Are a Grocery List and Menu Plan Really Necessary?!

Grocery List

Well, it depends.  Just like most homemaking tasks, there are lots of ways to do things and rarely a one size fits all approach.  That’s definitely true regarding grocery lists and menus.

I used to go to the grocery store with a list and menu 99% of the time.  Once in a while I went without the list and hoped for the best.  I usually did that when I had run out of time or energy or I was just sick of doing it.  It rarely worked out well.  I usually ended up over budget and without the right ingredients to make anything. Continue reading “Are a Grocery List and Menu Plan Really Necessary?!”

Save $ With Wal-mart Savings Catcher

Walmart

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Thank you to blog reader, Teresa, who told me about the Walmart Savings Catcher program.  I had heard it mentioned but never took the time to find out what it was. Teresa noticed a Wal-mart receipt in one of my posts and told me about the program.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Teresa!  I would never have checked it out if you hadn’t told me about it.

And in case any of you other Walmart shoppers haven’t heard about it either, I want to tell you about it now.  For the record, I’m not receiving any compensation from Wal-mart.   This is simply to help any other Wal-mart shoppers save as much money as they can.

Here’s a simple explanation from Walmart.  “If a local competitor offers a lower advertised price on an eligible item you purchased at Walmart or Walmart.com, we have a program called Savings Catcher that allows you to get back the difference on a Walmart Rewards eGift Card or a Bluebird by American Express Card.  Amounts credited to these Cards can be used to make purchases exclusively in Walmart stores or online at Walmart.com.”

So here goes.

  1. Download the Wal-mart app on your phone.
  2. Create an account.
  3. After you’re all set up, choose “Savings Catcher”.
  4. There’s an orange bar towards the middle that says “Scan a Receipt”.
  5. Scan your receipt with your phone.  FYI:  Receipts cannot be more than 7 days old.
  6. Within 3 days, Wal-mart will notify you of any savings & add it to your balance.
  7. You can redeem your savings immediately by printing a Walmart Rewards eGift Card on your computer or you can let it add up and use it all at once.
  8. You can earn up to $599.99 reward dollars per calendar year.

Walmart Savings Catcher

Walmart Savings Catcher

Walmart Savings Catcher

Walmart Savings Catcher

Seriously, if you haven’t signed up for this program, DO IT NOW!  I started in January and have already “earned” $25.00.

Do you shop at Walmart?  Have you heard about this program?  Have you signed up yet?

6 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

grocery receipts

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Groceries are expensive!  Really expensive!!!  So anything we can do to save money is a good thing.

Besides the normal techniques of shopping sales, using coupons, buying generics – there are a few other things that can make a big difference, too.

  1. Shop alone. We all know we spend more money when we take kids or spouses.
  1. Shop with someone. I know this is in direct contradiction to what I just said, but sometimes having someone with you DOES make you spend less.  When I go alone, I tend to add things to the cart that aren’t necessary or aren’t good for me.  When my husband is with me, he questions those types of purchases.  And I hate to admit this, but there are some things I don’t want to buy if he’s with me – like corn dogs.  So I don’t.
  1. Don’t shop when hungry. I’ve heard this one forever and it really is true.  When I’m hungry, I add all kinds of ridiculous things to my cart that I wouldn’t normally.  On the flip side, if I shop when I’m FULL, sometimes I don’t buy enough.
  1. Don’t dawdle. The longer you spend in the store, the more money you’ll spend.  Get in, get it and get out!!!
  1. Use cash and only take the amount you budgeted. You can’t overspend if you don’t have it.
  1. Have a detailed list and stick to it. My normal routine is to make my list, in detail, put prices by the items (rounding up to account for tax) and then add it up to be sure it matches my budget.  If it’s too low (which is never is!), good!  Then I have extra to use for something else.  If it’s too high, I have to figure out what I can do without.

I’ll confess that I don’t use coupons or shop sales.  I do stock up if there’s a really good sale but I don’t have the time or desire to spend a lot of time trying to save money at the store.  So for me, the six strategies above are my go-to’s for saving money on groceries.

