Everybody (and everybody’s mom) wants to trim their grocery bill. Eating is expensive! And your grocery bill is probably higher than it could be. There are several ways to trim how much you are spending on groceries. You can watch the ads, stock up on good deals, shop at cheaper stores, etc. But there’s one tool that will make or break your grocery budget- the list.
Do I Really Need A List?
Yes, a list sounds so simple that you might be tempted to snub it. After all, it’s 2017 and we have shopping apps, rebate apps, cashback apps and all sorts of other techie things to help us save money! Who needs a lowly list? Everybody- that’s who. Unless you’re a very rare exception, you’re prone to impulse purchases.
Be honest with yourself- how many times have you walked in the store for one or two items, and walked out of the store with a whole cart load, perhaps missing the two items you came in for? And how much food do you end up throwing out because you overbought?
Simple Concept, Huge Payoff
The concept is simple. At home, when you’re not tempted by all the marketing in the grocery store, or by your hungry tummy, jot down everything you need for the following week. At the store, only buy what’s on the list. Of course, execution takes practice. But once you get this down, you’ll eliminate unnecessary purchases, you’ll spend way less time wandering the aisles of the grocery store, you’ll eliminate all those extra trips for things you forgot, and you’ll drastically cut down on your food waste.
So How Do I Make The List?
You actually need to make two lists each week- your meal plan and your grocery list. If you’re like me, and keep your breakfasts and lunches pretty basic, you only need to throw suppers on your meal plan. But, if you like to have something different each day for the other two meals as well, throw them on the meal plan too.
When you make the meal plan, take quick stock of what you already have on hand, especially noting things that need to be used up. Plan a few meals that can use these items. For the rest of your meals you plan, try to pick meals that will share perishable ingredients, unless the entire ingredient can be used up by one meal. And if you tend to have leftovers, leave room in your schedule for them, or eat them for lunch the next day.
Now on to your grocery list. For each meal, list all the ingredients needed. Leave off the ingredients you have on hand. Then take stock of weekly staples- think milk, eggs, coffee(!!!), bread, fruit, etc. Finally, check your grocery flyers for especially good sales that you can stock up on. Doing this right is crucial! Remember, not all the sales are good sales. In fact, most of the items in the ad are pretty lousy sales. Some people keep price lists or price books to track the prices of the items that they use a lot of. Also, only stock up on things that you would have used anyway. Don’t pile up on Cadbury eggs just because they’re in the Easter ad.
Using the List
Using the list is the hardest part. Remember to bring it to the store, and once you’re at the store, stick to it. If it’s not on the list, don’t pick it up. Ideally, now that you have the list, you should only be needing to make one trip a week to the grocery store. As soon as you make your grocery run, start the list for next week. As you run low on staples, add them on the list.
There’s an App For That
Of course, since it’s 2017, there’s an app for lists too. In fact there are hundreds of apps. I’ve tried a handful, and I keep going back to Google Keep. It’s simple and low on features (good as far as I’m concerned). It’s tied to your Google account, so if you already use Gmail, you don’t need to remember another password. And you can access your lists either on the app or on your internet browser.
My favorite part of Keep is being able to share your lists with other people. You can add (or remove) other users to each list simply by adding their email address or phone number. My wife and I can both access our grocery list so either one of us can jot down a staple when it runs low. And since we always have our phones on us, we never have to worry about forgetting the list at home.
If Keep is too basic, go prowling on the app store. There are apps that try to predict when you’ll need to reload on staples, apps that suggest meal plans, apps that automatically add all the ingredients from a recipe to your list, and so much more. And of course, if you don’t want to use an app at all, you can always use a pad of scratch paper. Just find something that works and stick with it.
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- While I do strive to only write accurate information and dispense valuable advice, I am not a licensed financial adviser. All information is based solely on my personal experience and personal research and should be treated as such. Find out more.