Grocery shopping: one of those many errands that needs to be done for which we never have enough time. Actually, people spend more time at the grocery store than they need to on each shopping trip. With some advance planning and easy shopping techniques you can be in and out in no time at all!
First of all, the key to successful and organized grocery shopping is menu planning. Menu planning also ensures that you won't need to stop at the store (and spend time you don't have!) every night to pick up something you forgot for dinner. By taking a little time in advance to sit down with your local supermarket circular you can create a quick menu for the week. When planning your menu, take into consideration in-season food and sale items. It's a good idea to write down your 10 best, never-miss dinners including side dishes, condiments, beverages and a dessert on a large index or recipe card. You can use these meals to help plan your menus on weeks where you are too busy to spend any time. On the back of each card write a complete grocery list for each meal.
What follows are some quick tips for handling your shopping list and coupons and your actual supermarket trip to waste the least amount of time.
Organizing Your List
There's several ways you can handle preparation of your shopping list. Here are a few of my favorites:
Pick up an in-store aisle guide and use it to organize your shopping list.
Consider preparing a permanent shopping list including food, dry goods, cleaning supplies, toiletries, paper products and make photocopies of it. Fill in and/or circle what you need each week and add a list of fresh items to the bottom.
Keep a running shopping list on your refrigerator. As you use an item out of your pantry, mark it on your list and you'll never be without your favorite product.
Mark your list with a (c) next to items that you have coupons for so you know when to check for sizes and brands. (If you have room, include size and brand right on your list).
Study the store's sale advertisements prior to shopping and making your list so you can utilize in-season, and sale items in your meals for the week. That way you won't need to spend time looking at in-store sale signs.
Paper clip any coupons to your list in order--that way you won't have to do a lot of searching to compare prices, or, write your shopping list on the outside of an envelope (this is a good use for the envelopes you receive in promotional mail that you'd otherwise throw out) and put the coupons you plan to use inside the envelope in order.
When you've picked up an item that you have a coupon for, move the coupon to the back of the pile and turn it over so you know to hand it in at the cash register.
If you use the idea above of putting your 10 favorite meals on individual cards, you can simply carry those cards to the store to pick up what you need rather than writing a list.
The Shopping Excursion
When possible, shop as a team with your spouse or older teenager. One person should shop the perimeter of the store with the cart while the other collects items from the aisles and delivers them to the cart in batches. You'll be amazed at how quickly you'll be finished.
Avoid crowds by shopping late at night or early in the morning just after the store opens. Early Sunday morning is a particularly good time.
Don't (if you can possibly avoid it!) shop with small children.
Stick to your list and you'll spend less time and money!
Bag your own groceries so you can pack things together in the way they are stored in your kitchen and house. This will save you time unpacking.
Other Grocery Tips
If you have enough storage at home, consider shopping at a bulk discount store. Plan to shop once a month for bulk items and then your trip to the grocery store for fresh items and perishables will be very quick!
If you really don't have time to shop, consider having your food delivered. Most grocery stores offer a shop & deliver service for a small fee. You can also do most of your grocery shopping on the World Wide Web and have it delivered in one to two days for a small delivery charge.
Christine Stoner is the auther of TimeTipz a monthly publication providing timesaving tips in the areas of cooking, cleaning, projects and organizing.
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