How to Plan Grocery Shopping to Save Time and Money

Let’s talk about food shopping. Sometimes it certainly doesn’t feel like the most productive use of our time, especially if there are more exciting things to do. But we need to be honest with ourselves – in order to eat healthy and avoid spending money on take away food – grocery shopping is a must.

When I first moved out from the family home, I would have gone to the shop maybe 3 or 4 times per week. At the time it wasn’t so bad, I was experiencing what it’s really like being a responsible adult, doing my own shopping etc. However, after a while it became a routine and now looking back at that time in my life, I know I could have utilized that time a lot better. There were a few reasons why I used to visit the shop so often: 

  1. I was only buying what I needed to make a meal on the day I went to the shop.
  2. I didn’t know what I actually needed and just picked up what I thought I could use to make something to eat.
  3. I didn’t write my shopping list and didn’t have a clear meal plan so I would forget to buy half of the items I actually needed.
  4. I was more prone to picking up things I didn’t need, or a little too much chocolate and biscuits.

After a couple of months, I realised I was wasting a lot of time. I also found that because I was regularly missing ingredients to make a dinner, I would turn to ordering take away instead of going to the shop to pick up the missing item. As we all know take away can be expensive if bought few times a week. Depending how often I would get take away meal, it was probably 2-3 times the cost of a homemade meal. Also, getting regular take away (no matter how healthy you think it might be), can have impact on our health and weight in the long term. So, one day I sat down and started to think what I could to do to make a difference to my shopping routine.

Since that day I have developed a system that works really well for me. It saves time when it comes to shopping, organising and weekly grocery planning. It cut my weekly trips to the shop from 3 to 1 (apart from the odd time when I would run out of milk). I believe these steps can help you improve your shopping experience, help you become more organised and save you time and money.

Photo by Marisol Benitez on Unsplash

6 Steps To Help You Plan Your Grocery Shopping To Save Time And Money

1. Plan your meals for the week

This is probably the most important part of the planning that will result in time being saved for the next week or two after the shop is done. Once you identify what breakfasts, lunches and dinners you’d like to make you can then look at the ingredients you will need to make those dishes.

I always make sure to write the meals for each day in my planner or Google Keep so I can then check what I have planned to make that day. It is helpful to save your meal plans for future reference when you don’t have time to plan your meals for a given week. In that case you can grab one of those previously made weekly plans and base your meal planning and shopping on that week. Alternatively, what I have done, was a list of ingredients that can be used to create a number of different dishes that you are familiar with and you know will be quick and easy to make.

Example of my Weekly Meal Plan:

This is an example of my list for easy to grab ingredients and products to create a number of different dishes:

Lists created using Google Keep.

For vegetarian and vegan recipe ideas please check out my Recipes page.

2. Check what you already have

Once you have identified what you’d like to make for the week, the next step in the process is to create a list of all the ingredients you’ll need for each meal. The chances are, some of the ingredients will repeat in other recipes.

Once you have done your list, the next step is to check what you already have in your kitchen. Before the kitchen check, I would always write all the ingredients down first and then I’ll tick the ingredients I already have from the list. That way I know I won’t miss anything.

Having your weekly meal plan as a base is very efficient. You can then add any additional items you’d like to buy as extra. Or you can leave that blank and potentially pick something up as you see it while shopping.

I would suggest always writing down everything you’re planning to buy, however sometimes there might be a deal which you didn’t expect so you can always make an exception to pick up whatever you may need.

3. Use an app to link your partner / friends / housemates to keep everyone updated

Google Keep has been my absolute go-to app for organisation. I would highly recommend it for day-to-day lists and planning but especially for food shopping and meal planning. You can set your list as a tick-box which is very handy when picking items up in a shop. Once you put an item in your basket you can tick it off and it disappears to the bottom of your list. What I also love about Google Keep is the ability to invite someone to view and collaborate on the lists you have created. For example, I would put all the ingredients for the grocery shopping on Google Keep and I’d ask my boyfriend to check it to see if there is anything he would like to add. This way he can change the list remotely without me having to go back myself. It’s a great way of being up-to-date without actually having to exchange messages to sort out the shopping list when you’re busy. This is also a great way of keeping everyone informed about the proposed meal plan as you can write down meals for each day and whoever is invited to that list will know exactly what the plan is.

Similarly, if you are shopping together, one person can start shopping from the top of the list while the other person starts from the bottom and meet in the middle. This has definitely saved my boyfriend and I a lot of time shopping.

I would suggest playing with the app to see how you can make it work for you. There are other apps available which also provide the tick-the-box option. These include:

  • OneNote
  • Notes (iPhone)
  • Lists To Do

As I’ve been enjoying Google Keep so much, I haven’t used any other app. If there is an app that you would recommend, please share it in the comment section below. I would love to hear about it!

4. Never go food shopping hungry

This is a golden rule for me. I’ve done it more than once and believe me, when you are hungry you want to buy EVERYTHING (especially snacks). It’s also harder to stay focused when you’re hungry so make sure you have a full belly when you go to do a food shop.

5. Know your shop layout

This is something that has definitely saved me a lot of time when shopping. I always prefer going back to shops I’ve been to before simply because I know where the different items are located. Whenever I’m shopping somewhere, I haven’t been before, I feel I spend more time than I should trying to locate where an item is.

So now I have 2 shops I always go to because I know the layout of the shop and I know they will have what’s on my list. I suggest finding shops that would work that way for you. Believe me, once you are familiar with the layout of the shop, even if you’re in a hurry, you can find things so much faster and save yourself time.

6. Organise your list based on item location

The 6th and final step is a simple trick to help reduce your time going from isle to isle. If done well, it should mean you only visit each isle / area once. By grouping your list of groceries based on the food sections they are found, you will pick these items up more easily. Stores are already set up this way with a fruit and vegetable section, a dairy section, frozen isles, pasta, etc.

To bring this a level further, you can arrange your groceries based on the layout of the shop. There are a few universal tricks used by the grocery stores such as placing baking or fruit and veg towards the entrance, dairy and frozen towards the back, chocolate and treats at the tills for an easy pick-up. After that, cereals, pasta, baking, etc are typically somewhere in the middle. Organising your list based on your route through the store will help when finding your groceries and ticking them off as you go. This helps to create a flow through the store and prevent going back a fourth. The layout of shops is a whole other topic, and the big players have put a lot of study into this, but that’s not for this post.

Final Thoughts

There you have it – a simple list of steps to help you save time and money. My goal is always to provide you with the best opportunities to have an organised approach and help you utilize your precious time and money. I hope you found this list helpful. If you have any suggestion on how to become even more efficient while grocery shopping, please let me know! I’d be curious to know how much time you have saved using the steps outlined.




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