How to Create a Better Grocery List to Save Money

There’s no escape from the fact that buying food is a big deal and a regular part of your life. It may be that you used to spend money dining out in restaurants or eating fast food lunches every day, but at some point, you simply must buy food at the supermarket and keep it on hand at home. And when you do that, you are usually spending a big wad of cash.

Creating a grocery list will save you money, but what you really want to do is slash your food bill and save thousands every year! Here's how!

If you are shopping for just you, it might not be any real issue, but if you have a family to shop for and especially with kids, BINGO! You have hit the mother lode of hunger with that one and that is why you need to know how to build a better grocery list!

Build a Better Grocery List

Creating a grocery list will save you money, but what you really want to do is slash your food bill and save thousands every year, not just this week! How can you do that? There are a few basic and reasonable steps to apply this art form. And if you try, you will find that even in a time when prices are rising you can keep your shopping list under control and with it the amount you budget and spend. Try these tips and see what I mean:

1. Pick a quiet time of day to create your list

When it’s quiet and you’re not hungry is the best time to make a grocery shopping list. In fact, make sure you’re not hungry when you shop, too. Studies show that when we are thinking “hungry” we tend to stray from our list and buy impulse items, which can add considerable expense to your bottom line.

2. Create a “smart” shopping list

The most important step to creating a smart list is to shop the sales. Let the supermarket’s weekly circular serve as your basic guide, but also check online for additional items and a more complete listing of what is available. You will also find “digital coupons” online that are not available anywhere else.

3. Sale items should dictate your list

If, for instance, chicken breast is on sale this week, then you and your family should expect to eat chicken a couple of nights (or to stock up in your freezer). If apple juice is on sale “buy one, get one free” (BOGO), then you should plan on having that on hand, too. The same goes for side dishes, snacks, and desserts. Why not take advantage of these deals, diversify your menu, and save money all at the same time?

4. Shop your own pantry

Before you complete any list, make sure you go through your cabinets and shelves to check for items you can use to create meals for the week. The ground beef you have in the freezer might be just perfect for that taco kit that’s on sale this week!

5. Check all the ads and coupons

Each week, go online or check your Sunday ads or weekly mailed flyers to see what items you should build your week’s menu and shopping list around.

6. Keep a coupon file and be a loyalty card holder too

Set up a coupon file that you can use and purge it regularly to keep it current. Search your coupon files for manufacturer coupons that you can combine with the store sales for the greatest savings. Don’t forget to check online to see if more discounts are available. It’s as simple as typing in your search engine “online manufacturer food coupons” to find items you can add and take advantage of the savings. Get yourself on a good mailing list to get the best coupons every week.

7. Organize your list to match the store layout

To make your list smarter, organize the items in the same order you’d shop for them in the store, so you can save time (and avoid impulse buys). Most customer service desks offer a list of which items are in which aisles that you can take home and use to help order your list.

8. Track items you run out of and add them to your list when it happens so you never forget them

Tracking the items that run out is important. You can even use your computer to print up a list of typical items you buy, and put that list on your fridge to check off what’s needed when you have used it up. This is especially true of important basics like eggs, butter, and milk.

Or, you can even install one of the grocery list apps on your smartphone that will help order your list automatically. Try OurGroceries, List Ease, or Out of Milk.

Final Thoughts

When you create a shopping list with savings in mind, you insure that you’ll keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket. Today, it’s very easy to spend hundreds on a weekly shopping trip for a family and that translates to a very big portion of your annual budget.

A family of four that spends liberally on food costs could spend as much as $1,287 a month just on groceries for meals at home and not including eating out, according to USDA guidelines.

Typically, American families spend about 10% of their annual income on food. Saving just 1% on your grocery shopping bill each year could save you more than $1,000 annually!

So what’s your favorite way to make a list and save? How do you build a better grocery list when you need to go shopping?

Image courtesy of Santeri Viinamäki via CC BY-SA 4.0 (with changes)

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