Grocery shopping isn’t always easy. Along with the crowds, screaming kids, and long lines, you have to successfully secure a week’s worth of foodstuff, most likely while on a budget. That’s why it pays to plan for your trip to the grocery store ahead of time, so you can avoid draining searches and high prices as much as possible.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can hack your grocery list to work for you. We put together some helpful tips to make your next grocery store endeavor a little easier… and hopefully cheaper. Read ahead for eight shopping list hacks that’ll save you time and money.
1. Shop your fridge first
Before you sit down to make your next grocery list, take an inventory of all the food items you already have at home. Not only will this help you avoid duplicate purchases, you can shop for items that will complement what you already have, so you can put together proper meals for less.
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2. Check sales
Weekly circulars exist for a reason. Along with giving you a heads up on sales and promos, they allow you to organize your grocery list based on what’s been marked down. Do yourself a favor and check your local grocery store’s weekly sales — most post them on their website if you can’t grab a hard copy — and build your weekly shopping list around stuff that’s on sale instead of wasting time and money searching for discounted products when you get there.
3. Plan your meals out first
Nothing is worse than showing up at the grocery store on an empty stomach without a plan of attack. Take some time before hitting the store to plan out each of your meals for the week so you know exactly what to shop for. This way you won’t get sidetracked by unnecessary sale items and just about anything that looks delicious while you’re shopping.
On Kitchn: Become a Better Meal Planner With Meal Plan Club
4. Organize your list by aisle
Once you’ve determined what you’ll be shopping for, try organizing your grocery list by aisle so you can shop faster while you’re there. Familiarize yourself with your local store’s layout and then plan your in-store route accordingly to save both time and money (since you’ll be focused on following the order of your list and not the tempting stuff around you).
For a more simplified approach, you can split your list into just four sections, as nutritional therapist and chef Ashley Pardo does. She told Kitchn : “I group my items into four quadrants: produce, pantry items, meat/dairy, and frozen. The list allows me to quickly grab what I came for in each area of the store and swiftly move through my trusted list as I procure the items I came for.”
5. Study old receipts
Believe it or not, most of us buy pretty much the same thing over and over again at the store. Take some time to look over your last few receipts from your grocery runs to get an idea of the items you buy the most of, so you can save time putting together your weekly list and shopping at the store.
6. Make “bags” the first thing on your list
If you’re anything like me, you’re always forgetting your reusable shopping bags in the car. Avoid dealing with pesky plastic bags by making “bags” the very first thing on your shopping list, so you’ll still have time to turn around before you start piling up stuff in your shopping cart.
7. Make an online list…
We’ve all been there. After spending hours crafting the perfect grocery list, we leave for the store in a rush and leave it at home. Avoid shopping from memory (and overspending) by making your grocery list into a document and sharing it on Google Drive . You’ll be able to access it from your phone anytime and share it with your roommates or family members— in the event it’s their turn to make the trip to the store.
8. …or go totally high-tech
When all else fails, you can always count on a good shopping list app to save your next trip to the grocery store. Apps like Bring! allow you to plan, manage, and share your shopping list directly from your phone, while ones such as Favado search your local grocery store for coupons so you can plan (and save) accordingly.