About a week ago, I took 3 of my kids out on a shopping trip. Since my kids have been in school full time for the last 2 years, and because I have a couple of amazing built-in babysitters when they’re NOT in school, I had completely forgotten how difficult it is to shop with kids in tow.
“Mommy, can we get this candy?”
“Eww! I don’t have to eat THAT, do I, Mom?”
“Mom, how about we play ‘can’t catch me’ through the store? I’ll run up and down the aisles and turn corners as soon as you spot me. Then when I get tired I’ll stand in one place and scream like you’ve forgotten about me. Okay?”
That last one? He didn’t quite SAY those words, but he did one worse – he played chase through the store. I was weary by the time we got home.
In all seriousness, I do have a few tips to make grocery shopping a little less painful, a little bit faster, and a little bit easier on the wallet (yes, even when you’re shopping for 7 like me).
Tips for a better shopping trip
- Leave the kids at home – I know it seems like an impossibility and a hassle sometimes, but it really does make a difference. When my kids were little, I would try to wait until my husband was home and do my grocery shopping at night. Without the kids tagging along, my shopping trips went much faster (yay for a quick trip!) and I tended to load my cart with less junk food and impulse buys.
- Shop less often – When I shop every two weeks versus every few days, I spend less time shopping overall, and I definitely spend less money. But shopping less often requires MORE planning…
- Plan ahead. Make a list! – I feel like a broken record here, but shopping with a list helps me spend less time at the store and less money overall. My shopping trips are more focused when I don’t have to wander the store trying to remember what I need, and I don’t end up back at the grocery store a day or two later for something I’ve forgotten.
- Take a picture of it! – Now that I have a smart phone with me all the time (not the case when my kids were little) I use my phone to my advantage. How often do you try a certain brand or flavor and then forget which variety it was that you loved? Snap a picture of it at home and save it on your phone (in a grocery shopping folder, perhaps?) and then you have a visual reminder.
- Pack along plenty of reusable grocery bags – I started using reusable grocery bags a few years ago, thanks to the many bags I received at conferences and other events. Those bags have come in handy many times! Now, my county requires us to use reusable bags or purchase disposable bags for 5 cents each at check out. Thanks, but I’ll use my reusable bags.
- Use coupons – I admit that I am not a stellar couponer. But I always have a pouch full of coupons in my purse and use one whenever I can. However, I am aware that I can often get better deals buying off brands or by utilizing the sale prices in store.
- Check the store circulars – sometimes there are “hidden deals” that might not be on my list but are worth adding to my cart. If I don’t have a chance to do some sale research before I leave home, I pick a circular up as I walk in the store and scan the deals and coupons as I shop.
- Buy fresh ingredients – Cooking our meals from scratch is the #1 thing that brings our grocery budget down. I couldn’t afford pre-packaged foods all the time, and I frankly wouldn’t want my family eating that, anyway.
What are your tips for keeping your grocery bill down? I’d love to hear how you manage shopping…with or without your kids!
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