How to write a grocery list

Never forget anything on your list.

If you have a long grocery list, do you ever forget to buy things on it? This has happened to me so many times, and I am not always good about bringing a pen to cross off the items as I buy them.

This is why I now strategically write out my grocery lists. This is really only necessary for long grocery lists, because short ones are easy to use. The main thing that I do is to write out my list in sections. Because I usually shop at the same store, I am well aware of where almost everything is. I also know the order of the aisles, and this helps me create the perfect list.

The store I shop at has the deli and fresh produce sections first. When I make my list, I keep this is mind. I write the items down in the order of how the store is setup. Any fresh produce I need is always listed first on my list.

The rest of the items I write in categories. For example, if I need five different types of meats, I will list them all together. I will write all of the frozen foods in one section, and I will do this with all of the items.

This is a great way to make sure that you buy everything you need. As you shop, you can cross the items off of your list, but this is not really necessary if you make a grocery list like this.

How do you grocery shop?

Are you a planner or a last minute person when it comes to buying groceries?

Do you have a regular schedule for grocery shopping or do you find yourself going several times a week because you forget things?

I have weeks of both types of grocery shopping. When I have the time to plan, I find that I only need to go once a week to get the things I need. If I do not take the time to plan, this is when I find myself at the store several times in the same week.

By planning my shopping excursion to my local grocery store, I will make sure that I bring a list. I do not wait until I am ready to shop; I actually begin making my list days in advance. This is the best way to ensure that I have everything on the list that I will need for the whole week.

This benefits me in two ways. The first way is that I save time. By spending a few minutes here and there, preparing a grocery list, I will only have to make one trip to the store. The other benefit is that I save money. If I forget something and I run to the store for that item, do you think that I will go and buy only that one item? Probably not. I will most likely buy additional items that look appealing to me. The result is more money spent.

I am not fond of grocery shopping and I hate running in for only one item, so I will stick with making the time to properly plan my visits.

Sign up for grocery store e-mails

Get great coupons and early notice delivered to your e-mail

Safeway's "Just 4 U" program is probably the best example of the benefits of giving your e-mail address to a grocery store. But I have found that just about every chain has something to offer in exchange for your e-mail. 

There is the issue of spam, of course. Every large corporation swears that it won't sell your e-mail address, and they may or may not be truthful about that. The larger issue tends to be light-fingered employees. In my experience, a lot of security leaks happen because some low-level button-pusher gets bribed into handing over a copy of the company's database of customer e-mail addresses. A list like that, of verified good addresses, can be worth a lot of money on the open market. 
But assuming that you have a reasonable spam filter, frankly I think the risk is worth it. (Your mileage, as they say, may vary.)

At the very least, most chains will e-mail you when their new ad circular is published. This can save you a trip to the mailbox, as well as sometimes give you a free preview of what's coming up so that you can plan ahead. If you like to shop in the next area over to get other deals, you can plug in that area's zip code instead of your own, and have the deals e-mailed right to you.
Many chains offer special e-mail-only coupons, if not all the time. I find that small stores are more likely to do this, as a way to entice people to come in, and as a reward for signing up for their e-mail list. There are a few local yarn stores which offer e-mail-only coupons, and as a knitter, I am glad to be on their lists.
Others simply make it more convenient for you. This morning I got an e-mail from Fred Meyer with two coupons, one of which was for 10 percent off all household furnishings and furniture. I'm in the market for a desk, and while these coupons would be available at the physical store if I went there, I would not have realized they were available if I hadn't gotten the e-mail. That's a pretty good extra value!
The only down side to e-mail coupons is that you have to print them out yourself. And I don't know if you have noticed, but printer ink is one of the most expensive commodities on the planet. (Psst, print them out at work, if you have access to a printer there!)

Customized pricing: great or terrifying?

Unfair to consumers?

The New York Times has an article on something many shoppers have already learned about: custom tailored coupon and pricing programs, such as Safeway's "Just For U" program. On the face of it, these programs look like the holy grail of couponing: no coupons to clip, and great steep discounts on the things you buy all the time (or things very much like them). 

But as the New York Times points out, this also represents a beachhead for a possible future where the price of goods is not fixed. Where, much like airplane tickets, the cost of everything in the grocery store is fluid, depending on the season, the purchaser, or other factors.
Put it this way: it's great that I have been getting a run of steep discounts on Starbucks ground coffee. Safeway has obviously put 2 and 2 together and discovered that I buy Starbucks ground coffee, but only when it is on sale below a specific threshold. Those bags of coffee are less than a pound (only 12 ounces), and I only buy them if they cost less per pound than they would if I bought them at the Starbucks store a block away. Lo and behold, I have been getting a string of deals on this particular kind of coffee - and as a consequence, I have bought (and stockpiled) a lot more of it than I otherwise would have.

