A shopping list sounds like such a simple thing to do, but how many times have you arrived at the store with no list and no idea what you really need? It leads to frustration and overspending, doesn’t it? I hear you now: “A list takes too long to get together. When I need to go to the store, I don’t have time to rummage through everything and make a list. I’ll know what I need when I see it in the store.”
The thing is, most of us rarely remember everything we need when we’re in the store. We get in a hurry, it’s crowded, we get distracted by a pretty display, or we’re just too tired to care. So we sling some things in the cart and hope for the best, only to get home to be reminded we forgot half the things we needed. Then we trudge back to the store to get the rest. A shopping list prevents this scenario. A list saves you in the following ways:
Money: Making and sticking to a list cuts down on impulse buys and those, “I’ll buy this because I think we need it,” items. (Although you get home to discover you had plenty of the item already and the one you just bought will expire before you can possibly use them all, so you wasted that money.)
Gas: When you shop with a list, you get everything you need in one stop. You don’t get home to discover you left something out (at least not too often) and then have to trek back to the store. Fewer trips equals smaller gas bills.
Time: Shopping with a list is much faster than shopping without one. With a list you can hit only the aisles you need and avoid the others. You can get in, get what you need, and get out instead of wandering aimlessly trying to trigger your memory.
Eases cooking stress: Cooking at home is easier when you know you have all the ingredients to make the meals you need for the week. How do you know you have everything? You make a list of the meals you want to cook and then you make a list of the ingredients you need to buy. When you get home from the store you have everything you need to mak your meals, so you don’t have to stress out when dinnertime comes.
You don’t run out of things: Have you ever gone to Target knowing you needed toilet paper, but gotten distracted in the store and come home with everything but toilet paper? Then you run out completely a couple of days later and think, “Dang. I’m sure I bought some. I went to Target just for that.” Then you’re off for an emergency trip to the store to pick up the item you’ve run out of and you’re mad because you just don’t have time for that right now. When you keep a list, you rarely run completely out of anything and you rarely have to make emergency store runs at inconvenient times.
A shopping list doesn’t have to take forever to put together or be some elaborate battle plan. If you keep paper and pen easily accessible in the kitchen, then you can just create a list as you go along. When you use the last of something or you see you’re running low on something, add it to the list. When you think of a recipe to make, add the ingredients to your list. Train your family to note the things they need, as well. Before you head to the store, take a quick glance through the cabinets to note anything obvious that’s missing and add that to the list. It takes just a few minutes to finish off a list this way. If you try to create a list from scratch in one sitting, it takes much longer to sort through everything you have and don’t have.
To make things even easier, keep several lists tacked to the fridge. I keep one for the grocery store, one for the warehouse club, and one for Target/Walmart. Since I buy different things in each place, separate lists help me keep straight what I need to buy from where and help me remember to look for deals in the weekly sales flyers. Make lists for the stores you frequent and update each as needed. Then when you head out, grab the relevant list and you’re all set.
If you want to make your list more advanced and just a little quicker to use, you can create a document on your computer with the items you most frequently purchase (complete with nifty check boxes) and put that on the fridge. As you run out of things, just check the item and note the quantity you need.
However you decide to keep your list, a shopping list is an invaluable tool when you’re trying to save money and time. It seems like such a simple little thing, and it is. But it’s also something that many people ignore or overlook that could really help them save money, time and hassle every week.