Grocery shopping is always a nightmare for me. I’m usually pregnant and lugging around one to four grumpy kids with me through the Arizona heat. It’s just never easy. Luckily, through the last few years, I’ve developed a system that works really well for me and could hopefully help you save time, money and sanity when it comes to grocery shopping.
1. Pantry Inventory
I’ve created a simple pantry inventory that has greatly decreased the food waste in our house. I added our most popular items, printed it out, laminated it and then taped it onto the inside of our pantry door. When something goes into the pantry, we add it to the list with dry erase marker. When we use something, we take it off the list. Now when we’re out or almost out of something I know right away instead of realizing I don’t actually have another box of pasta after I’ve already made the sauce. I’ve also been able to make some good meal plans based on items I have in the pantry that might get left to go bad otherwise. My grandmother has a tendency to shop at Costco and come home with a lot of leftovers to share with us which means we sometimes end up with items that I don’t normally use or necessarily know what do with. Before, these items would just die in the back of my pantry, but now I see something like “red curry paste” and I can Pinterest my way into a recipe around that item. It’s really been a lifesaver for us. Some tips; Use a tick system for marking the number of items as opposed to a tally. We started off using tallies, but then when we were using the 5th of something and had to erase it, it meant erasing the whole group and then re-writing 4 more ticks. I say, just stick with ticks. It’s a little more difficult to count at a glance, but you don’t need to know if you have 15 or 17 items, you really only need to know if you’re getting close to none. And when you move an item from the pantry out but aren’t using it all (for example moving a jar of mayonnaise to the fridge from the pantry) mark it off the inventory. That way you’ll be ordering it and have it on hand when you run out of the jar in the fridge. For us, that works pretty well. My kids and husband are always impressed when they’re pouring out the last of the salsa and yell for me to add it to the list and then I magically pull a brand new one from the pantry.
Click here to download my Pantry Inventory
2. Meal Planning
I know this is something on everyone’s list of how to save time and money, but seriously DO IT! There is nothing more frustrating and overwhelming that wondering aimlessly through the grocery store, especially with kids. The pantry inventory will help you determine what kinds of things you have and what meals you can build around those items. I usually start with a simple piece of notebook paper and write the days every couple lines. Then I fill in days that week that we won’t need meals (Sunday we’re having dinner with Matt’s mom for example). Next, I fill in the days I know I need something in particular (Thursday I promised to bring Chili for the Rosh Chodesh potluck at the synagogue). Now we get into the meat and potatoes (pardon the pun) of the meal plan. Start with what you have in your house and go from there. Sometimes I have everything to make a meal because last week we didn’t get to one for whatever reason, so that’s definitely going on the list. Now that you have the plan of what to eat, write down the ingredients and anything else you might need. Chili for a potluck means I need to get styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons also. Make sure that you take into account all these extras so that you don’t have to make last minute trips. Nothing annoys me more than having to unbuckle my kids from their car seats and drag them into the store to buy one thing, so keep in mind all the little extras every meal might need. Add in any little extras that need (which I recommend keeping an inventory list of also so you know when you’re on your last toothpaste or tampon) as well as things for breakfast and lunch (oatmeal, eggs, sandwhich stuff) and you’ve got yourself a well thought out and ready to go shopping list. But now that you have your meal plan and a shopping list, where do you go??
If you enjoy going to the store or you have some reason to be there (coupons for example) you’re still going to have an easier time shopping now that you have your list based on your meal plan based on your household inventory. If, however, you’re really looking to save yourself some time then I recommend with all my heart and soul online grocery shopping. I cannot rave enough about the time this has saved me! Not only can I not grocery shop from the comfort of my own home and skip the parking and the lines and the hassle of the store, but it’s so much easier to compare prices and find difficult items online. Sometimes I have a recipe that calls for an ingredient that I cannot even begin to guess where to find in the store. Online I just have to type it in and BAM! item in the cart. So easy! I know there are a lot of these services around, but I only have personal experience with two of them; Walmart Grocery (grocery.walmart.com) and Safeway (shop.safeway.com). I love both, but also have issues with both. Here are my pros and cons:
Pros: Free (no charge for most pickup), fast (you can usually pick up same day or at least within 24 hours), saves your favorites for easy future re-orders, easy (check out and pick up, done!)
Cons: Pick-up locations are sometimes a little far away, can’t use coupons or gift cards, no price-matching, no Walmart savings catcher
Click here to get $10 your first Walmart Grocery Order
Pros: Delivered right to your door, can use Safeway coupons, earn Safeway points, you can list search results by price, you can shop online or from an app on android and iphone.
Cons: Delivery charge (usually $10-$13), no manufacturer coupons
I have also used Amazon Pantry for things like diapers, toilet paper, and paper towels. I think it’s a great service, but you need to stay on top of it. I kept forgetting about it and then it would auto ship and for a short time I was drowning in pull-ups and I currently have paper towels to last through the apocalypse. If you have the stamina and ability to keep up though, you can really save money on a lot of things that way.
These are my tips and tricks. What do you do to save time and energy when grocery shopping?