How to Save Time and Money at the Grocery Store
Step 1: Make a List
This is a no-brainer. You need to know what you are intending to purchase if you want to keep your grocery bill within you budget. Most people don't go to the store simply randomly wandering the grocery store mulling over whether they need more cumin. (The people who do this don't have children).
Step 2: Map it Out
This is an important step to saving time and money at the store. You need to know where you are going to get what you want. Otherwise you (or more likely your kids) can get distracted by things you don't need and were not intending to buy.
This may sound silly, but take a few minutes and make a rough map of your local grocery store. Mine looks like this:
Step Three: Coupons
Now I know what most of you are saying: "Do I have to? I don't have time for that!"
I felt the same way. Then I realized just how much they could bring down my grocery bill. If you don't feel like an hour of your time each week is worth the $20 or more you can save, by all means skip this step. For the rest of you, a few tips:
- Subscribe to the biggest Sunday Paper: Where I live that is the Chicago Tribune. For $52 for the year, you get access to hundreds of dollars in coupons each week. Will you use all of them? Heck no. But even saving $13/week, its paid for itself in a month. Plus, you get a newspaper out of it too.
- Get rid of junk first: Do you need office supplies this week? Probably not. Recycle bin. Do you need baby diapers? I do, so I'll save it. If you don't, recycle. This step takes a grand total of 2 minutes and gets rid of about 75% of the coupons.
- Clip and sort: Do you hate the coupon queen who holds up the line at the grocery store looking for her coupons? I do too. If you know what you are buying (see step 1) you can have your coupons ready before you even leave the house! To sort ones you need to save, I would suggest an accordion folder system. Label each tab and plop the coupons in. It's that easy.
That said, if you are going to use coupons, brand loyalty needs to go out the window. If you want to save money, you will have to be a little flexible. This doesn't mean buying the cinnamon flavored toothpaste even if your family (or you) hate it because you had a coupon. Have some standards, hold on to them, and be ready to compromise on the rest.
Step Four: Put your List in Order
After you have made your list and map and clipped coupons, it is time to re-order your list. Using your map, plot the main areas of the store. For me, the groups would be produce (including meat), dairy, pharmacy, frozen, and aisles. Then simply put your grocery list into these categories; sour cream in the dairy, Stouffer's in the frozen, eggs and tomatoes in the produce, and so on. Doing this will allow you to pick up everything in a given section without backtracking all over the store. This works especially well if you have children with you, as you don't stop moving very often.
I would suggest that you take this a step further and be brand specific, especially if you have coupons. No point in saving 10 cents and buying the generic sour cream if you have a 1.00 off coupon for the name brand stuff. The reverse is also true: if the store brand has a special promotion that beats your coupon price, save your coupon for later. Basically, come prepared and let common sense prevail.
Step Five: Shop and Save!
Go to the grocery store and put it all together:
- Shop section by section for an efficient route through the store
- Remember your coupons and have them ready at checkout
- Enjoy the time and money you saved by putting in a little bit of effort
Hope you found it useful! Enjoy!