Organize Your Grocery Shopping, Part 1: Be Prepared!


Grocery shopping used to be fun for me. No, really, it was! Back when I was single, of course. I would stroll leisurely through Walmart, stopping to check out the new stuff or page through magazines, comparing one item to another, with nary a though to the time. I could spend two to three hours there, and that's a lot for someone who only has one person to shop for. Even when I had only one child, it was fun, because my husband would watch the baby and it was my time away. Sometimes I would stop at a bookstore afterwards and sit for an hour and read.

Fast forward to today's reality. I hate shopping. I have so much to shop for, and inevitably I end up forgetting things, and criss-cross my big behind and aching feet back and forth across the humongous store, pushing the dead weight of a loaded grocery cart before me...and sometimes (a lot of the time) pregnant. And then standing in line...don't even get me started. Is it just me, or does every store in the world decide to hire new, inept cashiers right around the time I hit my eighth month of pregnancy?! Suffice it to say that my once beloved Walmart trips are now nightmares. And since Walmart isn't that close anymore, and there is a grocery store here in town that is pretty cheap on prices (and great on specials), I often choose the closer store. Here is how I have learned to prepare for my grocery trips (if I remember...hey, I'm a work in progress):

I always try to remember to have an insulated freezer bag in my car, preferably two. I bought these at Sam's Club, and they're more convenient than a cooler. This is a must for Sam's Club trips, as it is a half hour away, and otherwise the frozen food would defrost before I got through the mile-long checkout lines! I also have (finally, duh) started remembering that PRICE CLUBS DON'T HAVE GROCERY BAGS, so I carry paper and plastic bags saved from local store trips. I keep these inside the freezer bags. The trick is to put the freezer bags on top of my purse when I head out to Sam's or else I'll leave them in the car. Yes, I will, I'm that bad! I also have to remind myself that after bringing the groceries into the house, I need to bring the freezer bags back out to the car or I'll forget them for the next trip.

Next, I always have my list with me. After about a dozen times of losing my precious list in Walmart (either it fluttered out of the cart or I placed it on a shelf as I inspected some item), I realized that small scraps of paper are too "risky" for me. Now I have a full page printout that I like to take on a clipboard. Hard to lose a whole clipboard, even for me! I bring a pencil for crossing things off. You can clip it to the clipboard, but I suggest tying it with a string so you don't lose it or drop it constantly. It's also important to have a calculator, unless you're rich, or you're just that good with numbers. More on the grocery list and calculator in subsequent posts.

You should bring the weekly circular with you, or pick one up at the store if you don't have one. I didn't check mine often, til I started going to this local store that has incredible deals--both specials and store coupons. I've gotten over $25 worth of groceries free. It never fails that the week I forget to check the ads is when they have a fabulous sale. Although they are good about posting signs for sale items and re-stocking items through the week.

Finally--and you should know this one already--dress comfortably and EAT BEFORE YOU GO! And I don't just mean a snack, eat a meal. Once I ate before going to Walmart--just a small lunch--but I was in Walmart for so long that by the time I drove there, shopped my way through the main part of the store, and then got halfway through the food section, it had been hours, I was starving. Not a good idea! You will buy way more food (and more junk) if you're hungry.

The next installment I will discuss how I make up and use my shopping list, plus other shopping list suggestions.

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