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How to Grocery Shop

You Need a Plan

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How do you shop for groceries? Do you run to the store every few days to buy things you ran out of, or do you shop once a week with a list, making meals according to a plan? Are you an impulse shopper, or do you always carry a list with organized coupons? Here are the basics you need to save money and time, and make your life easier in the hunt for food. Let's learn how to grocery shop.

Grocery stores are designed to keep you in the store as long as possible. All 'essential' items (milk, bread, produce) are located on the extreme corners of the store, so you have to pass by lots of other tempting merchandise even if you're just running in for a quart of milk. The most expensive products are placed at eye level (except for kid's products, which are placed at their eye level). Products on display at the end of aisles are usually not on sale or a special buy. Once you know these details you can plan your shopping list according to store layout, and save time and money by avoiding impulse buys.

Before you even go to the store, you need to make a plan. I start by looking through supermarket fliers, internet offers, and newspaper coupons to see what's on sale this week. If frozen chicken breasts, for instance, are two bags for a dollar, I'll plan some meals starting with chicken. Go through your favorite web sites and cookbooks and plan 3-4 days of meals. Use this plan to make a list of items you'll need at the store. For an example, see this shopping list I developed for a weekend's worth of meals. Look through your pantry, freezer and refrigerator and note the ingredients you already have that fit into your meal plan. This is a good time to start keeping track of staples in your pantry and freezer. Attach a notebook to your pantry or freezer and make a list of items as you use them up. Check the lists before you shop and you'll never unexpectedly run out of anything.

Since I'm very familiar with my grocery store layout, I make my list according to the store organization. Fruits and veggies are at the top of the list because that's the first department in the store. Frozen and bakery items are at the end because those are the last departments before the checkout counters. Get to know the layout of your store and this will become a habit with you too.

Now let's organize coupons! I have a small expandable folder that's organized into sections for different food types. Each week I go through newspaper fliers and supermarket inserts, along with internet coupons and magazines and clip coupons for things I know I'll use. Make sure the expiration date is current. Coupons won't save you money if you buy a product you won't use, or if the brand name product you buy is more expensive than a generic product. Clip the coupons to your list using a paper clip.

Now let's shop on the next page!

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