Grandma never left home without hers. Even our mothers probably had one of some kind. And today's women are turning back to them in droves to save not only money and time but their sanity. Shopping lists, once considered old fashioned and a nuisance are making a comeback and in a big way.
It's a fact that most of us buy the same items each time we shop with the occasional new foodstuff or cleaning product to try. But how often have you gone to the supermarket, picked up what you thought you needed, only to discover when you arrived home that you had doubled up on some things and totally forgotten others? You will be wasting money and time if you shop like this.
“I've always used a shopping list. It's usually scribbled on the back of an envelope or a small piece of paper but if I don't have it I can guarantee that I'll forget something vital or go way over my budget and these days especially I can't afford to do that,” says Catherine Allan, a young mother of four from Melbourne's outer east.
“Knowing that I will get what we need and not have to go back to the shops for another week saves us hundreds of dollars a year. I can ignore the urge to impulse buy when I only have 45 minutes without the kids on a Saturday morning to do the shopping. Getting what's on that list is my focus, if it's not on the list I just don't have the time or the money to buy it.”
As prices have gone up (inflation officially hit 4% last month) saving money, especially at the supermarket has become essential for families on a budget. Just as in Grandma's day people are feeling the pressure to spend less time shopping for groceries and save more time and money.
It's easy to set up a perpetual shopping list so you never forget what you need. Having a perpetual list makes shopping a breeze. You simply tick the items you need and then cross them off as you put them in the trolley.
Whether you use a notebook, the sample shopping list template or a spreadsheet on your computer or a shopping list program (and there are lots of free programs available) the steps are the same:
1. Rule up your master sheet with seven columns. They will be: item, brand, quantity, price last month, price this month, total.
2. Now list every item you buy, from peanut butter to toothpaste. If you want to be super organized, list the items in the order you find them in the supermarket. You’ll save time by not having to go back and forth and you will be able to mark off your list in order. Most supermarkets have a free store layout brochure available. If you can't find one in the aisles, ask at the service counter.
3. Once you've finished, run off some copies. Stick one to the front of the fridge or the pantry door. This will become your next shopping list. During the week as you run out of things or as you notice you’ll need an item, circle it on the list.
Each shopping day, you just have to grab the list and hit the supermarket. Before you leave home, in the price column put the price for each item when you last bought it. You’ll get this information from your pricebook (a pricebook will save you an absolute fortune, if you don't have one seriously consider setting one up).
When you are shopping just put the current price in the appropriate column and you have a record of how much each item has cost you. This helps you to keep track of how much items have gone up or down and will help you decide whether you need to reconsider the purchase.
If you carry a small calculator and tally as you go, you’ll easily pick up checkout errors and notice immediately if you go over budget.
Do you shop with a list? If you don't you should. Without a shopping list you don't have a hope of sticking to your grocery budget and getting all the groceries you need at the same time. No matter how good your memory is you will forget to pick up something, forget your best price or be in the middle of baking or cooking and realise you don't have a vital ingredient because you didn't have a shopping list!
I found many years ago when Disaster Struck and I first becaume a Cheapskate, that I tended to buy the same grocery items over and over; there was very little change in what I bought. It was a real eye-opener for me, and it was the beginning of my perpetual shopping lists and the beginning of real money savings shopping the Cheapskates way.
It was then that I wrote my master grocery shopping list and each month after grocery shopping day I run off a copy and stick it to the pantry door. As things are used up they are circled on the list. When I'm getting ready for shopping day I take the already to go shopping list, do a quick stocktake and add anything else I need to buy. It is a perpetual shopping list.
You may find that you buy different grocery items in summer to those you purchase in winter. I just made two master shopping lists – one for summer, another for winter. I do so I have a summer list and a winter list. My summer list has things like beetroot, pineapple and coleslaw dressing down for every shop. On the winter list they are down for every second shop. The winter list has soup mix and kidney beans on every list. The soup mix is only on every fourth summer list as we don’t eat much soup in summer.
I love my perpetual shopping lists. Everything I regularly buy is already on the list – I just need to tick the things we need and away I go! No more spending time standing in the kitchen wondering if I’ve forgotten to put anything on the shopping list. And no more getting home, only to realise that I forgot to buy half the things I need for dinner next week.
My shopping list isn't like anyone else's. These days it's a printed A4 sheet. It used to be a spiral bound notebook. I prefer the notebook but it's too hard to stick to the pantry door!
There are groceries I buy weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly and yearly and the list is broken down into those categories. It sounds complicated but it's not - the sections are just listed in order down the page, with the groceries underneath.
Weekly: usually bought on a Thursday when I take Mum to do her shopping
Fortnightly: bought Monday morning straight after the school drop-off
Monthly: bought first Monday of the month, straight after school drop off
Quarterly: bought first Monday of the Month, straight after school drop off
Yearly: sometime in the week between Christmas and New Year when everyone is home to help - it's a big one!
Before each shopping day I check the shopping list, do a very quick stocktake of the pantry, fridge and freezer to make sure nothing has been missed and off I head to Aldi and Coles (for the things Aldi doesn't stock) then to the greengrocer (if it's a fortnightly shop) and butcher (if it's time for a meat shop) and home.
A monthly shop takes about an hour and a half all up, depending on the queues. A quarterly shop takes about two hours all up. Once it's done and the groceries are put away, that's it. I don't go back to the supermarket or greengrocer or butcher until the next shopping day.
When I hit the supermarket, greengrocer or butcher I don't dawdle. I have my list and I get through it as quickly as I can. I'm in and I'm out. Shopping in sections like this saves me a lot of time, at least 3 hours a month. It doesn't take any longer to toss three or four of each item into the trolley than it does one. It does take about 5 minutes longer to get through the checkout. The biggest time saving is in the travelling and parking and checking out - it's done once a month and then that's it - no more supermarket for 4 weeks.
This is how I shop.
This is how I keep the grocery bill for my family of five to $80 a week, $345 a month or $4,160 a year.
It works for me. It may or may not work for you. Feel free to try it to see how it works. Be prepared though to have to make some radical changes to the way you do your grocery shopping. And be prepared for some fantastic savings off your grocery bill.