I’m very meticulous about most of the things I do, especially grocery shopping. I find that task to be horribly annoying, much like having to return the back seats of my car to their upright position after doing laundry.
Anyway, because if this I try to be in and out of the market as quickly as possible. This can be very difficult when reading labels and such, but after some time you will know which foods belong in your cart and which ones don’t.
I also don’t like spending more money than I have to. Eating clean can be pricy, but it doesn’t have to be if you know how to buy.
Below is an outline of how I do my own shopping. It may seem crazy, but it actually keeps me sane. Follow one tip or follow them all.
Let’s take a step into my ridiculously organized / disorganized mind.
Start at home by creating a meal plan for the week or next two weeks and follow up with a grocery list based on the items needed.
Tip: Keep in mind items that aren’t in season. For instance, if you want a summer salad in the middle of November, strawberries could be hard to find or triple the price.
I know it’s a little nutty, but I also categorize my shopping list by the layout of the store – produce first, then organic / specialty foods aisle, followed by meats, drinks, almond milk, frozen veggies, and eggs. Done! This makes it easier to find everything on the list without going in circles or backtracking ten times. It also helps to prevent wandering and getting tempted by food-like products that are just dying to go home with you.
Use your card.
Sign up for a store card – it’s free. You will get an extra discount when you use your card. Some grocery store employees are really nice and will put in a card for you, others not so much. It might just be a few cents or a dollar here or there, but by the end of the year you can see some major savings. You might even get points towards gas or a Thanksgiving turkey. Score!
No, I’m not talking about drinking and operating a cart. (Although sometimes going to the market makes me want to go home and pour a drink.) Bring Your Own Bag. This is an easy one because they sell reusable bags everywhere. EVERYWHERE. For as little as $0.99. Get some.
And, as soon as you walk in the store, pick up a scanner at the front of the store so you can check your items as you go. (Another good reason to sign up for a store card – you need it for this.) I don’t know how many times I’ve had to explain the difference between a plantain and a banana to the cashier, so I love that there are machines that weigh produce and spit out a barcode sticker that I can scan myself. When it comes time to check out, just scan your handheld, swipe your card, and go. It’s that easy…usually.
Buy in season.
This will save you a HUGE amount of money. I’m totally guilty of complaining about the quality of the produce to the guys who are stocking it. In the winter you can see some pretty nasty stuff: strawberries thawing out and dripping on the display, moldy fruit etc. “It’s citrus season,” they constantly remind me. Oranges and other citrus fruits in the winter, fiddleheads in the spring, berries in the summer, and squash and apples in the fall. Of course there is a bigger list, but you get the idea. Plus, it can cost 3x more to buy this sucky out-of-season produce. Just wait or buy frozen.
Buy on sale.
This one is a no-brainer, but I can’t stress it enough. If I really want grapes, but $2.99lb means I’ll have to pay around $10 a bag, I won’t get them. Period. I love fruit, especially frozen grapes, but why pay $10 for something today when you can pay $5 next week and get two? It can wait.
Tip: You may want to read your weekly circulars to find out which stores are having the best sales.*
This is one of the few times I’ll actually say to buy something even if you don’t need it. Did you know that there are so many foods that can be frozen and saved? Garlic scapes, onions, cauliflower, and chili, to name a few. Buy it on sale and freeze it, so when it costs double the price next week you’ll already have a stash. This can also make meal prepping A LOT easier.
Buy in bulk.
It’s always a good idea to stock up on non-food supplies. I’m a very messy cook and I ALWAYS run out of paper towels. Recently, I started buying a big case and it has been so helpful. I suggest doing the same with sponges, dish soap, plastic baggies in all sizes, foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper, and, while you’re at it, even toilet paper. (I had to throw in that last one because I am always running out of tp. Oops!)
Hopefully these steps can save you some time and money and give you a little peace of mind. Happy (grocery) shopping!
*I don’t typically use coupons because they don’t apply to most of what I buy. They may for paper products, but those are few and far between. As much as I wish I could say I’m a pro, there is no extreme couponing going on in my house.