I am one of those weirdos who loves going grocery shopping. I look forward to cleaning out the old produce, expired items and leftovers from my fridge every weekend and filling it with fresh, new things. I love the feeling of marking off everything on my list and wandering the aisles of the grocery store, looking at all the different things on the shelves. Like I said… I’m a weirdo.
If you struggle with grocery shopping, or you are looking for ways to make it easier, I’ve put together a list just for you of five tips to make grocery shopping a piece of cake. These are all based on my own personal experience and what I do every week when I get groceries. If you have any questions or tips of your own, please leave them in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you have to say.
1. Decide where you are going to shop
Deciding where to shop is crucial. Are you going to go from store to store, based on their deals of the week? Are you going to buy in bulk at Sam’s or Costco? Are you going to go to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Sprouts? Or are you going to shop at a farmer’s market or at a superstore like Walmart or Target? Once you’ve decided where you are going to shop, you can then plan the rest of your shopping accordingly.
A few months ago I started shopping at Sprouts Farmers Market and there have only been a couple of weeks since then that I have gone anywhere else. Since most of what I buy consists of produce, I was getting frustrated with the low quality of produce I was getting at Aldi, Kroger and Walmart. It would start to go bad or get mushy halfway through the week and it was hard to find fruits and veggies that even looked ripe when I went on my weekly grocery trip. When one of my friends told me about Sprouts I was all for it, and from the minute I walked in, I knew I would never want to shop anywhere else. The staff was super friendly, the selection was great and the produce… AMAZING. I have never not found what I was looking for, and it is always fresh, flavorful and, best of all, affordable.
Something else I’ve been impressed with is the meat and cheese selection at Sprouts. There is always some sort of sale going on for the chicken, beef, pork and fish, and they have so many different types of cheeses to choose from. There is also a Boar’s Head counter where you can get deli meat and cheese, but I’ve found that the Sprout’s brand is a lot more affordable. I have started trying some of the fresh and previously frozen fish from the meat counter and so far I’ve been very happy with it! The fish doesn’t taste fishy (which is my biggest criteria when buying it), and it has been well within my budget to buy some fish every week.
I like shopping at Sprouts because of the quality of the food they have and the affordable price. They have a huge variety that I love and I have always been impressed with their customer service and cleanliness. If you haven’t shopped at Sprouts before, I highly recommend it!
2. Make a list (and check it twice!)
I am a list person. I make lists for everything, and grocery shopping is no exception. There have been times when I haven’t made a list and then realized later on in the week that I forgot an ingredient, didn’t buy enough or (dun, dun, duuun) bought things I didn’t need- which I’ll address in the next point.
I usually plan out the meals I’m going to make throughout the week, look in my fridge and pantry to see what ingredients I already have, and then go recipe by recipe- this includes recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks- and write down what I’ll need to buy for the week. This way I know I’ll have everything I need and enough of every ingredient. Lately I’ve been following a meal plan, which luckily has a grocery list already made for the week, so I don’t have to worry so much about what I’m going to eat for the week, but I still make sure to check the recipes to ensure sure I have everything written down that I need.
As for the list itself, I like to separate it into categories: produce, dairy/meat and other. Pretty self-explanatory, and it helps with organizing my time at the grocery store. If I don’t do this, I end up running here and there like a chicken with its head cut off, because my list is such a mess.
3. Don’t deviate from your list
After you’ve spent so much time making your list, don’t deviate when you get to the store! I learned this the hard way. You don’t want to get home and wonder why in the world you though that the pumpkin barbecue sauce was a good idea or end up with a lot of leftover produce in your fridge that you have to throw away. I also learned to not go shopping when you’re hungry. I did this a lot when I was in college and many times I found myself reaching for junk food I normally wouldn’t get, or grabbed too much because my eyes were bigger than my grocery list (get it?…). I ended up spending more money than I had planned and ate more throughout the week because I had those foods in my kitchen.
Don’t deviate! Your pantry, fridge and budget will thank you.
4. Have a budget
Isaac and I are all about budgeting our money. I have a weekly budget that I have to stick to, and here are some tricks I’ve learned over the years that have helped me stay under budget as I shop. As I put things in my basket, I make sure to keep a rough estimate of how much it’s all adding up to before I get to the register. There have been times I have taken things out of my basket while walking up to the register and put them back because I knew it wasn’t crucial for the week and I was going to be close to going over. Most weeks I do pretty well, but there are others that I go over by a few dollars (or $20…), or I realize that I didn’t plan my list as well as I thought and have to pick up something I hadn’t budgeted for halfway through the week. When that happens, I just make sure to deduct that amount from the next week’s budget and plan my grocery shopping accordingly.
In the past I have brought along a calculator and added up every single item I put in my basket, but that becomes tedious REAL fast, especially when you have to start calculating how much your produce will be based on weight. After a while, though, it gets easier and you can do it without a calculator and add up prices based on previous experience and a little bit of guestimating.
Another way to save some money is buying things in bulk. Sprouts has a pretty nice bulk area, where I buy all of my flour, oats, nuts, quinoa, dried fruits, and even protein powder! I’ve compared prices with prepackaged goods and the bulk area is always cheaper.
Having a budget is so important, because if you don’t know how much you have to spend, you will definitely spend too much.
5. Have fun!
Grocery shopping can be stressful, but it can also be a lot of fun! I like to plan plenty of time so I don’t feel rushed (though that doesn’t always happen), and sometimes I listen to music or an audio book to keep things interesting.
Also, try something new! There’s no time like now to branch out and try a food you haven’t had before. You may actually like something you thought you wouldn’t, or you can laugh over a flopped meal and eat cereal instead. Just make sure you add cereal to that week’s list… just in case. ;)
Let me know if you try these tips out! I’d love to hear how it goes.