Organizing the Grocery List

Have you seen the movie “New York Minute” with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen?

(Should I be admitting I’ve seen that?)

The two actresses play sisters (big surprise, right?) – one is laid back and messy, and the other is organized to the point of neurotic. In one part of the movie, you get a glimpse of the neurotic sister’s planner, and every single thing is planned out – right down to the minute.

That’s me. Well, okay, maybe I’m not that bad, but I require lists. Grocery lists, to-do lists, home repair lists, and on and on.

I used to keep a planner, but I don’t have enough room in even a student planner to put everything I need to list. So I moved on to notebooks. I can’t say I often completed a lot of the things on those lists – a 100 point to-do list can be a little overwhelming.

My mom came up with an even better way to organize these lists, and she shared it with me. She has a notebook divided into parts – one part has a running “to-do” list just like mine. It includes things that have to be done right away and things that are long term. Another part of this notebook contains her “to buy” lists – groceries, clothing needs, etc.

Every day she takes a look at her “to-do” list and picks 5 or 6 things she knows she can get done that day. She’ll adjust that number depending on the size of the items and the time she has. She writes them on a large sticky note and sticks it to the front of her notebook/planner. Those are her goals for the day. And she is able to get through the larger “to-do” list in her notebook because she’s only doing bite-size chunks and not trying to get as much done as possible in one day.

Okay, that’s been really effective for me, too. And time management is important.

But I didn’t actually write all that so you could learn a new time organization trick.

I wanted to share that because recently I’ve been trying to find ways to stay within our $100 monthly grocery budget. And one of the things I realized I was doing was going shopping way too often. I tried to shop once a week, but we always ran out of something important three days in. Why? Because I wasn’t organized.

First I’d go in not knowing what we would need in the next week. I knew what we needed now. But would we run out of milk on Wednesday?

Second, I assumed that if we ran out of something, I would just go run and get it.

Third, if I did go shopping half-way through the week, I was buying more items than what I went to the store for – I was seeing things we might enjoy or might run out of and buying on impulse.

All of those things meant more money spent on groceries. It had to stop.

So I came up with a plan. Using the trick my mom taught me (big lists and small lists) I’ve started writing down anything I think we’ll run out of in the next month (low-priority items.)

Then I started starring any item on that list that we would run out of in the next week or that we had already run out of (these are high-priority items.) This week, it was mostly milk, cheese, and split peas.

When I went grocery shopping yesterday, I immediately got the starred items, as long as the price was decent. I also checked the prices on the other items on the list, looking for sales (particularly ones that coincided with coupons I had.) I didn’t actually find any sales yesterday, so the low-priority items are staying on the list until next Friday.

This actually worked quite well. I replenished the items we needed and stayed under budget. (The budgeted amount for the week was $25, and I spent $17. That’s good, because we’ll have to buy some meat soon – but I’m keeping an eye out for items that are discounted because their sell-by date is coming up.)

This was only my first week using my new organizational skill. We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll update later in the month!

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3 Responses

  1. You can take it a step further and do your grocery shopping lists online, that way you can update it from wherever you are (like, if you’re at work and you remember something to add, you can) and you can keep all of your old lists. It’s super easy and free. http://www.shopgetwhat.com It even helps you fill in the list while you type.

  2. @Yoshi – that’s an excellent idea. I’m going to check out that website!

  3. […] Posted on January 19, 2008 by thebadpenny Two weeks ago I posted about my new approach to making a grocery list.  A comment on that post by “Yoshi” contained some blatant advertising for his site, […]

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