Grocery shopping is rarely a favored event, but with a bit of planning and organization, it doesn’t have to be a major aggravation.
Effective grocery shopping starts with making a list—or it should. Heading out into that cutthroat food shopping environment without a list is like sailing across the ocean without a compass. You are just not going to navigate very well without it.
If at all possible, put an erasable white board or a chalk board on the door of the refrigerator. As items get used or emptied, put the item on the list. By week’s end, you should have a pretty decent idea of what you need. Simply transfer the listed items onto a paper list to take to the store with you.
Before you leave, though, check around the house for things that are getting low but never made it onto the white board: toilet paper, paper towels, soap, toothpaste, and other toiletries are commonly forgotten items. Light bulbs, dryer sheets, and detergent are also commonly not added early.
If you are familiar with the store’s floor plan, compose your paper list in the order of the aisles. Start at one side of the store and work your way across. Be sure to check the entire list, though, for anything that may not be in the exact order, and cross off what you put in your cart.
Avoiding backtracking can save a fair amount of time and effort as well as frustration and irritation.
If you have deli or meat counter items that aren’t standard fare, determine if you can present your order for pick-up after you retrieve the rest of your grocery items. Some stores allow and encourage advance ordering to reduce crowding and delays. Some, however, do not. Determine your own preference for ‘now’ or ‘later’ and make it a routine.
Leave the frozen items until last, however. That’s just common sense.
Self-serve check-out aisles are gaining in popularity. If you can, choose to check your own groceries. You save time and can get on with the rest of your day instead of waiting in line behind those who aren’t as organized.
If you bag your own groceries, avoid over-stuffing bags. Put a full layer of cans, bottles, and cartons in the bottom of the bag, but don’t stack the bag halfway full with them. Put light, perishable items on top to avoid crushing or breaking.
Keep items upright for safety and stability. It is better to use one or two bags more than it is to break bags in the parking lot or in the driveway, because they’re too heavy for the bag material.
Unavoidable for some, but try to head to the grocery store without kids tagging along. Hiring a babysitter for grocery shopping may be extreme, but if grocery shopping is the last item on the to-do list during that errand safari, it might seem a bit more affordable.
If your children go with you, bring a toy for toddlers or young children to help keep them occupied. Use child-oriented carts or the child seat provided. Do not let children ride in the basket itself or on the front or back of the cart. Those areas are actually dangerous for children, and the cost of treatment for injuries may not be reimbursed by the store if the injured child was not in an approved seat area at the time of injury.
Having children physically hold on to the side of the cart while walking is acceptable, and it certainly reduces the possibility of the child wandering off.
Enlisting the child’s help can go a long way in avoiding boredom and misbehavior. If the child can read, make the child responsible for checking the prices or finding items. As the child grows older, he or she can gradually be made ‘responsible’ for choosing the least expensive of the acceptable choices. This can also help teach the child economic responsibility and improves decision-making skills.
If a babysitter is beyond comfortable budgeting, try enlisting friends, family members, or neighbors in a co-operative ‘kid watch’ system. If both parties shop weekly, trade babysitting efforts. One watches the kids while the other runs errands and goes grocery shopping. Then trade. A morning-afternoon, or day-for-day trade often works very well.
If you prefer weekly shopping but your neighbor likes bi-weekly shopping, a trade is still possible. If he or she watches your kids each week, you watch his or her kids for the entire day once every two weeks. You both get done what’s needed, and the kids are both safe and safely out from underfoot.
Organization is the key to grocery shopping from starting and keeping a running list to putting away the food when you return. Devise a system that works best for you and experiment as needed. The time and effort saved is money in the bank.
JC Ryan is a freelance writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them understand which online colleges and online courses they can choose from to reach their goals, including earning an online bachelor’s or master’s degree, or even an online PhD.
Photo by TheeErin