Do you do any of these things?  How do you save money on groceries?

Evolution of a Grocery List

Grocery Shopping List

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I’m not sure about everyone else, but when it’s time to make a grocery list, I have a hard time remembering what I need.  Usually what happens is that I make a list and then get to the store and realize I forgot to put a bunch of stuff on the list or I didn’t check to see if I needed certain items.  Or I get home and realize I forgot some items I really need.

To make my grocery list more accurate, I adopted a practice years ago that has served me well.

  1. As soon as I get home from the store, I put a clean list on the refrigerator.  I’ve been using Franklin Covey’s classic size menu planner for years.
  2. I immediately put items on the list I know I’lll be buying next week.
  3. I add to the list as I think of things or when I notice we’re low on something.  I don’t wait until we’re out of something to buy more – as soon as I open a new jar or bag, I put the item on the list.
  4. The day before I grocery shop, I make my menu and finalize the list.  But except for the items needed for the meals I’m making, the rest of it is pretty much done.

To demonstrate, here are several photos of my list as it evolved during the week:

Grocery List

Grocery List

Grocery List

Grocery List

Grocery List

Grocery Shopping

This method works great for me and saves me time and frustration when I’m getting ready to go grocery shopping.  Do you use a list?  How do you be sure you remember everything?

My Top 10 Strategies for Keeping Order in My Life

Checklist

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My life has changed a lot over the past six or seven years.  The changes have come hard and fast and sometimes it’s been difficult to modify my systems as quickly as the changes have come.  But during those times, there are least ten things I’ve done consistently that helped me stay on track regardless of what was going on.

1.       Use a planner.  Having a planner helps me stay organized and on top of things.  It’s a place to record information; appointments, of course, and things I need to do.

2.       Pay bills at a set time each week.

3.       Go to the grocery store once a week, with a list and a menu.

4.       Tidy the house (that includes making the bed) and sweep or vacuum the floors most days regardless of whether I get any other cleaning done or not.  And generally that’s the first thing I do after getting up, getting dressed and eating breakfast.

5.       Do laundry – wash, dry, fold and put away.  I like doing mine on Monday, Wednesday and Friday but I haven’t been able to stick to that schedule consistently these days.  So I have to do it when I can.  The important thing is, though, to stay caught up as much as possible.

6.       Open the curtains and let the sunshine in.  For me, there’s something about opening up the house so I can see outside that makes me feel better.  At our last house, we had an amazing view so looking outside was a delight.  Here the views are typical neighborhood views but I still open my curtains.

7        Eat regular meals.  I may not always make the best choices, but I don’t go for long periods without food.

8.       Take breaks.  I’m home all day, so most days I stop at 3:00 p.m. and have a soda and read for 20 or 30 minutes.  I also stop working by 9:00 p.m. at the latest (usually 8:30) and sit on the couch with my husband and watch tv.  I like to quilt or work Sudoku puzzles or write in my planner while we’re watching tv.

9.       Go to bed at a decent hour and get up at a decent hour.  I’m not an early bird and I’m not a night owl.  I like to call myself a day person.  And as long as I get enough sleep, I can handle almost anything.

10.     Just say no.  I say no a lot.  I know my limits and I try not to exceed them.  That’s where using my planner helps.  When someone asks me to do something, I check my planner.  I don’t just look at that day, I look at all the days around it.  If I see I have a lot going on, I’ll most likely say no.  I don’t want to be busy every single day.  I can’t be busy every day.  And the truth is, you can’t say yes to everything.  You have to choose.  You’ll most likely have to say “no” more than you say “yes”.  Even if you’re a high energy go-getter, you still can’t say yes to everything.

Those are my top 10 strategies for staying sane regardless of what’s going on.  What are yours?


Other organizing articles are available in the Organizing Index.


Do What Works, Not Necessarily What Makes Sense

grocery cart

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I’m going to the grocery store on Saturdays now.  Yes, I said Saturdays.  Even though I’m a full-time homemaker and could go during the week when there are fewer people, I’m going on Saturdays.

