1. Inventory what you already have on hand.
Take a quick look in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Make a note of ingredients that you have on hand that you know you want to use this week. This is not a full inventory of your pantry or freezer. I write down items that I see that I know I need to use this week. For instance, I know that I have 5 green onions still sitting in my fridge from our CSA box last week. Before I complete my weekly menu, I'm going to write "5 green onions" down at the top of my planning sheet. That reminds me that I need to choose recipes which use my onions.
2. Look at the store flyers.
Most of us don't get the daily newspaper any more. Instead, we access the flyers on-line. You can sign up and they will gladly send you an e-mail blast when their weekly flyer is ready to see.
3. Look for special sale days and "loss leader" items.
Loss leaders are the super low items that are featured on the front or back page of the flyer. These days, stores also have "three day sales." If you plan to get something from the limited sale section, be sure to note it directly on your grocery list. For instance, if bananas were on sale for $.29 a pound at HyVee on Thursday and Friday only, I would put "bananas" on my weekly list with TH/FRI prominently displayed in the margin of my list right beside the banana entry. You might even put your notations in red ink so that they really stand out from the rest of the list. If I need a coupon for an item I put a check mark in the coupon column of my planning sheet.
4. Cook what is on saleI never look through cookbooks and just make "what sounds good." It is just too expensive to cook this way! I might make a big strawberry salad in March, when strawberries are in season and on sale for $1.00 a pound. But, when those red beauties are near $3.50 a pound in the dead of winter, they probably won't make an appearance on our table. My advice: Buy when prices are at their lowest. I might buy a flat or two of those same berries in March though and freeze them. Thus, using and enjoying $1.00 a pound berries all year long.
5. Create a menu plan.
After completing the above steps, you should have a sheet of paper with a list of items which you have on hand and those which are on sale at the store. Then, I look through cookbooks and choose recipes which use those ingredients. I note the name of the dish and the page numbers of chosen recipes on my menu sheet. Trust me when I tell you it is super easy to take a few extra minutes and plan the entire week's menu while creating your grocery list. It helps insure that you get all the ingredients that you need and don't head back into the store! The more times you enter that store, the more money you are going to spend!!!
6. Don't shop hungry.
If you are hungry, everything will look good! A 2015 study showed that not only do we spend more on food when we shop hungry, but also shell out up to 60% more on non-food items - even when we are not at a grocery store! I guess you shouldn't go to Office Depot on your lunch hour unless you want to show back up to work with a whole case of paper instead of a few copies. Who knew??!!
What do you do before you head to the store?
I'd love to hear your tips! Comment below!
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