That's a clear win for both me and the grocery store. But what about a potential future where there are no prices on the aisles? This is the dystopia the New York Times foresees. What happens when Safeway also realizes that I will pay up to a dollar apiece for avocados in season? Maybe I will end up paying a dollar apiece, while the base price is actually only 75 cents apiece.
As it is, these customized coupon programs do seem to violate an unspoken system of fair play. As I cruise the grocery store aisles, I wonder what great deals my fellow shoppers are getting, that were not offered to me. What am I paying full price for, that the next person in line was able to get at half off?
At least with regular coupons, everyone has a fair shot at getting the same coupon. You may need to hunt down a copy of the newspaper, or pick through the circulars that come in the mail, but at least we all have the same chance at the same deals. But with these customized programs, the grocery stores are going to a "black box" system without that level of transparency. It's definitely something to think about.

Rising prices again

The cost of groceries continues to rise because of crops.

I have been hearing all week about the prices of groceries being on the rise. The subject that is causing this is the lack of rain. It seems that there are a lot of areas in this country that have suffered from droughts. This has an effect on many different things, including the price of groceries.

It is amazing to me to think about all of these things and how they work together. It starts in this case with a lack of rain. This leads to bad crops. Bad crops lead to a shortage of crops and that is when prices rise. These crops are now more valuable because there is a demand for them yet there is a shortage of them. 

The crops are used to make food and that causes the prices to increase. There is yet another effect of this too. Animals eat these crops and we get meat from animals. This causes the prices of meat to rise as well. All of this makes complete sense, but it is still crazy how it all works.

All of these factors lead to one thing: higher prices at the grocery store. Almost every food item is affected by this and it cannot be helped. It is very hard to afford food these days and it seems like the prices will continue to rise. The best thing to do is to try to shop wisely and reduce wasting of the food that you do have. These things are hard to do, but they are really the only way to save money on groceries.

Seattle bans plastic grocery bags

Plastic grocery bags can be a real scourge. They are made with petroleum, which we KIND OF need for other things (like transportation). Their creation involves tons of toxic chemical byproducts. They are so flimsy that you end up getting 20 of them per grocery trip, since just about everything has to be double-bagged.

They exemplify our "single use" culture, since you're lucky to get one more use out of them - at least half of them split before you can finish unpacking your groceries! They take up landfill space, recycle poorly, and have an unfortunate tendency to become airborne, flying into our trees, fences, and into our oceans, where they destroy marine life.

Considering all the down side to plastic grocery bags, it hardly seems that the minor bit of convenience they offer is really worth it! And clearly Seattle feels the same way, because its plastic grocery bag went into effect as of July 1st.
Plastic grocery bags will no longer be provided for customers at check-out. However, plastic bags are still available for produce and meat purchases. Paper bags are available for customers who forget their tote bags, but most stores are tacking on an extra five or 10 cent fee to cover their cost.

As you might expect, there is a lot of griping about this in Seattle. To which I can only say: grow up! It is not that big a deal. And after the first few times, you will certainly remember to bring your reusable totes. The only reason people forget to bring them is that they CAN forget. You don't forget to bring your wallet or your car keys into the grocery store, and soon you won't forget your tote bags, either.

I switched to reusable tote bags a few years ago when they started becoming easily available at stores. I am an adult living alone, and I estimate that by using totes, I save a whopping 400 plastic grocery bags every year! That is a surprising amount of positive ecological impact that I have, just by going the tiniest bit out of my way to use tote bags.
Better still, I actually came to prefer reusable totes to plastic grocery bags. What used to be 20 different bags can be packed into three or four reusable totes. It's so much easier to carry inside, less likely to lose items inside stray bags, and the sturdy handles mean that ruptured bags are a thing of the past.
A toast to the humble reusable tote bag! And congratulations on kicking the plastic bag crack habit, Seattle!

Take advantage of sales

Use your freezer to store goods.

Using your freezer is a great way to take advantage of sales. There are certain products that you might use all the time. The problem with these products is that they can be very expensive sometimes, and other times they are on sale for great prices.One item like this is butter. I only use real butter for everything. I love real butter and I am not about to switch. Several months ago butter was priced around $4 a pound. This was insane. I hated spending that much money for one pound of butter. This past week my local grocery store had it on sale for $1.50 a pound. I decided to take advantage of this. Butter freezes well and this will make it last for a very long time without going bad. I purchased 10 packages of butter because I knew that I would use it. This is a great way to save money.

