You know those moments we have sometimes that make us pause and go, “Oh god, I’m an adult” ? Well I had one recently when I realized how proud I am of my grocery shopping skills.
Yep, you read that right. I’m great at grocery shopping and I’m really proud of it.
I have my grocery shopping down to a science. Over the last couple years I have discovered and implemented little tricks and tips that make the experience as efficient as possible and overall it has made grocery shopping a much more enjoyable experience for me. Fun fact: I actually hate grocery shopping. Or I did. Now it’s not quite as bad.
Now, just to be clear when I say I’m good at it I mean I’m efficient. I’m not claiming I’m fantastic at saving money or finding deals or things like that. Once upon a time I was really into couponing and trying to save as much as I could, and sometimes I really want to focus on getting better at that, but it’s not something I currently utilize or am very knowledgeable about. But my dislike for grocery shopping has somehow manifested as this intense desire to find ways to make it as efficient as possible so now every time I shop I do a few specific things that make the shopping trip go as smooth and as fast as possible. I can go from parking the car, to driving out of the parking lot with 2 weeks worth of groceries in under 30 minutes.
Also, some of these tips might be no brainers for a lot of people, but they’re kinda new to me and I’m excited about them. So let me have this moment. Keep on reading for the things I do that made me stop hating grocery shopping (as much.)
Tip # 1 – Keep a Family List
That is, a written list that is accessible to all family members, ideally somewhere in the kitchen. We have a white board on the fridge for example. The 2 main purposes for this are so that anyone in the family can add things as they use the last of something or think of something they might want. I can’t tell you how many times before we started doing, where I would grocery shop only to have my kid say “Oh yeah we’re out of milk” after I already got home. The worst.
Added bonus, if you’re a plan ahead kind of person, you can use the board (if you go that route) to write down the planned menu for the week to avoid the constant cries of “What’s for dinner?”
Tip # 2 – Make a List and ORGANIZE THAT LIST
One of the biggest grocery shopping mistakes you can make – other than shopping on an empty stomach – is to shop without a list. It’s a surefire way to forget to grab things you really needed, or to end up with a bunch of random ingredients that don’t exactly translate to meals easily. I make my grocery lists in stages; First I’ll come up with some specific meals I hope to make over the next week or 2 and add all the ingredients that we don’t already have, then I’ll add all the things that were written on the Family List I described above, while I’m doing that I’ll check the fridge/freezer/cupboards for any additional things that I notice are getting low. Don’t forget the bathroom for things like shampoo and toothpaste. You can use a paper list if that works for you, like this really cool one that’s already organized by category, or use the notes feature on your phone. But personally I like using the app Listonic. It’s a free app but you can also pay to get rid of ads (possibly to unlock other features, to be honest I don’t really know because I just use the free version) and the main reason I like it is because I can categorize my items and check things off as I add them to the cart.
I also like to name my lists really stupid things because I think that’s hilarious.
I’ve tried out a bunch of different apps for making grocery lists but so far this one is my favourite.
You can organize your list however you want, personally I like to organize mine by the sections of the store because that’s how I shop and I find I’m less likely to miss something and have to backtrack if I’ve organized my list that way. I always shop in this order: toiletries, fruits & veggies, pre-packaged middle aisles, bread/bakery section, dairy, meats, frozen section. So I like to organize my grocery list in that order. That’s what works for me. If you’re using an app it may take a little experimenting to set your lists up in a way you can organize like this.
Tip # 3 – Bring Your Own Containers
Not all grocery carts are the same size, so you may need to search a little to make sure the containers you purchase will work for the carts you use the most. I personally shop with 2 Rubbermaid Roughneck totes because they (along with 2 collapsible square bags I bought from the grocery store, but which are almost exactly like these ones) fit perfectly in the carts at the store I shop at, and because we had an abundance of them left over from our move. These can be a little on the pricey side but they have proven to be exceedingly valuable in so many ways and have well surpassed their initial cost in general usefulness. Highly recommend. I also really like the Rubbermaid Brute as well. But for another much cheaper option, something like these CleverMade Collapsible Baskets would work great also, and the collapsible feature is pretty awesome if you’re low on storage space.
When I begin my grocery shopping, I put the totes in the cart right away and then just add my groceries straight into them as I shop. Then later when it’s time to check out, it’s as easy as unloading the groceries so they can be scanned, then putting them right back into the containers. I also save plastic bags from previous shopping trips and bring them along for those just in case times.
I shop exclusively at stores where you have to bag your own groceries and I used to hate it but since I’ve started shopping this way, I find I do it so much faster that now I can’t stand having someone else do it.
Obviously, be aware of the weight you’re putting into the containers. You don’t want it to be heavier than you can lift.
One of the best things about using something like this for shopping, is that nothing spills inside your car. Rotten fruit that spilled out of a bag and rolled under a seat where you couldn’t see it, anyone?
Tip # 4 – Be Mindful Of How You UNLOAD Your Cart At The Till
It’s so much easier to put your groceries away when you get home if you’ve filled the containers properly in the first place. Like items should go together (so put all the canned stuff together, put the dairy items together, etc,) and heavier items should go through first so they can go on the bottom when you’re reloading your items. It’s much easier to toss a loaf of bread or a bag of chips on top of an already packed container than to find room for that pack of steaks, for example. I also think items that could potentially leak should be near the bottom, and meat should be in it’s own container with frozen items on top, but that’s just me. You do you, these are just tips. There are no rules in grocery shopping.
Tip # 5 – Clean Out Your Fridge Before You Shop
This isn’t something I do often, but it makes a big difference when I do. It’s useful for multiple reasons;
1) Sometimes I discover items that someone else in the family thought we were out of, but really it had just been put away wrong (yay I don’t have to buy ketchup after all!)
2) Sometimes I’ll find something is expired and needs to be replaced so I don’t accidentally poison my family (pretty important obviously)
3) It clears up some space for new groceries to be put away (especially helpful if you agree that putting away groceries is the WORST PART)
and 4) It can give some insight into things you might be buying that are actually a waste of money. Keep having to throw out tons of yogurt? Maybe buy less yogurt. Always notice there’s tons of leftovers that end up getting thrown out when you make chili? Maybe take a break from making chili for awhile. I found myself repeatedly throwing out cauliflower that I kept buying because I was convinced I was going to make cauliflower cheese buns. I did not make cauliflower cheese buns. So I stopped buying cauliflower.
Other things you can do that help make things go faster include making sure you shop at the optimal time when the store is less busy than usual. Typically this seems to be early in the morning or later at night. This isn’t always possible if you work of course and have to plan your shopping around your working hours. Leaving the kids at home so you can shop alone with no distractions can also make a big difference. Of course this isn’t always a possibility so coming up with creative ways to get the kids to help if you have to bring them along can make the trip go smoother. And of course, the golden rule of grocery shopping (which I already touched on above) Never shop on an empty stomach. You’re way more likely to fill your cart with junk you don’t need if you’re hungry while you shop not to mention you’re probably going to be a lot more irritable. Eat a snack. You’ll thank yourself for it.
Leave me a comment below and let me know you’re grocery shopping tips and tricks. Do you enjoy grocery shopping or do you hate it like me?
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