Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How I Prepare my Shopping List and Shop

When I go shopping, I always use cash.  I find that I am much more careful when I have to stick to a limit.  If I used a credit or debit card or check, I am more tempted to buy extra products and not stay in my budget.  I realize that this is not the best way for everyone.  I am just sharing what works for me.

First, I look at the running list of items I need that I jot down every time I run out of something or it looks like I will need to buy more. 

Second, I look at the menu that I have planned around what we have in the cupboards and freezer that need to be used, and write down all the ingredients that I need that I don't have.

Third, I write a list and estimate how much each item will cost.  I try to estimate high, so I have a little extra money in case I find one or two things at a good price.

For example:
2.0  Sour Cream
3.0  Salsa
1.5 Avacado
3.0 Italian Sausage
3.0 Eggs
3.0 Apples
2.0 Bananas
3.0 Carrots

You get the idea.  If it looks like things will cost more than 50 dollars, I cut back on items or switch a more expensive recipe to a cheaper one in my menu.  Most of the time, these expenses don't add up to more than 25 dollars, so it gives me so flexibility to add in some great sale items each week.

Next, I go through the ads and write circle the things I MIGHT be interested in buying.  I write a list on a different piece of paper that is like this:


3.00  Strawberries 2 lb.
1.74  Naturally Nested Eggs
1.79  Donald Duck Orange Juice
1.74  Tribe hummus
1.99  La Victoria Salsa
1.50  Blueberries


  .99  Avacado
1.00  Sour Cream


5.99  Organic Berries B1G1F
4.49  Organic Cantaloupe  B1G1F
1.49  Organic Plums - 1 lb @1.49 lb.

Then, I compare the two lists, and make changes:

2.0  Salsa  (I originally had 3.0, but it was on sale at Rosauer's)

2.0  Eggs  (I originally had 3.0, but there are also on sale at Rosauer's)

I will delete the Tribe Hummus because I have all of the ingredients to make it at home and we like homemade better.  I will also delete all the organic fruit at Safeway, because it will cost too much this week since I have to buy some spices and am trying a new recipe that has some expensive ingredients. 

I originally had 3.0 for apples, but since I can get 2 lbs. of strawberries for 3.0 I will switch them out this week because my daughter really likes strawberries and would rather have them.

I also have to decide if I want to buy sour cream at Smith's for 1.0 or buy Tilamook, which is a better quality sour cream for 1.79.  Usually I try to get the organic, but some weeks I just will go for the item that costs less.  Since I am going to buy Tilamook this time, I don't really need to go to Smith's this week.  The only store I will go for sales is Rosauer's.  I will get my regular non sale items at Walmart or Town and Country which is a local store.  Their prices are cheaper at these two places. 

Then, I make my final list to go shopping with.  This may sound more complicated than it is.  It only takes me a total of 15-30 minutes at the most to do this.  I have a good amount of fruit and veggies from last week, so if I need to cut back there I can.  I also have frozen veggies we need to eat.  Here is what I will buy this week:


1.5   Grapes 1 lb. @ 1.49/lb
3.0   Strawberries 2.99 for 2 lbs.  (1)
1.5   Blueberries 2/3.0  (get 1)
2.0   Peaches 2 lbs. @ 99 cents/lb
2.0   La Victoria Green Salsa
2.0   Naturally Nested Eggs 1.74  (get 1)
2.0   Tilamook Sour Cream  1.79 (1)
4.0   Italian Sausage 2 half pound packages at the deli - Redneck Brand
3.0   Rye berries 3 lbs. in bulk
  .5   Red Pepper Flakes 1/2 to 1 teaspoon in bulk

21.5  Total

Town and Country

2.0   Bananas
3.0   Carrots
7.0   Poppy seeds, Garlic powder and Ginger
1.5   Avacado
3.0   Mozz. Cheese
2.0   Small bottle of Italian dressing
  .5   Fresh Garlic
4.0   Green Chilies - 4 cans  (I could also substitute another bottle of green salsa for the chilies if I want to)
2.0   Hidden Valley Ranch Powder
3.0   Mayonnaise
1.5   Jalapenos (I could also just buy one fresh jalapeno if I want to depending on the price)
1.5   Buttermilk

31.0   Total

I am at 52.5 right now which is over 50, so I can either skip something or just buy less produce when I get to the store.  I think I have enough cushion that I am not going to skip anything this week, but I may buy a store brand or buy less carrots or bananas or Italian sausage.  You may think that some of my estimates are too high, and they may be, but that is how I like it.  It gives me flexibility and some freedom, as I said earlier, to buy something else that isn't on the list if I want.  I am not stuck to the list.  There are things I need to get, but there are also things that I don't have to get and I can substitute if I want.  After I go shopping today, I will post the results and you can see what I really spent.

How do you shop?  Do you plan ahead or just buy sales and eat from your stockpile?  What works for you?
Please comment or link up and share your ideas.


  1. I am very intrigued by this! It seems like a lot of work, but I want to try it. I just started doing the grocery shopping/cooking for our i'm not good at estimating prices...but I'm sure I'll start getting a feel for it.

