5 Ways a Grocery List Saves Money, Energy and Time

In spite of the cooler temperatures and rain this afternoon, I took all three munchkins grocery shopping at Aldi. With my list in hand, we quickly maneuvered through the aisles where I sent my helpers to gather the items on the list.

When we arrived at checkout, my son asked, “Is that it?” When I acknowledged that we finished the list, he responded, “Wow, that was fast.” I couldn’t help but smile because using time wisely to write out a grocery list took me about 10 minutes, but I discovered at least 5 ways a grocery list saves money, energy, and time.

1. Verify my Items

If the item is on my Aldi list, then I know that we need this item. My Bi-Lo and Publix’s lists concentrate on the sales, but my Aldi list is for everything else, not on sale, that our family needs during the week. Only items in low supply or depleted make it to the Aldi list, so I know that I need all the items.

2. Calculate Price

When making my Aldi list, I know about how much these groceries will cost. Keeping our budget in mind when making out the list saves me money at the store when I am wavering on a purchase. If the price changes or I want to substitute an item, I can calculate the difference on my grocery list.

3. Estimate Time

When my grocery list is complete with 11 items, then I know that the errand will use a half an hour or less. If my list fills up a whole page, then I may need to block out an hour to shop. Without a list, I spend more time because I cannot-remember-that-item-that-I-really-needed-yesterday.

4. Formulate a plan

While my son gets the grocery cart, I review the grocery list. Knowing the layout of our store, I can quickly find the items on my list that are on the first aisle. I can then send my son and older daughter ahead to navigate the aisle, find the item, bring it back to me, and gently place it in the cart. (We are still working on the gently part. :-))

5. Focus on the Task

As we travel through the store, the list guides our movements. If none of the items stocked on the second aisle are on the list, then we move to the next aisle. The list eliminates backtracking and walking up and down extra aisles which saves us energy and time. By knowing our store’s layout and following our list, we quickly gathered our savings and headed for checkout.

In using time wisely, I use a grocery list to verify my items, calculate price, estimate time, formulate a plan, and focus on the task. My grocery list is more than just a list of items. The grocery list tool frees me to gather needed groceries without wasting time while I spend time with my children (who love to walk through Aldi with their umbrellas up). 🙂

When you plan and execute your grocery list, you just might find yourself going to the checkout counter saying, “Wow, that was fast.” Happy savings!

Question: How does your grocery list save you money, energy, and time?

Grocery Shopping: Creating your Grocery Lists – Part 3 of 3

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Briana Carter)

Last week, we left off with a printed grocery list from each store. These lists contain all the items that I am considering purchasing. My final decision will be based on how much I plan to spend this week on grocery shopping. As we complete Part 3 of Step Four: Creating grocery lists in our food cycle series, I match coupons and top off the lists.

Matching Coupons

With the available coupons listed on my grocery list, I am able to grab my binders and locate the best coupons.  Yes, I said binders. Not to get too detailed about my coupon organization, but I have two binders. One holds all the food items, and the other houses all the cleaners, toiletries, medicines, and other non-food items. (You have not missed anything. I plan to do a series on my coupon organization method at a later date. 🙂 )

After locating the coupons for each item, I then decide how many of those products I plan to purchase using the same questions relating to the Buy One Get One Free offers. If I do not have coupons or the deal is not as great as I thought it would be, then I just mark that deal off my grocery list.

In my binders, I keep all coupons for free items in a front sleeve. Before finishing my grocery list, I will add any free items to my grocery lists that can be used with this week’s sales or will be expiring this week.

With the coupons gathered, I place them in an envelope labeled with that store’s name. The grocery list is folded and placed in the front of the envelope for easy retrieval at the grocery store.

Topping off the Lists

At this point in the process, I have two envelopes complete with coupons and grocery list. One envelope is labeled Bi-Lo and the other Publix. The last step is looking back at my pad of paper. Are there still items listed? Yes.

Since none of these items were on sale and I need to purchase them, I will choose the least expensive store and shop for these items. In my area, Aldi is my least expensive option. This store does not accept coupons, and most items are Aldi’s store brand.

The remaining items on my list get compiled for a shopping trip to Aldi.  Although Aldi carries most items, there are a few items (e.g., ground mustard) they do not. For those items, I will usually purchase at Bi-Lo or Wal-mart – if a trip is already planned for the week. If I can wait a week or two for some of the items, then I will keep them on the list and continue watching the ads for a sale.

With all three lists created, my coupons gathered, and envelopes prepared, I am ready for a visit to the grocery stores. By thoroughly preparing in advance, I can make smart decisions at the grocery store. I know what I have at home, what I have planned, and what I need to succeed at that plan. Though this process seems long, I have found my rhythm and ways to implement these steps a little at a time. With a 5 minute break, I can complete one or two steps. Just working to improve is making progress!

