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Efficient grocery shopping takes practice, and you may often find yourself buying food you don’t need and overspending on items you do need. There are ways to make your grocery trip quicker and easier on your budget. A few simple tips you can follow to save time and money on your next grocery run.

1. Eat

This is a must. If you haven’t eaten and are planning to go hungry bad things will happen. Just about everything sounds good when you’re hungry and you’ll find it really difficult to resist impulse buys.

Not only will you buy more, you will buy foods that are higher in calories and more expensive. That’s just what we do when we are hungry.

2. Check Your Inventory

Inventory your fridge and pantry or any other food storage in your home to find out what is needed. You need to know what you are low on and not rely on memory when you’re at the store. It’s too difficult to try to remember with all the activity and stimulus around you.

You can also look for digital coupons: has a list of stores you can pick from:
Some stores have their own digital coupons page, for example sprouts:

3. Make an Ordered List

I like to write my list with the name of the item followed by the count so i can easily modify it for the next grocery shopping trip

Write down a list. The list should be in order from the entrance that you normally use and leading towards the cash register. It’s important to have an order so you don’t waste time walking the same paths over and over.

Try to remember your past visits to the store and the order you like to follow but also be efficient so you don’t have to walk past the same isles multiple times.

You can store the list on your phone for convenience and so you can reuse it. No need for fancy apps here you could simply write it in the standard notes app.

I like to write my list with the name of the item followed by the count so I can easily modify it for the next grocery shopping trip. Here is a part of a list for example:

Bread x2
Apples x4
Eggs x1

Notice that for the next trip you only have to change the number and maybe add some new items in between, always keeping in mind the order of the store.

The zero for apples has a meaning too, it lets me know that i didn’t forget to check if I need to buy any.

Bread x1
Apples x0
Carrots x1 bunch
Eggs x1

3. Use Coupons

coupons are a bonus they shouldn’t dictate what you are buying

Look for coupons, you probably already receive them from your usual grocery store. Remember that the coupons are a bonus, they shouldn’t dictate what you are buying. You are buying the items you need, and a coupon could help you decide between the different options if more than one brand or option is available.

5. Use the Proper Section

Grocery stores are notoriously good at mixing unrelated items together that seemingly make it for a quicker trip. It’s about convenience, you’ll find seasonings or sauces by meats for example, but unless you know exactly which sauce or spice you intend on buying wait till you are in the proper section.

6. Stick to the Plan

Stick to the plan, keep your blinders on and as you walk the isles follow your list exactly. Allow yourself no more than a couple of inexpensive items off the menu during your entire grocery trip. 

“higher sales volumes were consistently associated with the slower tempo musical selections” – The Journal of Marketing

You’re on a mission, stay focused. It may help to listen to your own music or audio book so you’re not lulled by the downtempo Muzak choices stores like to play for their customers. Yes, there is a study you can find on the freakonomics site showing how slow background music can influence customers to move slower and subsequently increase sales. You can find the study here

7. Try Generic Items

Try and pick generic items when you have the option,  they are usually cheaper and often of very comparable quality to the brand items.  I also found that they frequently have fewer and better ingredients. What really matters are the ingredients and in food the fewer the better.

8. Read the Unit Price

Pay attention only to the unit price

Pay attention only to the unit price.  That is the only true way to compare prices of comparable items, since the way many companies package products can be misleading.  Grocery stores took it upon themselves to help you, the customer, by printing the unit price so make good use of it.

The unit price is often the tiny number hidden in the corner of the price tag. It takes some practice but after a while you will learn to tune the rest out.

There are exceptions where the unit price doesn’t reflect the ongoing sale but as a general rule of thumb always start with the unit price first and then evaluate the sale if there is one.

9. Check the Expiration Date

This may sound obvious, but you should always check the expiration date. It’s easy to assume that all food must be fresh, but that isn’t always the case so take a quick peek at the date before you put the item in your cart.

Mistakes happen and you could have grabbed an item that for one reason or another has already expired or is about to expire the next day.  It happened to me several times and I learned to always check the date.

10. Use Your Own Bags

Some stores will reward you for using your own bags with a minimal discount, others will not. But in both cases you are welcome to feel better about yourself because they are better for the environment.

Bring them on your next grocery shopping trip. you should try to always bring your own reusable bags, they are sturdier, and will also not break on you as you are bringing your groceries home.

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