The 5 Minute Plan for Faster and Cheaper Grocery Store Trips


No one likes to waste money.

If you’re like most people your grocery shopping trips end up leaving you unfulfilled. You forgot key items and had to go back (costing more time and money) or you spent your hard earned money on food you didn’t use in the weeks ahead.

Step out of that mode. Use the following method and you’ll improve your chances that you’ll buy only what you need and never have to go back for what you forgot:

The 5 Minute Grocery Shopping Plan

The grocery store is one of your biggest expenses of time and money. So why aren’t you making a better plan?

Whether you shop weekly or monthly, a 5-minute planning routine can dramatically improve the state of your pocketbook, and it’ll probably give you a little more sanity too. Read on.

Your first minute:

Write a list of all the meals you can remember over the past week(s). This step jogs your memory and serves as a useful reference for choosing this week’s meals.

  • As you continue in your planning from week to week, you’ll always have a list prepared from the week before

Your second minute:

Using ideas from the previous list, write down a list of possible meals for this week.

Having a set meal plan ensures you will spend money only on food you will eat this week, saving you money – especially on perishable items. List each day divided into two categories:

  • Group family meals – such as dinner and breakfast
  • Lunch and snacks – for kids at school and grown-ups at work

Your final 3 minutes:

Write a list of food items needed to make up your meals.

The following steps will save you substantial time while you’re at the store, and keep you from having to go back.

  • List each meal’s major items, like meat, and list it down to the smallest ingredients, like salt
  • Label items by location in store: in front of each write a small number: 1) fruits and vegetables 2) bread and bakery 3) meat 4) pasta and rice 5) baking goods (oil, sugar, salt, mixes) 6) other
  • Do this step in your kitchen so that you can quickly inventory your pantry and refrigerator

Remember to use your day planner and consult your monthly calendar for any upcoming events that may throw off your meal schedule.

A few additional tips:

  • Need meal ideas? Here are some healthy meal recipes from the Food Network
  • Bring a pen: check off items as you go to keep tabs on your progress
  • Shop the perimeter: you’ll find the healthiest and best value food on the outer aisles
  • Lower your shopping cart mileage: learn your store so you don’t have to backtrack for missed items
  • Leave the kids at home: studies show that kids actually cause you to spend more
  • Create a Shopping Kit: keep an envelope or folder in a kitchen drawer containing reward cards, coupons, and shopping list. Just grab it and go.
  • Save your list for next week: many of the common food items will repeat
  • Coordinate your trip: maximize your trip by working in other errands such as the dry cleaners, car wash, or school drop-offs

Share your best trick

What’s your secret to painless grocery store trips? Please share with us by commenting.

Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at

9 thoughts on “The 5 Minute Plan for Faster and Cheaper Grocery Store Trips

  1. There is an old fashioned chalk board on the kitchen wall; When the reserve item, such as last bag of sugar is opened ,’sugar’ goes on the board. A quick glance at the board reminds me of the non-weekly recuring items.

    1. Great method May, old-school but dependable. Thanks for commenting.

      – Jeff

  2. I did something similar to Adrienne for my grocery list and have been doing it for years. It must work as my college-age son asked me for my list so he can use it!!!! I set up an Excel document listed in 4 columns by categories (Fresh Veggies, Fresh Fruit, Canned Goods, Dry Goods, Baking, Beverages, Dairy, Frozen Foods, etc.) that pretty much correspond to the aisles at my grocery store. I have line entries for the most popular items, e.g. ‘Soup_______’ so I can fill in the specific, along with blank lines for additional items in that category. I have printed copies that I update at home constantly as I run out of something or need it for an upcoming recipe. (I do a lot of baking.) Then when the opportunity is right (according to kids’ activities, my schedule, sales), I take the list with me, checking off as I go, and in the correct order as I go thru the store aisles. As needed, I can add or change items on my list. On shopping days, I have the list and my envelope of coupons in my purse just in case I think of something during the day at work!

    1. For my Wal-Mart (non-grocery list), I have a page in my portable Day-Timer that I keep a running list of things to get the next time I stop by the store, which is oftentimes spur of the moment depending on my available time and when something is needed. I have 2 lists – a non-grocery list and a grocery list of groceries that are needed now – and can’t wait until the next grocery store trip in 2-3 weeks. I also have a Day-Timer ‘Coupon’ envelope that is in my planner so I always have coupons with me whenever I do hit the store.

      1. Thanks for the tips Rosemary, I love how you have your lists specified, which allows you to maximize your time. Thanks for sharing.

        – Jeff

  3. I like this idea a lot. I use daytimer grocery lists to make my list. I put it in my planner for the day I’m going and put my coupons behind the page marker. Then I have everything I need right there – my list, a pen to cross off as I put things in the cart, and the coupons I’m planning to use.

    1. Having a pen is always key for me… regardless of my list, I always seem to overlook items if I’m not crossing things off. Thanks Audrey.

      – Jeff

  4. I took my grocery list and entered the items in an Excel spreadsheet leaving room for a checkbox. Then I set it up by aisle in the local store where I shop. The list is laminated and two-sided so it’s easy to carry. I use an erasable marker to check needed items. When I’m checking out, I wipe off the list and it’s ready to go for the next shopping trip. It hangs from a magnetized clip on the fridge so it’s handy.

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