Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thrifty Grocery Shopping

I once read a really interesting book about the techniques used by grocery stores to encourage us to spend more money. One of the most surprising things I learned is that stores love shoppers who work with a list. According to this source, if you come in with a list, you won't be satisfied until you've purchased everything on it. In other words, even though you're feeling so organized, what really happens (to all but those with steely self-discipline) is that you're on a mission; you'll go all over the store if necessary until you've checked off every item. Along the way, you're sure to pick up sale items, that deli salad you can serve with dinner, the great smelling fresh bread, those new products on the end caps, and the tasty sample item in aisle 9. The longer you stay in the store, the more you're going to spend.

One thing I'd suggest is this: next time you're at your primary grocery store, stop at the customer service desk and ask for a store map. From there, consider the things you typically buy and plot out their location. Make a personalized checklist based on this information and keep a copy handy as you do your meal planning and run out of staples.

I've done this for several years (with varying periods of commitment) and am certain that when I plan meals and use this list to shop, not only will I have the items I need on hand for every meal, but we eat more balanced meals and I spend far less than I do on the less organized trips.

My list is just a four-columned Word document, easily produced and edited. Mine can help get you started, but be kind - I'm hoping you won't judge me for having Velveeta and tater tots on it. ;-)

1 comment:

Lucy said...

There are a few hints from the Tightwad Gazette that I find helpful. Due to transportation issues, I only go to the supermarket once a month to every six weeks, but I do buy fresh fruits and vegetables weekly.

1. Keep a price book, at for a few months. I only buy certain things when they are on sale- when chicken is 1.69 per lb (vs 2.19 regular), ground turkey is 1.99 per lb (vs 2.49 regular). That usually puts me in one of two meat cycles (chicken/London broil) and (pork/ground turkey)unless I buy surplus for the next month when they won't be on sale. Also, figure out when your supermarket discounts all meat- for mine, it's the first weekend of the month. As long as you serve the meat before its expiration date or freeze it right away, the $2 off meat is perfectly fine to eat as long as it doesn't smell bad or look discolored.

2. Another part of keeping a price book is knowing how often you need to replace items and how often they go on sale. If you have never done this before, take a Sharpie and write the date each item is purchased to track how long it lasts under normal circumstances. I know that a bottle of dish soap lasts three months, ketchup 6 months, and coffee three weeks, so I buy enough of these items to last until the next sale.

3. Plan meals for (however long you go between grocery shopping).
On the back of my supermarket list, I write out the calendar for each month. I note things like potlucks, meatless Fridays, slow cooker Sundays, and nights either me or my husband is working late that might require special meal consideration. Because I have a high degree of uncertainty about what my greengrocer will carry any given week, about 5% of the meals are pure pantry, so that if he has some great vegetable on sale, I can use that without my planned meal going to waste.

4. Develop your own convenience foods, like homemade frozen soup, pasta sauce, or casseroles. In ideal weeks, I prep two meals over the weekend so my husband can simply bake the meal if I have to work late or stop to work out on my way home. Sometimes there are hard days, and heating up delicious homemade soup is one of the least inexpensive solutions when you don't have time to make dinner.