Another item I do this with is shredded cheese. I love to cook and I use shredded cheese often. There are some meals that have cheese in every dish. My family loves cheese and I tend to cook a lot with cheese. Shredded cheese can get expensive too, but if you can find it on sale you can stock up. A lot of people don’t realize that you can store shredded cheese in the freezer. It will keep for several months and you just need to take it out a few hours before you need it. Save money by using your freezer to store goods like this.


Safeway's Just For U Program

It really works (unlike their previous "digital coupon" programs).

Years ago when store discount program cards were first introduced, we were promised a fully customized shopping experience. That was the trade-off: you allow the store to see and track every item you purchase (by swiping your card) and in exchange they would give you coupons and discounts tailored for your specific shopping patterns. No more clipping coupons! Just your Club Card!
Well, a few months after they launched the Club Card, they went back to coupons. No one on the outside really knows why, but it fueled the conspiracy theorists who believed the Club Card was just about identity tracking all along, and that Safeway was just using the promise of coupons to lure unwary shoppers into their grasp.
Finally, about two decades later, that day has finally come!

In case you were wondering, while it's true that you have been given semi-tailored coupons at checkout, this is not quite the same thing. Those receipt-width coupons are courtesy of the Catalina network, which is why hard-core couponers call them "Catalinas." They are triggered by items that you purchase in that transaction, and are typically a competitor's product. For example, if you buy a bottle of Coke, you might be offered a Catalina for Pepsi. 

The Catalina system doesn't access your store discount card, and it doesn't "see" anything beyond the transaction you just made.
Once you sign up for the Just For U program, you will be able to load coupons onto your Club Card. By the way, this time when you load coupons onto your card, they really do load on there. Safeway launched an online coupon program a few years ago, but my experience (and that of many other people) was that the coupons didn't actually end up being pushed to your card. Which of course you only learn AFTER you pay for everything at the checkout stand.
I have been using Just For U for the past two weeks, and I like it. Every week I log into their website, and the system gives me about two dozen discounts for things I often buy. It really IS for the things I often buy, too - none of the Catalina's "Here try the other thing" deal. I buy Tampax Pearl: it gives me coupons for Tampax Pearl.
Once you have chosen all your coupons, you can print them out and take the list with you. This shifts the printing costs to the consumer, but at least it's easier to carry around a sheet of paper versus a handful of coupons. And you can write the rest of your grocery list on there, too.
Overall, if you shop at Safeway, I definitely recommend signing up for this program!

Buying fresh fruits

Try this method for buying fresh fruits.

With summer coming, it is time to begin thinking about all of the recipes you will want to make with fresh fruits. I love summer because of this. With each fruit that is in season, I have many recipes that I love to make.

The first fruit that usually appears in the summer is strawberries. I just purchased my first quart of strawberries and made a wonderful strawberry shortcake recipe. If you enjoy fresh fruits like this, be cautious what you buy in the grocery stores. The fruits that most grocery stores sell are usually several days old. Not only is this fruit old, you will almost always pay more money. Instead of buying it at a grocery store, look for farmer’s markets or small stands around your town.

In my town, they have a farmer’s market. There are also several farmers that sell their goods around town. You will see a truck in a parking lot with a big sign. The truck might have strawberries for sale, peaches or blueberries. This, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to buy fresh fruits. The fruits are usually very fresh. In fact, in most cases they were picked that very day. The prices are also much better. You will get fresh fruit for a lower price. You can’t beat this.

You should start looking now for stands like this, and start digging out those recipes. Think of all of the wonderful goodies you can make this year with the fresh fruits that you will buy.

Go to a farmer's market

Buy fresh fruits and veggies from a market like this for top quality goods.

Summer is right around the corner and this often means that you can visit local farmer’s markets. If you have never been to a farmer’s market, you may want to give it a try. These are great places to find fresh fruits and vegetables as well as homemade items too.

One of my favorite things to do is to visit farmer’s markets. Now keep in mind the prices are not always cheap, but the quality is great. I am very excited this year because the small town I live in is now hosting a weekly farmer’s market every Wednesday. This is a great thing for me because I love these things.

There are many reasons why people attend these small festivals. One of the main reasons is to purchase fresh vegetables and fruits. The booths at these markets tend to change their stock often and they offer whatever is in season. For example, when blueberry season begins, they will sell fresh blueberries. If you want to purchase a certain thing, be sure to stop in while that particular item is in season.

Another great item that I commonly buy from these markets is jam. I do not make my own jellies and jams but I prefer homemade ones. There is almost always someone selling homemade jellies and jams and they offer many varieties. You can also buy homemade cookies, pies, rolls and breads. If you have never been to a farmer’s market, look for one in your area. You never know what you will find, but there are always great products available.