Live by these 10 Commandments and get the grocery shopping trip you need and not just the one you want.
Thou shall make a list
You think you know and remember everything that you need at the grocery, but then you come home and discover that you forgot to get milk. Shopping with a list will not only ensure that you get everything you need, but it will also stop you from buying stuff that you think you ran out of—because you don’t need two gallons of milk that will go sour in a week.
It will do you some good to organize your list. Write as you run out, instead of just doing an inventory before you head out to the grocery. This way the chances of you forgetting something are slim. Always have your list ready. Familiarize yourself with the aisles of your store and organize your list according to the layout. By doing this, you avoid wandering aimlessly around the store and end up picking up items you don’t really need.
Thou shall have a meal plan
Just as important as the list is a meal plan. You don’t want to buy several kilos of chicken for the week that you don’t really know what to do with. Come mid-week, you’ll end up going back to the grocery for curry, because you hadn’t really planned on chicken curry.
Thou shall start clean
Clean your fridge and pantry before you go shopping. Not only will it make unloading your bags easier and leave you with a cleaner and more organized kitchen, it’ll also help with your inventory.
Thou shall not buy week to week
Buying for the week means paying full price. Smart bulk buying can save you a lot of money. And by smart, we mean buying non-perishable or shelf stable items that you need or use on a regular basis like grains, condiments, and toiletries. Not only do you save some money by buying bonus or larger packs, you also save time, effort, and gas. But always do your math to make sure you really are saving by buying in larger quantities.
Honor your credit card
When you’re shopping for anything on a budget, it’s never a good idea to use your credit card, because it gives you that false sense of security, knowing that you have that extra spending “power.” If you’re out on a mission with a grocery list, but stumble upon a whole new line of organic toiletries that smells absolutely divine, then your credit card will give you that confidence to take home another bottle of body wash and hand cream, because you can’t live without it. It’s always a good idea to bring the right amount of cash you need for the day’s shopping with a little buffer in case the price of rice has been hiked up again. Shopping with cash will also encourage you to shop smarter so you can stay within your budget.
Thou shall not shop hungry
Shopping on an empty stomach will more than likely lead you to make poor choices like overspending and buying things that you don’t need. You’ll also more than likely overeat what you bring home. Besides, it’s never a good idea to eat unwashed grapes from the cart or nibble on chocolate while you go through the fresh produce.
Thou shall be informed
Don’t be fooled by “no preservatives,” “reduced fat,” “all natural,” “0g trans-fat” claims. Carefully read nutritional facts and ingredients. Watch out for labels that spell out “zero trans-fat,” because zero can mean 0.5 grams of trans fat but can still be legally claimed as trans-fat free. The same goes for saturated fats. Instead of looking for zero, go for “no trans-fat.” What’s the problem with a little? Seemingly small amounts of these artery-clogging fats can quickly add up.
Also keep in mind that “low calorie” and “reduced fat” packs will surely lead you to binge, because they’re unsatisfying empty calories. If you’re looking for a snack, go “heavy” with protein and fiber combinations like whole grain crackers with cheese or peanut butter topped celery.
Items removed of fat usually make up for taste with added sugar, so stay away from frozen yogurt, turkey bacon, and diet soda. As for the “no preservatives” claim, these culprits are more than often made with high levels of salt or sugar—preservatives in disguise.
Thou shall be wary of the sale sign
Just because it’s buy one take one doesn’t give you an excuse to fill up your cupboard with SPAM. It’s an irresistible deal if it’s something that you really need and use often. After all, you can never have too much toilet paper. Always check the expiry date. If it’s 90 percent off, then it will probably expire in two hours.
Thou shall not ignore the frozen
Choosing fresh over frozen may not always be the best choice. Frozen veggies and fruits are commonly harvested at their peak, so they will still have as much nutrients as the fresh ones. Another great thing about frozen vegetables is that they don’t turn so quickly, so you waste less by storing the ones you don’t use back in the freezer.
Thou shall know their strategies
Do you know that the more expensive brands are often placed in the middle where your eyes usually go first? Don’t forget to check out the top and bottom shelves. Also know that sale bins are strategically placed at the front of the store to tempt you to stock up unnecessarily. By the time you get to the necessities, your cart will be almost full. Head straight to the aisles instead of wandering around the front of the store. Finally, remember that check-out lanes are designed for impulse buys with individually wrapped snacks and small novelty items that are usually priced high.