Budgeting · Frugal Cooking · Grocery Shopping · Reducing Waste · Saving Money

The Making Of A List

I think pretty much every person who practices, or tries to practice, being frugal makes a grocery list.  Or at least know they SHOULD make one, with whether or not it gets made, and how often, being a bit iffy at times.  For some reason, this was one of the few tenets of frugality Hubs and I have been able to stick with.  We began making lists on Wednesday evenings and doing our grocery shopping on Thursday evenings several years ago and with VERY few exceptions, we have gone every week.  Usually with a list.

There were three frugal problems here though:

  1.  We made a list… and didn’t stick to it.  We didn’t FORGET things but it certainly didn’t slow us down from buying everything else in the store.
  2. Many times I made no effort to make the list frugally.
  3. Many MANY times the food we bought and brought home to make ended up getting thrown out.

Even so, over the course of the years, we saved a good chunk of money by doing grocery list, weekly grocery store shopping.  Sometimes we were better than others, but I’ve no doubts it would have added up to a tidy little sum of cash if we’d been dropping it in a piggy bank.

Part of the original problem was that I had no method for what I was doing.  I was here and there and all over the place trying to prepare the lists, figure out what we needed, write it down in some orderly fashion.  It was chaos every week, and it took me a good stretch of time to begin getting things into a routine that works for us consistently.  I am sharing my process in the hopes that it will help someone else more easily figure out their own.

One source of indecision for me was the embarrassment of grocery stores and big box stores we have to choose from.  Not only do we have several different types, we also have multiple locations of each type.  I had to figure out the logistics of which particular stores, where and in what order, would be best for us.  This may be more or less of a problem for people, depending on your number of grocery stores.  We have checked out each store in the area on a few occasions, at minimum, to make fair assessments before deciding where to shop.  In the end, we have narrowed it down to 5 stores*.

* I only recommend doing that many stores if you can do it in a logical way on one trip, rather than darting all over town and eating your savings in gas wasted and time spent.

Out of the 5 stores, there are two stores where we generally buy few things.  The first is Giant Eagle, which has the honor of being the only honest-to-goodness paper ad I ever have.  For some reason those get dropped off in our building on Tuesday evenings, and if the paper has already been wasted, I figure I might as well use it.

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We live by a Giant Eagle, but we buy very little there.  They have some good loss-leader sales [for the newly frugal, a loss leader is an item being sold below cost by a store with the intention of bringing in shoppers, hoping they will buy other items while they are there] and occasional deals, but not a lot.  This list gets written on the back of the main list.  The top item on this list is Pizza Rolls, listed as E-Advantage, which makes them free.  The chain does one item every week.  But if you don’t have a Giant Eagle near you, that’s not of interest.  I just wanted to explain why it was there.

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The next store who’s ad I check is Fresh Thyme.

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This is another store we shop mainly for loss-leaders.  And some of them are such great deals, I don’t know how they manage it!  This is usually a short list too.  Here’s a shot of both Giant Eagle and Fresh Thyme on the back of the main list.

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Those two done, that leaves the three stores we shop at most.  The final three go on the front of the list in a color coded system.

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The third one is Big Box Store, which doesn’t get a color.  I look at the ad for Meijer, check for any really good deals on things we need, or things we use often, and/or ideas for meals.  I then do the same thing at Aldi.

Once that’s done, I to to my main list and start filling things in.  20160203_191008.jpg

I write menu plans on there, then in the categories fill in what we need and from what store.  Anything we need aside from stuff for meals gets put on there as well.  I check with Hubs on his needs {he feeds himself Hot Pockets and burritos when he comes in from work in the mornings}, do a quick check of household needs, and call it good.  I leave it laying out, in the event something comes to mind before we shop.  Just before we leave to shop, I fold up the list with a pen, stick it in my purse, and off we go!

In case anyone is wondering about coupons… I occasionally use coupons, but I rarely buy the kind of name brand products coupons are given for.  We almost exclusively buy generic brands and in general we don’t buy a ton of processed food type stuff anyway.  I’ll never turn down a good coupon, but I don’t spend a lot of time actively searching for them, and certainly not buying newspapers to get them.

Looking back over this entry, it probably seems like a ton of work.  Now that I have it down to a fine art though, it really only takes me half an hour or less to plan for the entire week.  {Assuming I am not simultaneously chatting for 10 minutes after each item I write down.}  For us, at least, it’s worth every minute spent!

Does anyone have any other ways of doing it?  Any thoughts, comments or suggestions to add?  I’m always open to making things even better!

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2 thoughts on “The Making Of A List

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