Each week, MoneyNing has been preparing you for a more financially-sound 2013. This week, we want to help you develop great grocery shopping habits that will let you leave 2013 better than you started it.
Wondering how to slash your grocery bill in the new year? Read on for our grocery shopping secrets.
Never Leave Home Without It
Not your American Express — your grocery list!
That statement might make you want to roll your eyes, but it’s a fact: people who shop without a list end up spending much more than shoppers with them.
Since groceries swallow around 13% of your budget, adding anything on top of that can be really painful.
But making any old list won’t solve your problems. If you sit and scribble a list without thinking, you’ll be left scrambling for ingredients or running to the store because you don’t have the zucchini needed for the Pasta Primavera.
And what does this quick trip to the store mean? You’ll spend a minimum of $15, because, undoubtedly, you’ll pick up something you’re craving or that looks tasty.
Master the art of list making, and you’ll create a shopping strategy that will save you hundreds each year.
Master the Art of Grocery-List Making
The art of grocery-list making begins with the critical step of planning your meals. Unfortunately, many shoppers skip this step since they don’t like to be strapped to a plan. They want to be creative, making whatever strikes their fancy.
Yet, a meal plan isn’t a rope that ties you down; it’s a key to unlocking your financial shackles.
All you need is seven recipes that you want to try, or love to cook (or 14, if you’re on a biweekly pay period). That’s it. No one says that you have to plan shrimp tacos for Monday night and that you then have to cook them on Monday. Even if you list the meals you want to cook, you can still decide WHEN you cook them. Since you have the necessary ingredients on hand, you can cook when the inspiration strikes — without wasting time or money picking anything up.
My wife keeps a Master List of groceries we buy all the time, and she’ll add random items as needed, such as salt, sugar, or portobello mushrooms (for the new grilled portobello recipe she found online).
Before we shop, she does an inventory/recipe check, circling the items we’re out of before moving on. It’s handy, effective, and FAST. We’re usually out the door within minutes of starting the inventory check.
Now that you have these list techniques in place, the second step in your new shopping strategy is to take the list with you.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve made our list only to leave the house without it. Then, at the store, we always end up adding more meat than we need, or forgetting how much pasta we already had.
This amounts to money spent that didn’t have to be. If you just can’t remember your list, well, there’s an app for that!
Use Apps to Help You Remember
Of the nine million apps currently available, AnyList is by far my most beloved list app. If I add shaving cream to the list, my wife will know about it, since we’re sharing that list. Siri will add it for you, so you won’t even have to open your phone!
Since your phone will be with you while you’re shopping, you’ll never be able to forget your list again.
Don’t just record the ingredients required for next week’s menu; write everything else down, as well.
Need coffee? Write it down. Want snacks? Write down every kind of snack you’d like to get.
You may feel silly at first, adding every little item. If you write down everything — even how many bags of chips and cans of assorted nuts you plan to buy — then it will all be accounted for when you check out, and you’ve followed the next secret of strategic shopping.
If It Isn’t Written Down, Don’t Buy It
This is the cardinal rule of smart grocery shopping; you must follow it to maximize your money-saving strategy.
If you put it on your phone or on your paper, you can put it in your cart.
If not, you can’t. Skip it until next week, so you can teach yourself to be more diligent.
Over time, you’ll begin to only buy things that you need, and you’ll spend less on unnecessary items.
Saving at the grocery store will make a big difference in your budget over the course of the year. By using a list and these strategic shopping techniques, you’ll learn discipline and watch your savings grow!
Do you think lists are important for smart grocery shopping?