Save Time and Money with a Grocery Investment Plan

eTalk Extra
Return to May 2010 eTalk: US edition | Canada edition

by Jeff Doubek, Day-Timer Spokesperson

Jeff Doubek, Day-Timer SpokespersonThat annoying squeak of your shopping cart wheels may be trying to tell you something. But are you listening? The truth is, grocery shopping can be a terribly wasteful experience. Countless hours are wasted each year from shopping without a plan, from not knowing what you need, from wandering the aisles looking for inspiration, and from arriving home without a key ingredient.

Furthermore, let’s not forget money spent buying unneeded items that sit on your shelves unused, or spoil in your refrigerator. It’s amazing to think that food is one of our largest expense categories, yet most individuals neglect to make a true investment plan.

Lists are good, but lists are only half the battle. By making a Grocery Investment Plan, you can save yourself time and money. Here’s how:


Organize your weekly and monthly needs

Right now, on your calendar, start listing today all of the meals for each day you can remember from the past week or more. Based on these meals make a plan for the upcoming two weeks – or longer, if possible. This is merely a guideline so don’t feel locked down by this schedule. As we always say, planning must have flexibility in order to be successful.

Schedule your shopping trips

Everyone shops differently, just as everyone eats differently. You have to decide the best frequency for your shopping schedule. In making your shopping more efficient, you may find that you will need to shop less often, and that’s a huge benefit to you. When scheduling, try to coordinate your trip with other errands such as dry cleaner visits, car washes, and pick-up/drop-offs for your children’s activities.

Make a useful list

Your next task is to create a shopping list of all the ingredients necessary for you to create the meals on your schedule. Once you’ve made you list, separate the items listed into two groups: essentials and staples. Essential items are unique ingredients in your meals — salmon filets, for example — that you might not purchase every week. Staples include the common ingredients of your daily meals, which may include milk, bread, and sugar. Separating food into these two categories is important because it will assist you in planning future trips and tracking the use of commonly purchased items.

Go on kitchen patrol

Your KP duty includes taking a detailed inventory of the food in your cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer with particular attention paid to the items in your staples category that you likely may already have. This is important: once you find an item on your list, you may only check it off if there is ample quantity to create all the meals on your schedule; otherwise you will need to replace.

Now, you can go shopping with confidence.

A few additional recommendations:

  • Before shopping, check for deals. It’s a good idea to keep a running file of grocery store coupons, newspaper flyers, and online deals from manufacturers’ websites.
  • Only purchase items that fit into your weekly meal plan, otherwise it may be a wasteful purchase.
  • Create numerical order to speed-up future trips. As you check items off your list, number them in the order of purchase. That will allow you to organize chronologically, keeping in mind the typical counter-clockwise flow pattern of grocery stores. This will save time by eliminating the need to back-track for items.

Once you’ve established a Grocery Investment Plan you will begin to see patterns in your life that are successful, and those that have room for improvement. Furthermore, you will likely find that you have your own processes that can expand the usefulness of this plan to better fit your lifestyle. I am certain that you will find your investment of time in establishing this plan is worthwhile. If you have any thoughts or ideas on how you save time and money in your own grocery shopping please share them with us by commenting below.

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4 thoughts on “Save Time and Money with a Grocery Investment Plan

  1. I have found that keeping my menu on the computer with the ingredient list on the same page makes meal planning easier. I have 6 master menu lists and alternate each week for variety. The menu is printed and placed on the refrigerator for the next week so that we mark the items that we need to purchase. I take it with me to the grocery store and purchase just what I need.

  2. Nancy’s idea of how to design and use an Excel spreadsheet is “killer”!
    Just the idea I needed since I tend to get excited about a new recipe I’ve found, and either buy odd/uncommon items that I’ll never use again to make it, or I forget to bring the recipe with me on a surprise grocery run and then can’t remember all the things that were on it …(so the dish may or may not ever get made before some of them go out of date/spoil).

  3. I create an excel spreadsheet of the items by isle, since I shop at the same grocery store most of the time. I print the list and keep it on the refrigerator then highlight as the week goes on with items that are needed. This has cut my food bill down and removed the never ending questions “do we have this?”

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