Question: What is the least expensive grocery store in your area? Please add your answer to the comments.

Grocery Shopping: Creating your Grocery Lists – Part 2c of 3

Photograph Credit: Stock.xchng (Christy Thompson)

How are the grocery sales going in your area? Last week was very unusual in that I spent almost $150 in groceries due to some fantastic sales. Yes, this amount is almost my budget for 2 grocery weeks. However, I am now stocked with meat, cheese, snacks, sides, and vegetables.

When I shopped this week’s sales yesterday, I spent $5 at Publix and by-passed the sales at Bi-Lo. For these two weeks, I am still within my budget. Yeah! The timing determines my savings. Thankfully, I was using time wisely when the items were on sale.

In working through the “creating your grocery lists” series, we have considered Steps 1-2 in Part 1 and Steps 3-4 in Part 2. Now, let’s consider Steps 5 and 6 in Part 3 as we complete our shopping lists.

Step 5: Print Grocery List

Once I have the needed items that are on sale and the BOGOF options, I will print this list. These are the items I may or may not purchase at this store.

Step 6: Repeat process for next grocery store

In my neck of the woods, I have quite a few grocery store options: Food Lion, Ingles, Publix, Bi-Lo, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Wal-mart (to name a few). If I tried to shop at all the stores, I would be shopping all week.

Since I would rather be using time wisely and spending time with my family, I choose to shop at 2 stores: Bi-Lo and Publix. As I create this part of my grocery list, I prepare one list for Bi-Lo and another for Publix.

This process may seem long at first. I remember it taking me all day to prepare my lists with all the normal interruptions. (Again, this system is not for everyone.) When it takes me 4 hours to prepare a grocery list where I save $50, then I am “making” $15 per hour. As I practice and continue to cut my preparation time to 1 hour, I am increasing my hourly savings to $50 an hour (when based on the same shopping trip).

Now that I know the system and have practiced it for many months, I am routinely creating these two lists in under an hour which is maximizing my savings.

My success did not occur overnight. I have made many mistakes along the way. For example, stocking up on an item when it was on sale for $1 off to find the next week the same item was a BOGOF item for $2.50 off. Sale items are great if you need the item, but I have learned not stock up on a sale item.

My stock up price is 50% off. I will purchase one item of a sale price to get me through until the next BOGOF sale on that item. Using coupons with those BOGOF sales just increases the savings. How do I know this? Because I have learned from my own mistakes. I would not be saving 50-90% on my groceries today if I had not started trying these techniques. By just implementing one or two saving strategies, you can increase your savings by 20-40% without using a single coupon. But you need to start, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy the savings.

The basic lists are now created. Next week, I will share briefly how I match coupons and finish compiling my list for each store. In using time wisely, I hope you are finding this series helpful. If so, then try a tip or two and see if your savings increase. If you are like me, once you see the savings, you won’t want to pay full price ever again. 🙂

Question: What is your favorite savings strategy thus far? Please click on Leave your Comment to add your answer.

Grocery Shopping: Creating your Grocery Lists – Part 2b of 3

Photograph Credit: Stock.Xchng (Gerla Brakkee)

Has your schedule changed in the last few weeks due to one or more children attending school? If so, I’m right there with you. My son just entered first grade which is a transition to a longer school day. As he is adapting to school, the girls and I are adjusting to him being gone, picking him up later, and finding a new routine that works for us.

Keeping all the pieces together and just rearranging them a bit is helping. For me, adjusting a plan is much easier than creating a new one. As we continue this grocery shopping series on creating your grocery lists, I hope that you can take this detailed plan and adjust it to fit your needs.

Last week in Part 2a, I covered steps 1 and 2 in a 6-step process. Today, I will continue steps 3 and 4.

Step 3: Scan the ad for items on your needed list

If I find a sale on spices and have ground mustard on my needed items list, then I will be purchasing or at least looking at spices when I shop at this store. If the web site you are using has a little box next to the item, then you can check it if you are considering purchasing this item. At the end of the list of sale items, you can create your shopping list. (This is my number one reason for loving www.southernsavers.com.)

Unfortunately, not all grocery store deal web sites have this option. If you use a web site that does not create the shopping list for you, then create your own:

    • Open a word processing program like Microsoft WORD
    • Create a NEW document
    • Go back to the deal web site, highlight the entire grocery store deal post, and copy it.
    • Back at your new document, paste that list.
    • Delete items you do not plan to purchase.

