Why do we make lists? Usually so we remember things and don’t have to constantly rethink about them. Often if we do not include something on a list it can be forgotten. So we make lists to save us time. The same goes for making an efficient grocery shopping list. One of the main reasons to make a grocery list is to save time and money at the grocery store. Let me tell you step by step how to make an efficient grocery shopping list that will save you loads of time and money at the grocery store.
Checking Grocery Store Ads
The first step to making an efficient grocery shopping list is checking all the weekly store ads to the potential stores you might visit. The ads from stores near my house get mailed to me, otherwise I check the ad online.
To access an online ad simply go to the stores website, look for a toolbar, and it is usually located there under weekly flyer or savings. Sometimes you need to type in your zip code to find which location you are going to as an ad can very by location. So you want to make sure you have the correct ad for the location you are shopping.
There are four stores I may go to each week so I quickly browse all four ads to see if they have items I would get. If I notice 2 or more items that I would buy on the quick browse then I look at it more in depth.
If I only see a couple items I would buy at a particular store I decide if it is worth the stop or not. I check my supply of the sale item to see if I really need it. It also depends on the product sale and how much money I would save.
So the ads usually determine which stores I will be shopping at that week. Make sure to specifically check the ad to the store you are going to. Ads can vary by location. I have had this happen to me many times. I go to a different store than the ad I checked and sale pricing was different.
Sometimes stores will honor pricing from another ad of the same store, but some stores do not. It can depend if the store is owned by the same person. Also, sometimes an ad will have coupons like spend $50 get $5 off or for a specific product. These coupons are usually store specific.
Organizing the Grocery Shopping List
Now that you have checked the ads it is time to start making your list. To help you create and organize your weekly grocery list use my FREE printable.
As I go through the ad more in-depth, I write down items to get at that store. While adding items to the grocery list, write them down in the order you will see them at the store. For example, some stores have produce first so I would start my list with bananas and apples. Usually dairy and frozen are near the back or end so my milk and eggs would be towards the bottom of the list.
Part of making an efficient grocery shopping list is to have your items in order. This way you don’t have to visit the same aisle twice. It is a waste of time to have to back track through the store to get your items. Furthermore, writing your list in order helps you stick to the list and not get distracted with purchasing unnecessary items because you are not wondering around the store.
When getting multiple of an item I write the number in parenthesis behind the item. Also, link together items that go together to make a sale work. For example, the sale is if you buy 5 items you get $5 off. On my list I will put a bracket around the 5 items I am getting that will get me the $5 off. I still write these items inside the bracket in the order I will see them in the store.
Check and Add Any Coupons
Next, I check my coupon book to see if I have a coupon for any items on my list. Then, I quickly browse the ad with my coupon book open. I don’t want to miss a coupon + sale item opportunity! Without a coupon it’s not a deal, but with the coupon and sale – the item could be close to free. Especially if you go on double coupon days. For more tips on couponing click here.
When I have a coupon for a particular item on my list I write coupon after the item. Then I put a square around it so it stands out. I want to make sure I do not forget to use the coupon at the check out.
Adding the Non-Negotiable Items
There are several items I need to buy almost every week because my family uses them daily. So I add milk, eggs, bananas and bread to the list almost weekly. I usually get these items at my discount store unless they are on sale elsewhere.
Furthermore, I keep a magnetic notepad attached to the side of the fridge. This way when my husband runs out of an item or needs something he can write it on this list. If it is something he needs that week he writes an exclamation point after it. If there is no exclamation point after it it means he needs it within the next few weeks. When I write that item on my list I put it in my items to watch section (more about this below). If I am in the kitchen I will write my item on the notepad. If I am not in the kitchen I will put an item in my phone reminders to add to my shopping list. I check both of these lists while making my grocery list.
Lastly, I add any items I need for a specific recipe I am making that week. I run through my calendar to double check events that week. Typically, I let the sales and items in my pantry, freezer and fridge dictate my menus and meal planning. However, every once in a while (usually for a party or gathering I am going to) I need to buy an ingredient that is not on sale.
Grocery Items to Watch for While Shopping
Usually I have a small list of items that I don’t need right away, but will in the near future. I put them in the Items to Watch For section. This way I can watch for them to go on sale and/or use a coupon. These items are kept on the bottom of the list until purchased or get moved on the store list above.
This particular list becomes larger the month or two before my kids birthday party. The birthday party menu is made two months advance so I can start to watch for the non perishable items to go on sale. This helps keep my birthday party grocery bill down. For more on planning a birthday party menu click here. In addition, this list becomes longer before the holidays for those special foods I make that time of year. I hate buying items at regular price especially if i know it goes on sale from time to time.
Final tips to Complete Your Efficient Grocery Shopping List
- Note on your list any coupons that are expiring that week. (See above on photo). This way you get one last chance to check if it is worth using the coupon. If you do not use it you can then throw it out after the shopping is done that week.
- Your list is a good place to write down any other errands you have to do while out grocery shopping. This way you won’t forget to make those stops. (See photo above).
- Be as specific as possible with your list. The worst is not understanding what you wrote down while at the store. This is a huge time waster to figure out what you wrote down. If this does happen, hopefully with where it is on your list you can figure it out more easily since your list should be in order.
- After your shopping that week is complete do not toss your list. Keep it until the following week so you can add any items you didn’t get. Use the notes you made the previous week so you don’t forget anything the next week. Maybe there is a rein check you need to use or coupons to potentially use that are about to expire. Without those previous weeks notes, chances are you would forget the following week.
- Mark up your list while at the store. Keep a pen handy. Cross off items as you get them. Make a note of items they are out of or that you don’t buy to write down on future lists. Add an item you see that you need later to the watch list.
Making an efficient grocery shopping list is the key to successful and budget friendly grocery shopping. It sets up the entire trip and can make for an easy, money saving errand or a frustrating, time consuming nightmare. Use these tips to create your efficient grocery shopping list going forward.