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.
- 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!