My Seven Fave Supermarket Hacks and Shopping Tips for Busy, Budget-Conscious Parents:
I love a morning of leisurely shopping as much as anyone. But ever since I became a parent, running errands has become more like a tactical strike operation. While single me would spend an hour of Sunday afternoon browsing store ads for the best deals, parent me has to get the grocery shopping done as efficiently as possible.
Whether wrangling toddlers, trying to squeeze in errands between school drops, or scheduling a grocery run around everyone’s Zoom meetings for working at home and homeschooling, I’m betting other parents can relate. That’s why I’m sharing some of my fave grocery shopping tips, for saving as much time and money as possible on your routine errands.
Give these supermarket shopping hacks a try, and you’ll start saving a ton of time AND money, too!
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
My 7 Favorite Money-Saving Grocery Shopping Tips (Save Time, Too!)
Shopping Tip #1: Make your list first
The best way to speed your way through the supermarket is to write down your grocery list before you go, and stick to it when you get to the store.
If you don’t already have a running list going in your household, now’s the time to start one. Especially since so many of us are trying to limit trips out of the house these days, it’s easy to forget those two items you ran out of five days ago, unless you wrote them down at the time.
There are a few ways you can do this. My husband and I both keep running grocery lists on our phone, so we know we won’t forget to bring it to the store with us.
If you have a central location in your kitchen, you might also keep a running list there. For example, we have a small magnetic grocery list pad that hangs on the door connecting our kitchen to our garage. This way, it’s easy for the whole family to jot down items as we use them up, and equally easy to grab the paper list (or take a picture of it) on our way out the door.
Shopping Tip #2: Organize your list
While making a list is a great start, one way you can take this time-saving one step further is by putting your list in order based on your store’s layout. (This is easiest to do if you’ve got a running list on your phone, where it’s easy to cut/paste the list items to reorder them.)
- Many stores have shoppers enter the produce section first, then go past the deli/butcher’s/seafood counters, then past the packaged meats, with canned goods and boxed goods on interior shelves, grouped by categories.
- In stores without a separate pharmacy section, household/paper goods, health and beauty items, and pet supplies are toward the end of the aisles, with frozen goods, dairy, and alcoholic beverages often at the very end of the aisle layout.
- The store’s baked goods are sometimes near the dairy; in other stores, the bakery is next to the produce section.
Just by putting the produce items at the start of your list, the meats and non-refrigerated items in the middle, and the household goods, then frozen goods, then dairy items at the end, you’ve already trimmed your time in the store. Being able to check items off your list in order as you go decreases the chances you’ll forget something, or have to backtrack to grab it.
As you’re getting ready to head out the door, taking a few minutes to put your list in order based on your store’s layout will help you spend less time on the actual shopping once you get there.
Shopping Tip #3: Shop and eat in season
One of the easiest ways to save money at the store is by purchasing in season. You’re going to pay a lot more for zucchini or summer squash in the dead of winter. Other summertime favorites, like corn on the cob or fresh peaches, you may not be able to find at all.
This isn’t to say you can’t eat any fruits and vegetables in the dead of winter, for example. But buying winter squashes and apples in the fall is going to be a less expensive, tastier proposition than trying to buy them in the dead of summer.
Trying to plan your meals around seasonal favorites will not only mean fresher, tastier food on the table, but also bigger savings for you, because your store doesn’t have to go out of its way to find things that were probably grown halfway around the world.
Shopping Tip #4: Shop and eat local
Even better than just eating foods in season is trying to eat LOCAL foods in season. Many local stores and regional chains will partner with area farmers and other agricultural producers to carry their products in-store. When you make a point of “shopping local” this way, you can save money AND help support local businesses.
These partnerships are really a win-win-win for everyone. Local farmers get a convenient market for their output, and can feel good about knowing they’re helping to feed their local community. Local stores can know that they’re helping to support other local small businesses while helping their consumers purchase some of the freshest foods available to them.
And best of all, shoppers can eat more healthily, because the food they’re consuming is farm-to-table fresh and has a smaller global footprint. If you’ve never tried them, trust me: it’s hard to beat the taste of fresh vegetables that are barely 24 hours from field to table.
Shopping Tip #5: Watch for closeout savings
Something every consumer should know is where their fave supermarket hides its clearance items. Some stores will have just one of these, for all their household goods and dented cans and past-season items. Others will have several sections – one in the produce section, one near the bakery for day-old breads, another in the refrigerated foods section, etc.
Because most stores cannot sell items past their “sell-by” date, they’ll drop the price and stash these items in a clearance section as they approach “sell-by” date. Other times, a store may overbuy on that week’s circular specials (say, avocadoes or strawberries), and end up with produce that’s becoming overripe before it’s sold.
As long as you have plans to use it soon, shopping the clearance section is a GREAT way to save money:
- If you’re looking to make banana bread or guacamole that afternoon, you want items that area already ripe; the clearance pile is where you’ll find bananas and avocadoes at peak ripeness.
- The clearance pile is also a great place to snag, for example, bagged salads and other “convenience” foods whose price is ordinarily high. I won’t buy packaged salads regularly because their price point outweighs the time I save on prep; but if they’re on the clearance section, they can often be cheaper than buying the ingredients and prepping them myself.
- I also love grabbing artisan breads from the clearance pile. Bread that’s at least a day old is really what you want for making French toast, PB&J French toast, or homemade croutons; so I’d just as soon let the store age it for me, and snag it for 50-75% off regular price.
Shopping Tip #6: Don’t shop hungry!
Never, EVER go shopping hungry! This is the #1 worst mistake you can make when grocery shopping. Going in on an empty stomach will leave you much more susceptible to impulse buys, purchasing excess snacks, and grabbing less healthy choices along the way.
If you really have to squeeze a shopping trip in when you’re due for a meal, at least try to drink 16 oz. of water before you enter the store. Even better, carry around a healthy snack in your purse at all times, such as a small granola bar or bag of almonds. This can help to tide you over so you don’t overbuy on junk food.
Shopping Tip #7: Compare prices BEFORE you shop
The final tip I have to help you save both time and money when grocery shopping is to compare store flyers and weekly sales before you even leave home, so you know you’re choosing the store with the best savings for what you need that week.
I recently stumbled an awesome new resource for doing this, called Kupino.com. Kupino.com is the best online site I’ve ever found for putting all your favorite stores’ flyers right at your fingertips! For those of you in the UK, they even have a UK version that you can find at Kupino.co.uk.
What makes Kupino.com so incredible is that they’ve got all my favorite store flyers in one place. Even better, they go way beyond supermarket flyers; their site also includes sections for drugstore and pharmacy chains, furniture, home and garden stores, and even fashion and sporting goods!
All in one place, I can see the weekly flyers for hundreds of stores, so I know before I leave home that I’m getting the best possible deals. While this has been a huge help in tracking down who has which fresh goods and staple items in stock and on sale during our current global pandemic, I’m especially excited to use Kupino.com for back-to-school shopping later in the summer. With all the back-to-school bargains in one place, it will be easy to fill out the girls’ supply lists without chasing all over town to try to get the best deals.
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