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