I have never really considered that someone has to learn how to grocery shop.
That is, until I took my dear friend Teacher M. with me.
She had so many questions. That is not a bad thing at all. It just surprised me.
My parents had always taken me grocery shopping with them. I saw and helped with the grocery lists. Calculators were always an essential grocery shopping tool. Teacher M. was never taken grocery shopping with her parents at any point in her life. She had nothing to go on.
I just had to help. She didn’t just want a couple of tips. She showed up with her own notebook, pen and calculator! Time to get down to business.
Why doesn’t her “grab what looks good and buy it” method not work all that well?
1. It doesn’t provide all ingredients needed to make a meal.
2. It can easily lead to overbuying of items that are not needed.
3. It makes keeping a budget very difficult. Additional trips to the store for a few more items adds up quickly.
The plan of action we take is simple. First things first. Plan out a weekly menu. Our family sits down to suggest dinners for the week. We choose the 7 that we all would like. I try to plan for different preparation times. Some nights are simple meals. Examples would be: cornbread, beans and fresh veggies, breakfast or stew. Nights with more time may have meals like spaghetti, meatloaf, grilled BBQ chicken and such. Not all meals need to be elaborate. Simple can be and is good! I do not write out breakfast and lunch menus. We have our faves. The grocery list will have listed anything we are running low on.
Having a menu planned out helps you to buy all of the things you need for that meal. It is not a question whether or not you have what is needed to make a particular meal. You know you do! I do not assign meals to days. I just look over my menu, and I choose what I have time to make. Everything I need is right there.
Next, we take quick stock of what is needed. I look for things we are low on. Items like: paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, dog food, breakfast and lunch staples and such. For the most part, if it is not on the grocery list I don’t buy it. Spur of the moment purchases can cost a lot of money!
One of the best tools for saving money is my calculator. I have a specific amount budgeted to spend. My calculator lets me know how much I am spending as I work my way through the store. I am much more concious of how much I am spending on items. I take more time to compare products. I am fiercely focused. LOL It seems as though I am constantly challenging myself to save more. I do love a challenge!
You have your menu, you have your budget and you have your calculator. Is it time to head out? Not yet! There is something missing. Coupons! Just a couple thoughts on making coupons work for you. Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon. Don’t buy something you have no need for just because you have a coupon. Sometimes a off-brand or a different brand will still be cheaper than the item with the coupon. Coupons are great as long as they are for the items that you need and use. Check and make sure they are really saving you money!
I am happy to report that Teacher M.’s first planned out grocery shopping trip went perfectly. It is great to see someone feel like they have a handle on things and can improve something in their lives. Anything that makes our lives as moms easier or smoother is a good thing!
What tricks do you use to make grocery shopping and dinner preparation easier? Do you have a budget? How do you keep it? What tips can you offer to other moms to help them with their menu planning and grocery shopping? We want to know!