  2. It is much easier than it sounds. It gets easy with practice. If there is anything we can do to help you, just let us know!

  3. I am going to start doing a system like this as well...I just read a financial book that advised people to do a system similar to this and to only bring $10 extra than the estimated total of your list. I have also started to work on a "Grocery Book" where I have started writing the average prices of common products/foods/brands we use in my household. I put the store's average every day price, what would be considered a decent sale price, and a rock bottom stock up price. I have wanted to do this for years and finally have the time now!!! Food on The Table is also a GREAT way to meal plan and they have up to 3 store ads you can look at in your area, recipes listed to correspond to those sales, and a way to print a grocery list or send to your phone...Hope this idea may help others!!!

  4. I didn't know there were other people who used a system like mine. It does work well for me. Michelle, the other Spendwisemom, is planning on making a master list of good prices so you can know if something is a good price or not. There is a tab at the top of our website, but it is a work that is still in progress. Maybe you can contribute information you get about good prices so we can share them with everyone. I went to Food on the Table, and it looks like a good website. I just wondered if it costs money after the free trial and how much. It is important to figure out what works for you and do it. For some people, it may be worth the money to have someone else help with meal planning, shopping, etc. I prefer to do it myself, but I have the time. Thanks for sharing your ideas. Keep us updated on how your shopping goes. I usually always have an extra $40 in my wallet for emergencies. That could be gas, something unexpected, or whatever. I replace it if I need to use it. I found that when you shop and know what you will spend ahead of time, you are usually not put in an embarrassing situation of running out of money. I always put things that I would like, but don't absolutely need at the end when loading groceries on to be checked out. If I estimated low and have some money left, I can get something else. If not, I just don't buy them.

  5. A lot of the loss leaders that I come across are on clearance as I browse a store, like King Sooper's. If I am low on bread, I will go on a bread hunt until I am fully satisfied; same with meat, or other goodies. I paid $2.38/lb for fresh mushrooms. The going rate is $3+. It wasn't advertised...I was just @ the right place, right time. I do spend cash only. I daily update my food budget on what I've spent, recording on Excel. I have done this since '06. It's great to see how far I've come. I like to break up my allotted amount to spend by the week. If I allow the whole amount all @ once, I will blow it all in the first 2 weeks! If I give myself a daily allowance to spend, say $10/day, it helps me to stay on budget & plan ahead, leaving some room for the "emergency" needs. If I have an abundance of chicken breast w/ bone that I got on clearance for $1/lb, nothing more than $2/lb, I will be planning meals based on chicken. I stockpile usually just a few items @ a time, like my mushrooms today. A few weeks ago, it was red bell peppers @ $.50 each; I bought 8. Knowing the prices ahead of time, helps me determine if it's worth it or not. It's a lot of leg work to get the deals, but the steals are so worth it to me; it's also something I enjoy.

  6. Very nice how you do it, Marianne. Thank you for sharing.

    My coupon budget is $100 /week,just because we don't want to give up some of items that we eat. Maybe I try to cut down the budget.

  7. How many people are you feeding on that amount? My big thing is fresh pineapple. I just love it and would love to have it every week. I appreciate it more since I don't get it regularly. But, if I wanted to, I would cut back on something else. I can get most of the things I want, but just need to do it a little at a time. If I budget more for myself, I find that I have extra food leftover or that we overeat. But, you need to figure out what is best for you. I don't work outside the home, so I can cook from scratch. Maybe you can try to just cut out $5 at a time until you get to the point where you feel good about it. Only you can determine what is the best thing for you. I started this out to prove you can eat healthy on a Welfare budget. I don't have to cut back this much, but I have continued doing it just for people who may need some encouragement. I am sure I could cut it down more if I really wanted to, but I don't. I am satisfied where it is now. Thanks for your comment. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  8. ive just started this. ive found that making bread and muffins from scratch cutsdown my familys food budget quite a bit. You see my husband is a big bread eater and we go through about 3 to 4 loafs a week. so as i started making it from scratch he liked my bread much better. the trouble ive had is getting him to eat more vegis. but other than that 50 dollars a week is very doable

    1. I agree with you completely: making homemade bread, muffins, biscuits, tortillas, etc. saves a lot of money. Plus, you get the wonderful taste of homemade bread and the fantastic smell in the kitchen as well. Have you thought of hiding veggies in food? You can hide onions in marinara sauce. You can make your own and put it in the food processor so he doesn't know they were ever there. I used to hide carrots in marinara sauce when my kids were young. I hide butternut squash in muffins instead of pumpkin. Maybe a good potato soup with bits of broccoli would be worth trying. If you put a crumbled piece of cooked bacon in it he may not be bothered by the broccoli taste. How about salads? Could you make tortillas and make it into a wrap? You can put tomatoes, green peppers and diced tomatoes in a Spanish rice. Zucchini can be put into muffins or bread. Hope some of these ideas can help spark your creativity.