Forget everything you know about grocery shopping. Yep, I said it. The old way has got to go. You set a list right before you go to the store, look everywhere for one item, and then realize on the way home you forgot that precious bottle of Rosé you can barely function without. (You know I’m right.) Grocery shopping is just too dang chaotic for a woman with enough chaos in one day, so this is the busy mom’s guide to make buying your food just as fun as eating it.
Prep and Planning
Keep A Running Grocery List
Instead of sitting down on a Sunday morning and trying to scramble to remember what it was you ran out of last Tuesday, keep a clipboard hanging in your cabinet on a Command hook with a grocery list template queued up. When you notice you’re low on olive oil or you’re down to your last stick of butter, go ahead and add it to your list now. It’ll make writing your list way easier and faster, plus you won’t forget anything.
I keep about 10 copies on my clipboard and refill when I get down to the last two, that way I’m always prepared. I also keep a pen attached to the clipboard to keep me encouraged to use the running list.
Grab my Organized-ish printable grocery list at the bottom of this post. It’s free!
Keep An Aisle Map Of Your Most-Frequented Stores
This may sound silly, but I promise you, you won’t regret it. Not only will it make your shopping trips super streamlined, but it will also make things easier when you send your hubby to the store to get a couple of things. He may not know where everything is like you do, so you can tell him aisle numbers to avoid the “I can’t find it” phone call thirty minutes later. (Speaking from experience…)
PS: My Organized-ish printable grocery list has a gridded page for mapping out your fave stores.
Don’t Go To The Store Hungry
Yes, your mom probably told you this and you rolled your eyes. But deep down, you know it’s true. Skipping lunch and going to the grocery store is a recipe for an extra hundred dollars in garbage food and ingredients you have no idea what to do with.
Don’t ask me how I know… [cough, cough, flavored chip tasting party, cough… It sounded good at the time…]
Go On The First Day Of The New Ad
Here’s a little tip I learned from working in beverage sales. When the new ad breaks, it’s usually in the middle of the week (most of my stores switch ads on Wednesday, but you’ll need to find out about yours). First of all, stores aren’t really that busy in the middle of the week, and second, vendors stock up the stores with ad items the day before the ad breaks. The displays are full, all the flavor varieties are in stock, and you won’t have to deal with rain checks.
Waiting until the weekend could result in not getting the flavor you want, or even not getting the product at all. Displays get messy, only the main flavors get restocked, and the store is already trying to sell down before the ad ends.
Declutter Your Fridge And Pantry
Before you load up your kitchen with a ton of new groceries, take a minute while your stock is low to do a mini-declutter session. Check dates on your condiments, trash any old leftovers, consolidate snack boxes, and wipe down your shelves. By doing quick purges and wipe-downs before every big grocery haul, you’ll always know what you have, never run into expiration date issues, and always have enough space for everything.
Utilize The Store’s Services
To save yourself time, take advantage of services your stores offer. If you need meat cut from the butcher, or a bulk amount of bread from the bakery, call ahead of time to have it prepped and ready for you. That’ll cut down on standing in line at the department counters and your store employees will really appreciate the head’s up.
Another service that I personally use is the personal shopping service. I shop at Food City and they offer this service for $4.99. I just order the groceries online, set a pickup time, and a professional shopper gathers all my groceries and bags them up. If something is out of stock or she has a question about produce preferences, she’ll text me. When I arrive, I just pull up to the front door, text the shopper that I’ve arrived, and she loads all the bags in my car. I don’t even have to get out.
This is super great for me because I can schedule the pickups after I pick up my son from school or I get off work, and I never have to stand in line or load up a cart. My store also offers delivery, but I’ve only used that service once. It was pretty pricey with fees and tips, so I just stick with the drive-up.
Grocery List Tips and Tricks
Sort Your List Into Categories
One big, long, jumbled grocery list is a recipe for disaster. It takes longer to shop because you’re constantly looking over a hot mess of ingredients in a disorganized single column. Plus, you always end up forgetting things by the time you’ve made it to the dairy section, and you have to go back through and find them.
