"Mini" Supermarket Trips

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Staying Out of the Supermarket

One of my biggest money spending problems is frequent visits to the supermarket. I find that I will run out to get more perishable items and wind up spending money on incidentals. This usually happens when we have an extra person for dinner. I need to run to get more hamburger rolls for instance. Any suggestions on how to not spend on those mini-trips to the market? Joan

Cash Only Please

Only take enough cash to buy what you need. Leave your debit card, credit card and checkbook at home. If it's that great of a deal, you can come back another time before the sale is over. Or send someone else who does not cave in as easily. I've sent my teenage son in before to get only milk and bread for the same reason. Angelique

No Room for More!

When I only need a few items, I pick up a small, hand-carried basket. Because I am pushing a baby in a stroller and have a basket, I only get what I need. I hate to get extras! They ruin the budget and are heavy on my arm. Anne

Six Tips to Stop Mini-Trips

  • Do not make the extra trips in the first place! Most trips can be prevented with a little planning.
  • Keep a grocery list on the fridge door and insist that everyone use it every time they notice something is getting low. Then buy only what is on the list. (If you reward their lack of cooperation by fetching something they didn't mark down, this system won't work! You'll find it won't hurt them to do without and they will make more of an effort next time.)
  • Take a few months to fill your pantry or create a storage area that is equivalent. When something goes on sale, stock up.
  • Go to the library for a basic cookbook, like Joy of Cooking, which explains proper storage techniques.
  • Get a small freezer into which you can put those extra hamburger buns (double bag them for greater freshness), meat, giant packets of frozen veggies, etc. Take a minute to date things if the label does have that information and rotate regularly.
  • Buy big chunks of meat when they are one sale and cook them all up at the same time. Two or three things like a turkey, a pork loin roast and a packet of baking potatoes will fit together in an average oven. We then eat our meal and pack up the leftovers in meal-sized proportions that are properly labeled and dated. This deters impulsive and very costly dining out.


Make a Menu

The one thing that we do that has helped tremendously on cutting down on trips is making a dinner menu for a week or two. By doing this, I make sure that what is necessary is on hand. The kids like it because they know what to expect for dinner, and will often pitch in to help prepare the side dishes. This cut down on roughly 80% of our "mini-trips" and brought around some changes in diet and spending habits. Becky

Designated "Mini-Trip" Fund

To avoid buying more than you plan, try keeping a jar in the kitchen cupboard or an envelope in a drawer designated for such emergencies. Put a small amount of cash in $1 bills, perhaps $20 or so, in the jar or envelope every month.

When you run out of bread, milk, etc., take out only the number of dollars required to purchase the item, plus perhaps one extra dollar just in case you miscalculated a bit or the price went up. Leave your checkbook, debit card and all other money at home, taking with you only the necessary cash for the item you need. When you get home, return that extra dollar to the envelope or jar if you didn't need it. Any change can go into your change jar. Everyone has one of those, don't they?

Or instead of just $20, put in the approximate amount you would normally spend in a month on last-minute shopping trips, including all those impulse items. Follow the above plan, and when you hold in your hands the thick stack of dollar bills left over at the end of the month, you'll see in a very tangible way just how much you've saved. As a reward, you might take a certain percentage, say 25%, of what you didn't spend and treat yourself to something nice and put the rest into savings.

Of course, the best solution is to be prepared in advance so those last-minute trips don't happen as often. Bread freezes well, as does butter and even milk. Keep the home pantry stocked and you'll find yourself having to run out "for just one thing" less and less. Diva

Say "No" to a Shopping Cart

Don't get a shopping cart. Holding a few things and holding on to two children's hands (if you have some) will get me out of the store pretty quick! M

Make a List and Check It Twice

You might try making a list (even if it's only one thing) of what you have to buy. Then, at the supermarket, instead of buying additional things, write them down on another list that you take home with you.

When you get home, cross off those items on the new list that you really don't need, and use the rest to start the new list for the next trip to the store. Anne

Take the Next Step

  • Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
  • Continue to trim food costs by visiting our food & groceries section to get tips and tools for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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