Every week I make a grocery list. I’ve told you bits and pieces of the process I go through, and today I’m going to pull it all together. Hopefully, I’ll make a little bit of sense (wish me luck!).
MAKING A GROCERY LIST
This is the actual flow of my own list-making. To read it, it might seem like an extensive process. After many years of doing this every single week, most of it comes naturally and is accomplished fairly quickly. And I can verify that this plan saves me money. Lots of money. As I’ve been following my own advice throughout this Better Grocery Budget series, my grocery bill has shrunk lower than I thought was possible during this season of life. I had pretty much resigned myself to astronomical register receipts. I can’t believe how much I’ve saved by following these simple steps:
1. Shop the freezer and pantry.
To start things off, I grab a piece of paper and jot down either the foods in the freezer or the meals I could make with the food I find. Depends on my mood…or hormones…or what kind of hair day I’m having. I also peek into the pantry to look for any cans or boxes calling my name.
2. Look at the sale flyers and/or coupon matchup sites.
On a blank sheet of paper, I write down any items from the sale flyers that might be worth purchasing, or I print a list made from visiting a coupon matchup site. Even if using a deal site, it is still a good idea to quickly flip through the ads, since things like produce and meat are often not mentioned on websites. I never ever buy everything on this list, but it gives me some ideas to work from.
3. Make a menu.
Starting with my freezer and pantry list, I write down meals I could schedule on that week’s menu plan. Next, I move on to the list of sale items, filling in the blanks in my menu with things that can be picked up for a good deal. I also keep in mind ways to use cheap ingredients and my list of frugal meals. My goal is to purchase as little as possible to complete the current week’s menu.
4. Begin making a grocery list, writing down the estimated cost of each item.
- First, write down items needed for this week’s menu.
- Next, write down any necessary items from my master grocery list, such as regular breakfast, lunch, and snack foods.
- Then, write down the sale items that are actually worth purchasing and find any needed coupons.
- Finally, look for possible coupons for any other list items.
- Beside each grocery item write the estimated total cost, with coupon discounts or multiple purchases.
5. Add up the cost of the list, eliminating items if over budget.
Always considering my family’s priorities, I start changing my menu and crossing items off the list if I’m not within our grocery budget. I’ll substitute a meal idea from my frugal meals list for a dinner that required purchasing several ingredients. I’ll think about whether or not I could make something homemade instead of buying everything that’s copied from my master grocery list (ie. homemade bread or snacks instead of packaged goods). I’ll figure out if the sale items are things that regularly go on sale and can wait for another week.
6. Go shopping with a calculator.
I take my grocery list, my menu, my coupon notebook, and a calculator with me to the grocery store. I add up my groceries as they’re piled into the cart. I often change my list just a little if I find unexpected sales or clearance items. By adding up my purchases as I walk through the store, I don’t have any painful surprises when I reach the checkout, and I feel the freedom to take advantage of any special deals I come across.
So, do you have any other steps in your list-making process? Please share!
Click to find links to the entire 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series.