Here’s a breakdown of categories you can include, and what falls in each of them:
- Produce– Fruits, veggies, salad mixes, cold salad dressings
- Meat and Seafood- Beef, chicken, pork, fresh seafood, breakfast meats
- Snacks- Chips, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, trail mix
- Canned and Jarred Foods- Canned fruits and veggies, canned meat and seafood, salsas, soups
- Condiments and Sauces- Condiments, jams and jellies, peanut butter, syrup, specialty sauces, salad toppings
- Baking and Dry Goods- Baking mixes, flour and sugar, spices, cereal, oatmeal, rice, pasta, boxed meal kits
- Bread and Bakery- Bread, cakes, muffins, tortillas, specialty grains
- Dairy and Deli- Eggs, cheese, milk, butter, sour cream, yogurt
- Frozen- Frozen meats, veggies, breads, meals, desserts
- Beverages- Sodas, tea, coffee, water, juices, wine, beer, liquor
- Cleaning Supplies- Cleaners, detergents, disinfectants, soaps
- Paper and Plastic- Foil, plastic wrap, paper towels, toilet paper, disposable dinnerware
- Personal Care and First Aid- Shampoo, soap, deodorant, lotion, makeup, medicine, band-aids, feminine products
- Pet Supplies- Food, treats, litter, toys, medicines, misc. supplies
- Baby and Toddler- Food, formula, diapers, bath products, snacks, juice, misc. supplies
- Floral and Gifts- Flowers, greeting cards, batteries, magazines, other needs
Psst: My free printable grocery list is already divided up into categories, so you can just print and go, no extra work needed! You can download it at the bottom of this post.
Use Highlighters To Call Out Sale Items
I like to use a pink highlighter for discounted items, orange for BOGO, and yellow for items I have a coupon for. This helps me make sure I get that specific brand and quantity for discounts to apply. If something is a special order, like meat or balloons, I’ll highlight it in blue to get them last from their specific department attendant.
Note Quantities and Sizes You Need
Nothing is worse than finding a new recipe on Pinterest, writing Salsa on your list, then getting home with a 16oz jar when the recipe calls for 24oz. So frustrating, right?! Do yourself a favor and write down exactly what you need. That way you aren’t buying too much or too little, wasting money or causing second trips.
My Favorite Grocery Shopping “Helpers”
I love trunk organizers because they keep everything contained. Without one, your bags fall over, cans roll out all over the place, bread gets smushed, and chips get crushed (and this mama hates crumby chips!). This organizer is my favorite because it has a built in cooler to keep your cold stuff insulated. That means you can actually make it home before your ice cream turns to soup in the summer.
Reusable Cart Bags
I saw these bags featured on GMA one morning and I was instantly obsessed. One is insulated to keep frozen items cool, and they’re different colors so you can keep your dairy, produce, and meat separated. Plus, you can get all four for around $30 and they double as big sturdy bags for carrying your food into your house. You can skip the plastic without carrying in a big wad of small canvas bags.
An Organized Folder
This is one of my little hacks that turns heads at the store every time I pass a mom with a crumbled-up list. I use a portfolio folder like this one with a clipboard, calculator, pen holder, and extra pockets to store coupons and store ads. Having everything all together is such a lifesaver, and I can even pop my credit card and ID into the smaller pockets so I don’t have to lug around my purse in the store.
My Printable Grocery List
This is the list I was talking about earlier in the post. I created a two-page shopping list, plus a store map template for mapping out the aisles. You can print the list in color or black and white, and the best part is, it’s FREE! You can download either option (or both!) and save it to your computer so you can reprint more copies any time. Just pop your email below and I’ll send you both versions straight to your inbox.
Share Your Grocery Shopping Tips!
I know you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve when it comes to grocery shopping. So now it’s your turn! Drop the hacks that work well for you in the comments, and visit me on Instagram @lelaburris to connect with other Organized-ish mamas.
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