The Most Efficient Grocery Shopping Ever

Grocery Store
Grocery cart loaded with fresh fruit and bread moving through the aisle.

Were you one of those people who used to hear about how hard it was for someone to grocery shop with kids – then you had kids?  You probably thought, “grocery shopping with  kids  – how hard can that be?”.  Then you had kids – turns out it is hard to bring them to the store.  You soon realize your going to have to make the whole process as efficient as possible.  Here are the ways we discovered to do this – we hope they’re helpful for you!

Go in with a List:


We have tried grocery shopping without a list a few times.  Not only were we wandering all over the store, but we had to go back about three times to get items we had forgotten.  Even if we had time to do that its not a good use of your time!  Before you make your list, however, you need to plan your meals for the week (check out this post for meal planning).

Master Grocery Lists:

One time-saving way of creating your grocery list is to create a master list, then each week after meal planning, you can cross off what you don’t need to get that week.  You can find some printables of master grocery lists at the end of this post that you can customize to your preferences.

If you choose to use paper grocery lists, we would definitely recommend organizing them by where the products are located in the store – this will cut your time in the store down big time!

You may also need multiple paper grocery lists if you shop at multiple stores.  In this case, we would suggest keeping a master list for each store.

Electronic-Based Grocery Lists:

We have tried a lot of different electronic grocery lists and really each has their plusses and minuses.  You will want to find a good app that you can search recipes, upload your own recipes, create your own recipe box, plan your meals, and create your grocery list.  Look for some added bonuses like keeping your recipes private, grocery lists will create themselves based on the ingredients from the meals in your meal plan, the grocery list is automatically separated by location in the grocery store, and you can get notifications of coupons and sales at stores you visit frequently.  We suggest you try a few out – the sometimes tend to come and go (we used to love ZipList but it went bye bye).  We also mention a few below for consideration.

The one site and app you might check out is Cozi, which also has a website (www.Cozi.com).  With Cozi, multiple family members have access to the shopping list and can add and delete items from the website or through the Cozi app on their smartphone, iPad, or tablet.  They have a whole host of family organization tools.

Another option is to create your list electronically, then print it out to bring with you.  The site http://www.grocerylistmaker.com/ allows you to check which items you need, then creates a printable list for you (and yes its kind of dated but works fairly well).

Save Time at the Store

Online Item Subscriptions:

People tend to think that when they need something, they should just pick it up at the store, but that’s not true or efficient!  If you haven’t heard of Amazon Subscribe and Save, look into it and it just might change your life.  You can set up orders for almost any item you need, and have it automatically shipped on a schedule that you choose.  You can always cancel a subscription or a single shipment.  The items are discounted, and shipping is free.  If an item you use frequently isn’t offered on Amazon Subscribe and Save, you may be able to order it directly from the retailer, or schedule a day each month (or quarter) to order it online.  We use the service for almost all of our non-perishables and it just about cuts my grocery trips in half.

Join a Food Coop:

In a food coop, you order food as a group in order to take advantage of wholesale prices.  Most food coops order organic food from local farms and ranches, so you’re getting healthy food and it stays ripe longer.  We get most of my produce, eggs, and meat from my food coop, and no longer have to purchase these items from the store.  For a list of coops near you, visit this site: http://www.coopdirectory.org/directory.htm or do a Google search (the site isn’t always kept up to date).  A couple of other bonuses of a food coop are that you pay less for food, support your local economy, and load up on healthy food.

Buy Items in Bulk:

When there’s a sale on something you eat frequently, and you have the storage space, buy it in bulk.  Over time, this will save you a lot of money, and it’s one less thing you’ll have to buy at the store for a while.  Most stores send their weekly sales via e-mail, so it’s best to look over them before making your grocery list.

We also like to stock up on non-food items so that we don’t run out or have to buy them frequently.  Items we stock up on are cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels, and hygiene products (such as toothpaste and floss).  We also keep a big stock of greeting cards and thank you cards so that we don’t have an excuse not to send one on time.

It may be worth it to purchase a membership at a wholesale grocery store, such as Sam’s Club or CostCo.  You’ll need to make sure you have the storage space, and that you’ll save enough money to justify the annual fee.  Most families are able to save a lot of money by shopping at these stores.  Also – most of these stores give discounts to students, so take advantage of that if you can.

Keep Re-Usable Grocery Bags in Your Car:

Re-usable grocery bags are good for the environment, and usually earn you a small discount at grocery stores.  As far as saving time, it’s much easier to bring groceries into your house with re-usable bags than the paper or plastic bags from the grocery store.  We just keep re-usable bags in my car so we don’t have to try to remember them each time we go to the store.  Keep all your bags inside one of the bags so they don’t go all over the car!

Have a Plan for the Kids

Your grocery trip can be extremely prolonged with kids.  A toddler usually likes to get in and out of the cart incessantly, and babies cry out of boredom.  Consider bringing some entertainment for the kids so that you can shop in peace.  For a toddler bring a book or an electronic toy; for a baby bring a ring toy (a toy that you can take from the car seat handle and hook on to the grocery cart) or finger foods.  If you have a little more time, have your toddler help with the shopping.  To do this, have him or her walk instead of sitting in the cart.  Then when we’re looking at an item we need, say something like “I need the yellow box” or “I need the box that has a W on it.”  It keeps him or her entertained and well behaved for the shopping trip.

Apps

If you have a smartphone, there are plenty of free apps you can download that will save tons of time and money on groceries.  You already know that I’m a huge fan of ZipList and Cozi, but here are some others.

Grocery iQ: This is the most popular grocery app.  It has a barcode scanner and coupon lists.  You can also use it to share your grocery list with others, and create favorite lists.

OurGroceries: On this app, all grocery shoppers in a household sync their phones to a single account.  When somebody buys something and marks it off, it will be taken off everyone’s list.  You can also enter recipes to sync to the grocery list.

Your grocery store’s app: Most likely, your grocery store has its own app with coupons, store locations, sales, and reward program information.  The following major stores have their own apps: Kroger, Giant, Wal-Mart, and Sam’s Club.

Printables

Master Grocery List: This is a comprehensive grocery list, organized by where items are located in the store (this is why deli meats and non-deli meats are separate lists).  Your grocery store might organize groceries differently, so change what you need to change to make it easier and faster for you.  You can open the Excel version to customize it to your own preferences, or just print the pdf version.  We suggest printing multiple copies and keeping them in your family notebook, with one posted in the house so you can reference and write on it for your grocery trip that week.

Here it is in Excel: Master Grocery List

And in pdf: Master Grocery List

Paleo Master Grocery List

This is the same as the Master Grocery List, but for people who follow a Paleo or Primal lifestyle.  This is not meant to be an educational tool on the Paleo diet, so it’s important to understand the principles before using the list.  For instance, we include honey on the list, but that doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited honey and be Paleo.  Because there are varying degrees of Paleo, we are lenient on this list and included items that aren’t included in everyone’s Paleo diets.  We also included cheese to accommodate the Primal Blueprint folks.

Here it is in Excel: Paleo Master Grocery List

And in pdf: Paleo Master Grocery List

If you prefer to make your own list, we would still suggest dividing it into sections of where the items are located in the store.  Here’s a printable for doing it this way: Blank Grocery List