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For the most part, grocery shopping is an errand shared by everyone. I shop primarily at Walmart Supercenter for my groceries, but I also occasionally stop by our locally owned grocery store for special deals. Since everyone pretty much has to grocery shop, why not make it easier on ourselves?

Spending a good chunk of time shopping amongst crowds, crying babies, malfunctioning carts, and long lines can be quite stressful! Overtime I’ve developed a way to maximize my use of time while grocery shopping and today I’d like to share six methods with you.

grocery-shopping

1. Make your trips worth it

I’ve said before in my post about stocking the pantry that I don’t like to make too many trips into town to go grocery shopping. It wastes time and gas. Whether you stock your pantry, meal plan, or both, you can easily cut down your number of grocery store trips because you are, in effect, planning ahead. Trips to get one or two items are the worst kind in terms of efficiency. Make your trips worth it.

2. One-stop-shopping versus multiple stores

Before even stepping out your door, you need to make an initial decision about which grocery stores you will actually be visiting during your trip. Unfortunately, even at a large superstore, you might not find what you need or there might be a better price somewhere else. So you need to weigh the pros and cons of stopping at more than one location.

The pros? Price, choices, availability. The cons? Extra driving and parking, not to mention all that extra time. I try to stop at my local grocery store only if I think it’s really worth it. I watch fliers and go there if I know I can shop for several items or get amazing deals I just can’t pass up. Otherwise, I always prefer one-stop-shopping because of its convenience.

You should definitely check out Almost Frugal’s recent post entitled, “Choosing Your Grocery Store” for some interesting thoughts on the subject.

3. Choose an optimal day and time to shop

When I was in Madison at the beginning of the month, I shopped at a large supermarket called Woodman’s on a Saturday morning. That was NOT the ideal time to be there! I spent a large amount of time just trying not to get run over by someone else’s cart, not to mention waiting in line and finding a place to park.

Not everyone has an option when it comes to choosing the best day and time to go grocery shopping. But if you do, take advantage of it! You’ll find a better parking spot, you’ll be able to freely navigate the aisles without people constantly trying to get around you, and you won’t have to wait in line for what seems like ages. Believe me, it will save you so much time!

4. To bring kids or not to bring kids?

I can’t talk too much about this one since I don’t actually have kids yet, but I’ve certainly made my fair share of observations. If you have to bring kids, then this choice doesn’t apply. But when presented with the option, you might want to weigh the pros and cons.

The pros? Kids can be great helpers, you can use the time to teach them things, and it can just be a fun adventure. The cons? The kids can be cranky, you can spend the entire trip trying to make them stop pulling items off the shelves, and they might irritate other shoppers. They’re your kids and you know best how they handle grocery shopping. You decide.

5. Plan an efficient in-store route

Those of you who have ever been to a Walmart Supercenter know that you really need a plan when you get there or you’ll end up crossing back and forth needlessly from one end of the vast expanse to the other. I made a plan early on and continue to follow that plan every time I go.

You know your favorite grocery store’s layout well, so you should capitalize. Follow a route that goes from one end of the store to the other, being careful to prevent the need to backtrack. If you have to retrace old steps, then you aren’t being as efficient as you can be.

6. List love

I’ve actually met people who refuse to make a list when they grocery shop. I don’t know how they can do it…good memory perhaps? I love lists and grocery lists are no exception. If you want your trip to the grocery store to be a good use of your time, then you need to cut out any time spent wondering what you need to buy while you’re there.

Making a list ahead of time helps you not only plan your route through the store, but it prevents excessive impulse buying. And if you plan meals like I now do, your list becomes even more important.

Coming up next week

Keeping on this topic of grocery store lists, I’d like to spend some time this week revamping my plain old system of just writing items down as they come to me. Check out this space next Wednesday to see what I come up with.

Reader Reflection

I’ve covered several methods today that I’m sure each person does just a little differently. How many stores do you stop at when you go grocery shopping? Do you bring your kids? Do you have a planned route through your favorite grocery store? How do you feel about lists?

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Yesterday I talked at length about the art of stocking your pantry. Today I want to offer three quick and easy tips to help you save money while you stock. As long as you’re buying ahead, you should look for ways to save a few bucks, right?

Consider generic brands

Maybe you notice a taste difference with stand-alone products like soda or salad dressing, but can you really tell the difference when it comes to ingredients like chicken broth or baking powder? Generic brands offer some real savings since they run at sometimes a fraction of the cost of name brands. I said it before when speaking about hair-care products, and I’ll say it again here: if you can’t tell the difference, why not make the switch? Believe me, you won’t be sorry.

Buy in bulk

In addition to switching to generic brands, you might think about the money saving possibilities involved with buying in bulk. If space allows, purchasing a larger size of any given food product usually results in savings. Some stores display the price per ounce for various products and you can use this data to decide which size is most cost-effective. For example, when I buy olive oil, I try to buy the largest size even though the upfront cost is rather high. After studying the price per volume of all the available sizes, it’s really a no-brainer. Olive oil lasts a long time, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and I use it constantly…so why not buy big! And of course an added benefit of buying in bulk is that larger items last longer, meaning you won’t have to re-stock them as often!

Buy on sale

Since you’ll be buying ahead anyway, you might as well watch for sales at your local grocery stores and buy when prices are low. I have particular items I watch for in my weekly sale flyers, like meat, fruit and vegetable produce, ice cream, frozen juice concentrate, or cereal. I buy them only when they go on sale, making sure to purchase enough quantity so they last until the next time a sale occurs. If you study the habits of your grocery stores, you’ll begin to see patterns in how often various foods go on sale.

Reader Reflection

Do you have any tricks of the trade to share when it comes to saving money in stocking your pantry?

Coming up…

So far in this series we’ve looked at how stocking your pantry saves time and how creative buying habits can save money. Tomorrow we’ll explore one final facet of the pantry…how to organize it!

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