Step 4: Consider the Buy One Get One Free sale items

When you purchase items that are buy one get one free (BOGOF), you are already saving 50%. If you have coupons for these items, you can increase your savings! The number of BOGOF items I purchase depends on the answer to the following questions:

1. How many coupons I have for that product?

    • If I have 6 coupons for Hillshire Farm sausage which brings the price down to $.86 per package, then I will probably purchase all 6 packages.
    • If I have 2 coupons for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, then I will be purchasing at least 2 packages. (My kids eat A LOT of goldfish.)

2. How much of that product my family will consume in 4-6 weeks?

    • My family does not need 6 packages of Hillshire Farm sausage, however, I will work in meals with sausage (maybe try a new recipe) for this great price.
    • Two packages of goldfish will not last more than 2 weeks at my house, so I will probably purchase more than 2 packages. Two packages will be lower in price due to the coupons, but the other packages will still be 50% off.

3. How often that product goes on sale?

    • Sausage goes on sale often, so I do not need to stock up for longer than 4-6 weeks. My family is not partial to Hillshire Farm. We will eat other brands.

TIP: If your family goes through a lot of a specific brand, then stock up at the 50% off savings when that brand is BOGOF.

I stock up when Kraft Singles and boneless pork loins go on sale since their sales are infrequent.

    • Goldfish are on sale about every 5 weeks. So, I will purchase 7-9 packages to get me through until the next sale.

4. How much money is available in my budget?

    • It is very likely that sausage for $.86 per package will be in my food budget.
    • It is also very likely that Goldfish will be in my food budget.
    • However, $15 for a whole boneless pork loin may or may not be in my food budget. If I need pork loin, then I may need to forego some of the other BOGOF sale options to stay within my budget, use money saved from previous weeks to cover the cost, or choose to stock up now and adjust my weekly budget for the remainder of the month.

By adding items your family needs and stocking up on the Buy One Get One Free items, you can create meals your family enjoys and stay within your budget. You will then have more items available to create next week’s menu plan. This process has been very helpful to me as I learn to use my time wisely, save money, and feed my family.

Guess what I’ll cover next week? There’s no fooling you. Yes, I will finish steps 5 and 6 in the second part of creating your grocery lists. Happy savings!

Question: What is your family’s monthly food budget? You can check Using Time Wisely’s Facebook page for my answer. While you are there, add your answer or leave a comment. 🙂

Grocery Shopping: Creating your Grocery Lists – Part 2a of 3

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Grungezombie)

In an effort to feed my family nutritious meals on an $80 a week budget, I have a system to help me accomplish this goal. This system may be too complicated for you. No problem! Find a system that works for you!

Though you may use this same process, please do not feel like you must force this square peg (my process) into your round board (your life). Remember, this is just one option that works for me right now.

In Creating your Grocery List – Part 1 last week, I shared a detailed overview of my process for menu planning and started explaining my grocery shopping process.

Thus far, I have identified needed items from the pad of paper on my refrigerator and my supply areas: pantry, refrigerator, and freezers. With this list in hand, I am now ready to select sale items for Part 2 of my process which involves 6 steps. In keeping it manageable, I will share the first 2 steps this week. Hang in there . . . I’m going to take this slowly.

Step 1: Consult a helpful web site

Since I live in a southeastern state in the United States, I consult www.southernsavers.com. Jenny Martin has a fabulous web site for southern grocery stores and drugstores. Jenny’s link is on the right sidebar of my home page. You can easily access her web site for grocery store and drugstore deals from Using Time Wisely.

If you do not live in a southeastern state, but you are in the United States, then you can access THE GATHERING at www.becentsable.net. Chrissy has identified web sites in your state that list local grocery store and drugstore deals. You can find THE GATHERING by clicking on Becentsable’s link on my right sidebar under Time Saving Resources. This link on Using Time Wisely will take you directly to THE GATHERING to locate your state and your favorite local stores.

For those of you outside the United States, you might want to use a search engine (i.e., SwagBucks, Google, etc.) with the name of your local grocery store and deals (e.g., MYSTORE deals).

Step 2: Locate your grocery store’s weekly sales ad

Hopefully, finding this information will be easy. Most shopping web sites list the weekly sales ad by the dates of the sale. For this week, I would look for dates August 24 – 30, 2011 (for Wednesday to Tuesday sale days) or August 21-27 (for Monday to Saturday sale days).

I also look for sites that list available coupons for the sale items. This information helps you know where to find a coupon for that item.

Once you locate your favorite web site and find the location of your store’s deals (every web site is different), you will know where to begin next week. These two steps will take seconds once you find what works for you.

Working to find the best web sites for your grocery store deals will be time well spent. I went through two other sites before finding my favorite. Next week, I will continue creating my grocery list by concentrating on the items in the sales ad for steps 3 and 4. Hoping this series is beneficial to you!

Question: For your favorite grocery store, what are their sale days (Monday to Saturday)? To add your answer, please click Leave your Comment.