When you think about it, so much of life revolves around earning money and spending money. The funny thing is, it’s often the spending part that takes the most thought. If you tried to list all the things you ever needed to buy and all the places you need to go shopping, it would most likely be a lengthy list: groceries, cleaning supplies, bulk items, office supplies, electronics, clothing…
It’s no wonder, then, that the concept of one-stop shopping is growing in popularity. First it was the big box stores, and now you can find everything from diapers to diamonds by shopping online. But shopping without a plan can lead to waste and extra expense, whether you’re cruising the aisles or surfing the web.
So before you go out shopping, plan your meals. List all the meals you’ll need for the week on one side of your chart, then take stock of the ingredients you will need on the other side. You can even double up ingredients for different meals – the leftover iceberg lettuce from your Monday hamburgers could turn into a taco salad on Tuesday. Having this list will help you get everything you need without any return trips.
Once you’ve listed everything you need, you should plan out your shopping route before loading your shopping bags and heading out. There are a few things to consider here:
Quantity – Shopping in bulk at a price club can give you a better price on many of the ingredients you use every day, especially long-lasting items like chocolate chips and cooking oil. Unless you happen to run a restaurant, though, you’ll probably have a hard time using bulk packages of produce before they rot in your vegetable cooler. That’s why the meal plan is key – if you have a veggie-heavy week ahead of you, you can stock up for a better price.
Sales – Every store works hard to build a reputation, whether for lowest prices or greatest value. But in the end, the stores exist to make money, and to do that, they need to balance their sales items with regularly priced items. As tempting as it is to get all your shopping done in one place, it can be worth your while to evaluate which store is consistently cheaper for the various categories of things you buy. Reviewing your coupons at each stop can also help you comparison shop on the fly and adjust your plan accordingly.
Timing – As you’re driving around looking for the best deal, you’ll get better value if you save your refrigerated items for your last stop. Milk, for example, stays freshest when it’s kept between 35° and 40° F. For every 5° above 40°, the milk loses 50% of its fresh-tasting shelf life, and you can lose a day or two for even one degree. If you have to leave your milk in the car, you can protect it with an insulated market tote.
While life doesn’t always give you optimal shopping conditions (and your kids only make it more challenging), making smart plans can help you enjoy higher quality living and a fatter wallet.
What are some of your shopping strategies?