Meet the Sullivans: Grocery Shopping Strategy

October 22, 2013

Grocery Shopping Strategy

Do you ever wonder how other people strategize / approach grocery shopping? It's something I always find really interesting -- do you make a rough list? a detailed list? or do you just wing it? I loved reading Shay, of Mix and Match Family's (she's also sister of Bachelor Sean Lowe) recent installment of 52 Shades of Shay where she explained how she does the grocery shopping each week for her family.

I think everyone approaches the "chore" differently. To me it's not really a chore and I enjoy it most of the time. I love finding and trying new products we see popping up on the shelves (in my experience Target always has the newest pantry items). I find peace in making a neat and detailed list, knowing that it will lead to a weak of smooth dinners cooked at home.

So, here are the details on how I like to strategize our grocery shopping each week:

The basic details:
  • We budget $150 each week for food. This is only for food. It does not include diapers, household items or toiletries. Just dinners, lunch, breakfast, milk, etc. I'm usually able to come in under that amount on any given week, but I like having the wiggle room in case we're entertaining. 
  • I don't clip coupons unless I see one for something we really need or will use. Most of the coupons I see are for things I don't cook with or that we don't use. I mostly shop the outer area of the grocery store, and those items are often already marked down for a sale and don't require any couponing.
  • I like to do one big shopping trip each week for the bulk of our food, and I usually do this on Sunday or Monday, or which ever day is less busy for us. I'm usually back at the store again later in the week for another gallon of milk or to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables. 
  • I like to shop at a few different stores for all the things we need. I mainly shop at Safeway, Trader Joe's, Costco and Target. Safeway is closest to our house and has the bulk of the items we need each week, so I always start there. Then if Keith wants a specific trail mix from TJ's, or I happen to see some interesting pantry item at Target, or we need a large amount of anything from Costco I'll make those trips during the week with Owen.
Here was my messy list from last week. I bought 98% of what's on that list at Trader Joe's, but had to buy some of the things at Safeway because I couldn't find them at TJ's.

The List:

1. First off I start with my usual Menu Planning Routine.

2. I start of by noting what we'll be eating each night of the week at the top of my shopping list so I can go back and reference it if needed. Sometimes I'll put tomatoes on my list but by the time I get to the store I forget what recipe I needed them for and what kind I need. Cherry tomatoes are great for salads, but not so great if you need them on a burger -- get my point? This is why The List is golden to me. If I don't make a list I'll forget something and have to return to the store the next day, which is just a waste of time.

3. Next I break down my list into categories according to the store's layout starting with produce, then deli, pantry, frozen and butcher. I like doing it this way to simplify the task for myself. This way I don't have to stop and read through my list a million times to make sure I grabbed all of the right things before moving on to another section of the store. I forget things less often this way too.

I also know that if I make a list I might add a few things into my cart that I didn't plan on buying ... like those Halloween Joe Joe's? Yeah, those were not on my list, but they looked like fun!

So, that's how I manage the grocery shopping each week. It's as simple as I can make it! What's your strategy?


Colleen Sullivan said...

I organize my shopping list the exact same way! It makes it so much easier. And I really wish we had a Trader Joe's close by...I really miss it!

Colleen Sullivan said...

I think I grocery shop the exact same way! I hate that I have to hit multiple stores... Buuuuut you just can't find everything at one spot!

Colleen Sullivan said...

So smart to categorize the list - I always end up forgetting something and have to go back to another section of the store...oops!

Colleen Sullivan said...

Very similar to how I do our grocery shopping. I started making my list on my computer notepad and emailing it to myself so I have it on my phone.

Colleen Sullivan said...

I MUST create my menu before heading to the grocery store, otherwise my food budget is blown! However, your idea of creating the grocery store list based on the layout of the store is genius!!! I am definitely using your best practice and shopping like that from now on. It will prevent me from going in circles at the grocery store! Thanks!!