Monday, July 23, 2012

How I Do My Grocery Shopping

As I left Trader Joe's today, I was observing my silly routines that happen every time I go to the grocery store. Thought you might find them entertaining, plus I figured I could share some actual grocery shopping tips that have improved my supermarket habits.


First, my silly routines:

  • Forget to bring the bags to the car; have to go back to the house.
  • Forget to bring the bags to the store; have to go back to the car.
  • Test out at least two carts before selecting one that rolls smoothly (people stare. I don't care. I refuse to have a bad cart).
  • Write out a long, detailed list and ignore it almost entirely.
  • Get annoyed that the asparagus isn't skinny enough.
  • Do the awkward "forward-backward, no-you-go-first, okay-I'll-go-first" dance with other shoppers near the cheese section.
  • Take a peek at the samples to see if they look tasty.
  • Consider buying organic milk but go with the regular instead--and feel bad about it.
  • Walk around the beer section and try to guess what kind of beer Terry would want to try, get confused, and end up just buying Stella for myself. 
It happens.
  • Pick up one kind of chocolate bar while waiting in line.
  • Panic at the checkstand about whether I should help the checker with bagging or not. I don't want them to feel offended or think that I think I can do a better job; I just want to help. Then I usually end up helping but get flustered while trying to pay, show my ID, bag, and pack the cart. 
  • Do everything in my power to not bring my cart out to the car (at my Trader Joe's, you have to go upstairs to the parking lot, so bringing the cart means waiting for an elevator). This means I have to carry everything in my two hands, plus get my keys out and unlock the car.
  • Take a different route home nearly every time.
  • Similar to loading my car, I aim to bring the groceries into the apartment in only one trip, and I am pretty sure I look like a cartoon character trying to get all the doors unlocked without dropping anything.



Okay, on to the real stuff. Here's what I actually aim to do when shopping.

Plan a menu. How do I know what to buy if I don't know what I plan to make? I create a basic idea of what we're going to eat for the next three or four nights (a whole week if I'm feeling ambitious) and then make my list.

Shop on a full stomach. Even eating a small snack on the way to the store can prevent impulse buys. When I shop hungry, I buy anything that looks delicious. When I shop after a snack or meal, I'm more likely to stick to the essentials.

Write out a list. Ideally, I would remember to bring the list to the store. Stick to the list. I don't allow fancy displays, sales, or cravings tempt me!



Shop the perimeter. You've probably heard this one before, though I hadn't until Lisa told about it on her blog. If I stick to the outside walls of the store, I'll find produce, cheese, dairy, meat, and other essentials. The more processed foods are in the aisles, so I just stay away unless I know exactly what I need (for example, whole wheat pasta or a special treat of ice cream).

Give myself a time limit. For me, this trick works; I tell myself to be at the checkout stand within 15 minutes. It helps me focus and prevents me from wandering through the aisles, getting distracted by marketing or health claims.

If shopping on a budget, do your research. I have found that, for a lot of the products we buy, Trader Joe's is almost always the best bet. Their prices are fair, and their products are very good. But depending on where you are, you may be able to purchase the same (or better) products for the same (or better) price. Once I shop somewhere a few times, I get a sense of their prices and can determine whether it's worth it to go there again. Of course, shopping at farmers' markets and checking for sales is an awesome way to save!





What grocery shopping tips do you have? Share below!

12 comments:

  1. I always forget my reusable bags too! Sometimes I forget my coupons as well.. then i really get angry haha.

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    1. Ha! Shopping angry is dangerous!!!

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  2. this post had me cracking up - you are definitely not alone with these grocery store habits! i never take a second to test out a cart and inevitably have a horrible one with a weird wheel and it totally ruins my grocery store mojo. i also am famous for trying to get all of my bags from the car to my house in one trip - do you ever get those marks on your wrist from trying to carry seven bags on one arm? happens to me all the time. thank god for reusable bags which i can tote on my shoulders - though that doesn't do me much good when i leave the bags in the car :)

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    1. I definitely get those marks on my arm! I'm always afraid to put my bags on my shoulder because I just know I'll squash something!

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  3. I usually forget my bags too, because I decide to go grocery shopping at random times... I rarely plan it out. It's like...oh wow, I have thirty minutes in between meetings, I am going to to grocery shopping now. I need to keep a stash in my car or something :)

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    1. Stash in the car is an awesome idea! We have two cars, and we switch around which one we take, so knowing me I would put all the bags in one car and then take the other. Ooops...

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  4. My solution to "Oops! I forgot my reusable bags at home!" is to hang my reusable bags (all folded and stuffed into one reusable bag) on the inside door knob of my front door. The next time I go to my car, I grab the reusable bags and stick them into my trunk - that way they are always in my trunk and I can go shopping whenever I want (during a 30 minute break, on my way home from work, etc.). Hope this helps!

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    1. Smart lady! Thanks for the tip! :-)

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  5. Shopping on a full stomach is a necessity! And learning to stick to my list has definitely been one of my biggest challenges but also I think one of the most important things to staying within a budget. That and meal planning. Basically, I follow your tips for myself too! ;)

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    1. I completely agree that sticking to a list really does help with sticking to the budget. It also helps with making sure we only have healthy foods in the house!

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  6. Questions: I work on a decent grocery budget but I don't plan my meals. Mark and I (mostly Mark) shops sales and then I work with what he's bought for the week. How do you plan your week's meals if you don't know the sales? Does that mean that you buy your ingredients regardless of the price? How would I be able to plan my meals without knowing the sales?

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    1. I think you could do it either way: check ads or note what's in season and plan those things into your meals, or plan the meals and make changes once you get to the store and see the prices (if meat is too expensive, switch to a marinara sauce). I don't usually mind going to the store two times in a week, so I might do my initial grocery shopping, then plan meals, then go back if I need one or two more things. But as long as you're willing to be creative, I think your system works perfectly!

      I've also noticed that the more I cook homemade, the less I need from the store. Making pizza crust, for example, requires only flour, olive oil, yeast, and salt--all stuff I have on hand all the time. So a lot of our meals are already in the cabinet, and we just need a few more ingredients to pull it all together.

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