Organize Your Grocery Shopping, Part 2: Shopping Lists


If you've ever gone shopping without a list, you know what a bad idea that is. Unless you've got a photographic memory or are buying only two things, you know something will be forgotten.

The most important thing you can do--and I think most of us do this--is to keep a pad of paper attached to the fridge for quick jotting down of needed items. I use a shopping list pad, which is attached by magnets to the fridge. I also like to use a magnetic clip with a pen clipped in it stuck on the fridge next to the pad. Write down anything you need as you use it up, or as you notice your supply is low.

Before you go shopping, make a menu for the coming week. Many people check the grocery store flyers first, and plan their menu around items that are on sale. Go through the fridge and cabinets, and figure out if you are in need of anything on the list. Also check for normal pantry items that you might be running low on. Don't forget things like pet food, infant needs, and household items. Then sit down and transfer the items from your list onto another piece of paper, organized into sections based on the arrangement of your store's aisles. For example, use headings like Pharmacy, Household Items, Baby, Dry Goods, Canned Goods, Ethnic Foods, Condiments, Dairy, Meat, Produce, etc. The headings should be listed in the order that they come in the store, according to your normal shopping path.

When you use your list in the store, be sure to check off or cross off items as you put them in your cart. This is why I always try to have a pencil on hand. When I try to just check the items off "mentally", I inevitably overlook something. Double check your list before you get in the checkout line. Even with a list sometimes I somehow forget something, and you don't want that to happen when half your cart is unloaded on the belt.

I always use a calculator while I am shopping. I am amazed how even going down the last two aisles in the store without adding up the items can put you way over budget. The thing I hate most is when I'm halfway through shopping, only to look down and realize my calculator shut itself off. AAAAARRGH!! I try to remember to push a button on the calculator at least once each aisle, preferably two times or more. If I'm comparing prices on an item for a while and not adding items in the cart, I will add "0" just to keep the calculator running. But a better way is to do a subtotal at the end of each section of the list, and write it down. That way, if your calculator turns off halfway through shopping, all you have to do is add up the subtotals from each section of the list, then add on the items you've picked up since your last subtotal was written down. Most of the time when I enter the prices on the calculator, I round the number up, for ease of calculating and because that way I know for sure I'll stay under budget. So a $4.66 item becomes $4.75. It leaves room for error...and with me, there's always errors!

In the next installment, I'll talk about the Master Grocery List.

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