Why would I do that, you ask?  It’s simple.  During the last six months I’ve tried every day of the week at least twice, and finally realized, despite the insanity of it, that Saturday works best for me.

Even though it doesn’t seem logical to go on the busiest day of the week, it actually makes perfect sense.  I’m busy Monday through Friday.  I spend time with the grandkids, work on this blog, take care of my home, etc. I have a lot going on and no time to waste grocery shopping.  When I do finally manage to squeeze in a trip to the grocery store, I’m usually stressed and in a hurry.

But Saturdays are a slower day.  I don’t usually have a lot going on.  And the truth is, I’m ready for a break from my usual Monday-Friday routine.  Yes, the stores are crowded, but it’s not a big deal because I’m not in a hurry.  I can stroll instead of race through the store.

And the best part?  My husband’s home to help me bring in the groceries.  That alone might make it worth it.

So the moral of this story – do what works for you even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.

How Often Should You Grocery Shop?

grocery shopping

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Obviously the answer is as often as you need to or want to.  It’s an individual decision based on your preferences and needs and there’s no right or wrong answer.  However, there are a few advantages and disadvantages to the different options.

Daily

Pros:

  • You won’t waste as much food because you’ll only be buying what you need.
  • You can buy what you’re craving.
  • You’ll have fewer bags to carry in and put away.
  • You can take advantage of sales and store specials more easily.

Cons:

  • You have to be disciplined so you don’t overspend.  The more times you go into a store, the more opportunities you have to spend.
  • You’ll probably spend more time shopping because it takes almost as long to pick up a few things as it does to pick up a week’s worth.
  • If you get busy and can’t go, you might not have enough food on hand.
Weekly

Pros:

  • You save time because you only go one time during the week.
  • You have everything you need to make a week’s worth of meals.
  • You save time because you’re only go once a week.

Cons:

  • You’ll have a big load of groceries to bring in and put away every week.
  • If you decide you’re craving chili but you don’t have the ingredients, you’ll have to do without or make a special trip.
  • Planning weekly is more work than going daily and buying what sounds good.
  • If you get paid twice a month or once a month, it might be harder to budget for weekly trips.
Bi-Monthly

Pros:

  • If you get paid twice a month, this method might work best for your budget.
  • You’ll save time since you’ll do a big trip only twice a month.
  • You’ll only have to mess with menu planning twice a month.

Cons:

  • You’ll have a LOT of groceries to bring in each time.
  • You’ll still have to go to the store in between big trips to pick up fruits and vegetables.
  • If something unexpected comes up, it may require an extra trip to the store.
  • It’s harder to take advantage of sales and specials.
  • You have to have lots of room to store two weeks worth of groceries.
  • You have to be a good planner.  Going twice a month will not work without planning.
  • Shopping for two weeks will probably take more time than shopping for just one.
Monthly

Pros:

  • If you get paid monthly, this method might work best for your budget.
  • You’ll save time since you’ll do a big trip only once a month.
  • You’ll only have to mess with menu planning once a month.

Cons:

  • You’ll have a LOT of groceries to bring in each time.
  • You’ll still have to go to the store in between big trips to pick up fruits and vegetables.
  • If something unexpected comes up, it may require an extra trip to the store.
  • It’s harder to take advantage of sales and specials.
  • You have to have lots of room to store a month’s worth of groceries.
  • You have to be a good planner.  Going monthly will not work without planning.
  • Shopping for a month will probably take more time than shopping for just one.
  • If you only shop at one store, it might not all fit in one cart.

My personal preference is weekly.  I’ve been shopping weekly since I first started grocery shopping 30+ years ago.  I’ve played around with twice a month and once a month but found both of those stressed me out.  I’m a good planner but planning for a whole month was too hard.  I never tried daily shopping.  I don’t like shopping at all so going daily sounded like a nightmare.  Plus I’m not the most disciplined shopper so I probably would have bankrupted us doing it daily.  My philosophy is to stay out of stores as much as possible because that’s the easiest way to stay on budget.

What do you think? What’s the best frequency for grocery shopping?