Food / Groceries, Saving Money, Shopping

Short-List Grocery Shopping Tips


I went to the grocery store this morning. My list included four items. I returned with ten. It would seem I had a problem with the impulse buy. That’s not, however, the case. Four of the things I returned with were on sale, so maybe it was sale-blindness. That’s not the case either. I rarely leave with more than I came for. I figured, as I left the store, that my actions deserved an examination.

Shopping wasn’t an unusual experience, considering one of my family goes to the grocery every three or four days, depending on how long the milk lasts, and when in the month it is. Today I went because we were out of milk, and I take milk in my coffee. I could’ve had a cup of tea, but a week-long head cold takes the allure out of tea and builds a craving for a warm, smooth cup of joe. I surveyed the house before I left, turns out we were out of coffee, too.

I’d just woken up and I was on my way to the grocery store; I was still in half my jammies. I checked myself to see if I was fit to shop: shopping scatterbrained can be dangerous, especially when paying with credit. I decided I would come home with a supplement to breakfast, like a banana bread, as well as the requested Superfood product my husband drinks for breakfast, and milk and coffee. I brought one bag for my nickel discount.

I call this short list to the grocery a supplemental trip. We shop heavily once a month at both the grocery, the warehouse club, and through the SHARE program. When shopping for a small, supplemental list, there are some saving things to look for.

Buy One Get One: The first shipment of strawberries were in for the season, and were on sale BOGO. Great for breakfast, snack and dessert. Those would be more versatile than the bread and be a change from granola bars, apples, and toast snacks. I grabbed two, and checked one item off the list. You should only take advantage of a BOGO sale if you have space to store it, know it will get consumed before going bad, and have it or a substitute for it on your list in the first place.

Doubling the Days: When I get sent out for coffee I like to come back with two different kinds. I like the variety. Two went into my basket, one check went on my list. When you buy two instead of one at regular price, it should be because it’s a staple, and will save you a return trip down the road.

Deep Discounts: I swished to the meal-in-a-bottle part of the produce store, where they were one-third off. If you’ve never experienced Superfood, it’s perfect for someone like my husband who’s too busy to eat breakfast and sometimes lunch, but doesn’t mind drinking a meal. I grabbed two, since sales don’t last forever, and it never goes unconsumed. Again, enjoy the deep discount on something currently on your list, and only double up if the sale will end soon, you know you have space, and you know it will be used before spoiling.

Additions: My coffee-protein-shake-drink stuff was on sale, too, so I grabbed two of those. They weren’t on the list, but I will use it as a substitute for milk in my coffee. something not on your list is on sale, run a quick check list: is this thing ever on my list? do I already have enough? is it something I use instead of something else? will it be a problem to use it before it spoils?

Comparison Shopping: The exciting part: milk was on sale! It was a “luxury” option to my regular brand, but the sale made it the cheaper choice today. I don’t do a lot of shopping around for milk because there are other factors like flavor and how the milk is treated that I take into account. I did a mental check on my fridge to make sure there was room for two milks with everything else I’d bought, and I grabbed two. Small lists are usually for staple items or are very specific. There is still a level of comparison and price competition that you should be aware of. Blindly grabbing what you always grab on a quick trip and deprive you of saving opportunities.

This is how I went home with 10 things instead of 4. I saved by buying “bulk,” eliminating a return trip for coffee, extended the savings on Superfood and milk, and extending the life of the milk by buying a price-comparable substitute. I felt weirder leaving with plastic bags I didn’t come in with than leaving with more items than I’d expected, because I got more value for my short-list trip to the store. And I managed to do it before my first cup of coffee.

Image courtesy of lyzadanger

4 thoughts on “Short-List Grocery Shopping Tips

  1. I’m curious what your coffee-protein-shake-drink stuff is? I’ve recently just started adding some protein powder to my iced espresso/milk and shaking it up and find that I really like the taste.

  2. Bolthouse Farms is the brand of coffee-flavored protein drink I have found. They have several flavors, and other products include shredded carrots. I believe I will have to visit Bolthouse Farms one day. I do seem to like them.

  3. Milk can be frozen (except Soy milk), so it pays to stock up if you have heavy milk users

  4. Do you think that the reason you bought more was because of the music in the background? Some study has shown that if a piece that is familiar is playing, or very soothing, the shopper will inevitably spend more time and buy more groceries.

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