variety of cleaning product types. These are also healthier for your family and the environment.
Pay Attention to your Grocery Store
The very layout of your grocery store is designed to ‘help’ you spend more money. Dairy products and eggs, two items that folks often ’just run in and get’ are placed in the very back of the store. This is so you spend more time in the store, thereby thinking of ‘one or two’ more items you need. By the time you leave, you could easily be carting out that gallon of milk, along with three or four other bags of groceries.
And can you just smell all those fresh-baked aromas coming from the bakery? Not only does your grocery store hope you will stop by and pick up something for dessert, but it is also designed to make your hungry. And hungry shoppers spend more money.
From the music playing and the lack of windows and clocks to the exact placement of fresh fruits and vegetable and how a shelf is stocked, there is a serious psychology behind a grocery store layout. Know what you are getting into before you go.
Take Your Tools
Not only should you take a list to the grocery store, you should also take a calculator. This is helpful when trying to figure the true cost of an item. It also helps you to determine the price difference between buying in bulk vs. a single item. Sometimes buying a 6 pack of green beans costs the same per can as it does to buy a single one.
If you are like most of us, you use coupons. However, most coupons are for brand name items. Did you know that many of the store brands are made by the same company as the brand names? The only difference is the packaging and labeling.
Using your calculator along with coupons can help you figure the store price minus the coupon amount. Once that is done, compare that cost to the price of another product. All too often, you can streamline your grocery shopping even without a coupon.
Sales papers are another great way to find what stores call ‘loss leaders’. These are items that are usually marked at a great discount. This discount is designed to get you in the store. Once there, the marketing gurus that came up with this ploy are betting you will buy more than just that one item.
Have a Game Plan
Whether you choose to start at the back of the store so heavier items will be on the bottom, or at the front of the store, use your list categories to guide you. Go straight to the items on your list, make your selection, then move on.
For those with children, this is one time you may want to leave them at home. On an average, shopping with children can cost you 10% to 40% more. Too often, we give in to the pleas for a different cereal (usually chosen because of the prize inside), or try to keep them busy with a bag of candy.
If you cannot leave the children at home, then bring a toy, a book or something they like to keep them busy. Some grocery stores have kid-size shopping carts. Let them push one of those, and only allow them to place items that you choose and point out.
Avoid Impulse Purchases to Streamline your Grocery Shopping
There is a reason all that candy and the magazines are right at the checkout counter. By the time you are finished shopping, you may be getting a little tired, and piece of chocolate would be the best pick-me-up. Nothing like a sugar boost, right?
And did you see that recipe in the magazine???? Before you toss it in your cart, check out the price. Some magazines are now costing up to $15.00 an issue. That alone is a budget buster for most of us.
My rule of thumb for any magazine is that it cannot cost more than $6.00, and must have at least 75% of usable information in it. If it is primarily recipes, that means I have to be willing to make 75% of them before I buy.
And yes, there are a few magazines I buy. Up until they started costing more than my allowable amount, I loved the holiday additions. We do a lot of entertaining and baking during that time. However, I usually end up making most of the ones I loved.
Instead of indulging in impulse purchases, take a notebook with you. While waiting to check out, start making lists. These can be things you need to accomplish, birthday gift ideas, or even things you would like to make for others at Christmas.
You can also listen to an audio book (with ear buds in, of course), or if worse comes to worse, count ceiling tiles. Just find a distraction to keep yourself from reaching for that soda and a candy bar.
Have you been trying to trim your budget, but not sure where to start? Take a look at your food line item. By following these few simple tips, you can easily cut it by a minimum of 10% or more. And you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done!