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Aug 22, 2009 10:02 AM

How do you grocery shop?

Okay, I know this sounds like a crazy question as I've been grocery shopping my entire adult life, but how do you grocery shop efficiently, yet take advantage of specials and what looks best?

For instance, this morning I went to the grocery store with an idea of what I wanted to make for dinner. I checked my pantry before I left the house and made up a shopping list. When I got to the grocery store, I felt like I wanted to change up my whole plan to accommodate some great-looking seafood that was on sale and some summer fruits that looked better than I expected them to. But, it took me forever to get out of the grocery store, because I was no longer shopping from my list, and I was scrambling to remember some recipes that would work and trying to remember what I did or didn't have at home that would work with my new menu plan.

Inevitably, whenever I try to be flexible or spontaneous, I forget or duplicate something, and sure enough, on this trip I had to make a second stop on my way home to pick up something I suddenly remembered I'd forgotten.

I'm sure there's a better way to do this. How do you do it?

Thanks in advance for your ideas.


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  1. I look at what I have at home and want to use up, then I make a list of things I will need to complete the meals. I bring a pen and cross off items on my list, and if I happen to have a different-colored pen I will circle things I wasn't able to buy so I can stop somewhere else on the way home. I'm lucky in that I have two huge supermarkets, a bakery and a small health food store within walking distance of my house.

    At the grocery store, I get all my produce first, then get bread, then I only go down the middle aisles if there's something on my list down that aisle. I haven't been down the chips and pop aisle in months. Finally, I stop at the fridge to pick up dairy and the freezer if I need frozen vegetables.

    However, all that goes out the window when I go (the Real Canadian) Superstore, as I can never find anything, have to go up and down all the aisles three times, and then impulse buy like crazy while I wait in the queue for forty minutes to pay.

    1. I always have a grocery list going, adding to it whenever something runs low or out, and try to plan meals around the weekly flyer to take advantage of sales or specials. Whatever looks appealing on the flyer that I wan to cook gets added to the list as well as anything else I need for the next few days. (I do grocery shopping every two to four days). I almost always stick to my list, and since most of my shopping is only on the perimeter - produce, dairy, meats and cheeses, it's easy to get in and out quickly. If it's not on the list it normally doesn't go in the basket. I'm so obsessive about sticking to my list that it's a joke in our household! But it makes for extremely efficient and fast shopping.

      Except, as you point out there are times when you see something for a main dish you hadn't planned and it's too good a buy to pass by. My meals are flexible enough that I would either substitute or just make the tantalizing purchase and reshuffle the rest of the meal planning. Meal planning on the fly for one meal isn't too difficult, but it can be hard to recall details of a complex recipe so if something is too good to pass by I'll plan on a simple prep and save the complex prep for another time even if it means not getting the same great deal. But, that's why the weekly flyer is so useful for me in planning trips to the market. In fact I keep the flyer at home until the next one comes out.

      And just before I leave I do a visual check to see if there's anything else I need and to refresh my memory of what's there: Soy sauce? check. Flour - only a quarter cup left, buy more. Vinegar? check. How many eggs remain" Oops, need more. But really, keeping a list going and keeping a barely stocked pantry is a good strategy for me. Nothing gets shoved to the back, nothing gets overlooked, and we buy only what we need short-term and we consume what we buy. Finally, once I get home I transfer to a new list anything I decided not to get that trip for next time and keep the list handy to add to it whenever I use something up or need something I haven't got.

      Bottom line I try to be flexible to take advantage of the advertised specials in the flyer, but once in the store I prefer to stick to my list and avoid ad hoc purchases.

      1. Make a shopping list and STICK TO IT!

        If you see things that "look good" or on terrific special, grab them. But don't waste time running around trying to get all the other recipe items that you think might be needed for the new stuff. This is 21st century America -- you don't have to drive half an hour or go actually milk the cow. You can get extra recipe ingredients..........on your next trip. Or have your SO or yourself pick up additional goodies on the way home from work.

        1. I look in the pantry and see what we don't have... and I look at the grocery store flyer to see if there's any great specials to be had - that way if they have spareribs on sale I already know that we need some bbq sauce to go with them etc. When I run out of something during the week I write it onto the grocery list right then because otherwise it'll be forgotten for sure!

          1. 4-6 different grocery stores a week; produce at one, dariy & meats at another, pantry staples at another and so forth. Coupons don't always work for me (I don't buy alot of canned, prepacked food) but weekly specials are always worth a trip.

            Like you, I create a shopping list beforehand but I do check it against the circulars that come in the mail and adjust my meal planning if need be before I leave to shop. Mostly, I meal plan while shopping to take full advantage of specials and seasonal produce.

            Also, I stopped buying herbs/spices, baking supplies and beauty products at grocery stores; I have specific online wholesalers I use for those items.

            4-6 grocery stores a week; roughly 150-200 bucks spent for a family of six and about 2 hours of total shopping time spread over the course of a week. Works for me!