Monday, March 30, 2015

How I Plan My Weekly Shopping Trip, Part One: The Back Story

(note: this is turning into a very long and wordy post so I'm going to break it down into several posts over the next few days.)


Everyone has their own way of planning their trip, making their shopping list, and hopefully budgeting their grocery expenses.

I'm no different.  I'm not saying my way is better than another way, but I have found a way of planning my trips that allows me to feel in control of how and where I spend my grocery money and I really like it.

Let's go back in time a little, first, though.  We used to have 6 kids at home and up until 10 years ago, I worked full-time out of the home too.  In order to keep track of what we needed to buy, I kept my shopping list on the fridge (one of the magnet lists that you can buy at the dollar store) and everyone was required to add to the list when they finished something or saw that we were out or about to be out of something.  It worked very well as long as:
1) Everyone cooperated in adding to the list.
2) I remembered to bring the list with me!

Needless to say, it wasn't working very well. Still, it took me years to realize it.

It wasn't a very efficient way of making a list because it didn't really tell me what I needed that particular week. I would just grab the list and off I went, buying everything that was on the list, but also whatever else I felt like buying.

Back in those days, I used coupons (of course!) but I wasn't very frugal in the sense that I didn't necessarily shop in my pantry first.  I would, however, bring a calculator along and add up my cart as I shopped in order to have an idea of how much I was spending, roughly. That worked well but only if I shopped in only 1 store (of course, back then I would mostly shop at Save A Lot or at Publix, Aldi didn't have a store in our area yet) as I would get too excited by "deals" and wouldn't necessarily try to stick to a concrete budget.

I used to budget $120 a week for food, toiletries, cleaning products and cat litter but I would still find myself spending more than that. Meanwhile, I was throwing food away because we weren't eating it and it was spoiling, or buying even more shampoo when we already had 20 bottles in the closet! It was madness.  I really wasn't saving anything, despite all the coupons that I was using and "deals" that I was getting.

Once I got a smartphone (back in 2011), I started keeping my shopping list on my phone. That was awesome because it always was with me, but the kids could no longer write down what they finished and too many times they would forget to share that information with me and my shopping wasn't very efficient.  Some kids left the nest, but my spending wasn't really going down. I was still too prone to getting things that we didn't need simply because Publix had a BOGO sale and I had a coupon... or because I wasn't planning my meals in advance (I did that in spurts but not really consistently) even though I was now a SAHM and I had plenty of time to do it... just not the motivation!

But last year, everything changed.  Stay tuned tomorrow as I explain how I plan my weekly shopping trip nowadays...

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