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The Smart Shopper’s Guide to Grocery Planning

Do your grocery trips often feel like they take longer than necessary, or do you end up buying items you didn’t intend to buy? Are you constantly wasting food you thought you’d cook but never got around to it? If so, you’re not alone. Keep reading along for some grocery planning hacks to help you streamline your shopping experience and maximize your time and money.

Tip #1: Create a Weekly Meal Plan

Weekly meal plans can help simplify grocery lists and give you a clear sense of what you need to buy while eliminating impulsive purchases. When planning your weekly meals, consider the 3 major food groups: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Knowing what you’ll be cooking for the week allows you to create a well-rounded grocery list to ensure you have all the necessary ingredients on hand.

For example, if you plan to make a pasta dish, you can add pasta, sauce, and your chosen protein or vegetable to your grocery list. Using this strategy will save you time and reduce the risk of forgetting essential items.

Tip #2: Create Grocery Lists Based on Store Layout

Navigating a large grocery store can be a daunting task, and it’s easy to get side-tracked or forget items on your list. To prevent this, it may be helpful to consider tailoring your grocery list to match the store layout of where you’ll be visiting. You can start by identifying the typical layout of the store, and categorize your list accordingly.

For example, if fresh produce is the first section you encounter when entering the store, start your list with fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, move on to other sections, such as pantry items or the dairy section, in the order you typically move through the store. This approach ensures that you can efficiently gather your groceries saving you time and frustration.

Tip #3: Compare Unit Prices

One way to save money on groceries is by comparing unit prices. The unit price is often displayed on the shelf label under the product and shows the cost per unit (e.g. per ounce, per pound, or per piece). This piece of information is essential for evaluating whether you’re getting the best deal. In some cases, buying a larger quantity of an item with a lower unit price may be more cost-effective in the long run.

Tip #4: Foods to Get on a Budget

When shopping on a budget, it’s important to choose cost-effective food items that still provide high-quality nutrition. Consider buying these budget-friendly foods:

  • Generic brands: Generic or store brands are often cheaper and of comparable quality to name brands.

  • Frozen foods: Frozen fruits and vegetables are typically cheaper than fresh ones and retain their nutritional value.

  • Grains and legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are not only affordable but also rich in protein and fiber. These shelf-stable staples can be used in a variety of recipes.

  • Canned and jarred goods: Canned and jarred goods are versatile and affordable options to consider that are long-lasting and convenient.

  • In-season produce: In-season produce can save you money as they are typically more abundant and less expensive.

Following these grocery planning tips and choosing budget-friendly options can help you streamline your shopping experience, reduce waste, and make the most out of your time and money. Happy shopping and saving!

About the Author: Janaveve Solis is a dietetic intern completing a Master’s degree in Nutrition at Illinois State University

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