Whether you have a big family or not, it's a good bet that you go grocery shopping now and then. These some of the tips I’ve picked up over the years from magazines, books and websites that I use and feel are worth sharing:
Always go with a list. If you go without a list, you may as well just throw your money away. Seriously, you need to prepare a list of everything you need, pulling from your weekly menu (next tip) and checking to make sure you don’t have it in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Now stick to that list.
Plan out a weekly menu. This is the best way to ensure that your list is complete, and that you have enough to serve your family dinner for the week. I often plan a weekly menu and then duplicate it for the next week — this way I can shop for two weeks at once. Be sure to plan a leftovers night.
Don’t go when you’re hungry. This is a common tip, but it’s true: when you’re hungry, you want to buy all kinds of junk. You’ll end up spending a lot more. Eat a good meal first, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your list.
Have a budget. When I go to the store, I know exactly how much I can spend. Then I try my best to stick within that limit. If you don’t know how much you can spend, you’ll certainly spend too much.
Do a rough running tally. Related to the above tip, if you want to stay within your budget, it’s best to know where you’re at. Then, when you can see you’re going to go above it, you can decide whether you really need that 10-lb. box of bon bons. I keep a running tally on my grocery list, just rounding off so I can do some quick math. An item costs $1.85? I say $2. Then I don’t need a calculator or all those complicated math skills.
Keep a list on your fridge, and write things down immediately. When you run out of something, don’t leave it to your memory. Jot it down immediately, and you’ll never have to run back to the store because you don’t have eggs.
Make a pantry checklist. Make a checklist of everything you normally stock in your pantry. Keep it posted on the pantry. Put a slash next to each item for the number of items you have (if you have two cans of stewed tomatoes, put two slashes). Then, when you use something, turn the slash into an x. This makes it much easier when it comes time to make your list.
Keep things stocked for quick-n-easy meals. Easy meals for us might be spaghetti or mac-n-cheese or a quick stir-fry. We’ve always got the ingredients on hand, so we can whip something up fast when we’re feeling lazy.
Buy in bulk when it makes sense. If you can save money, over the course of a month or two, by buying in bulk, plan to do so. But be sure that you’re going to use all of it before it gets bad — it isn’t cheaper to buy in bulk if you don’t use it.
Keep your receipts, then enter into a spreadsheet. This will be your price list. Use it so you know when bulk or sale items are a good deal. It’s also a great way to comparison shop between stores — buy your baking goods in Store A but your fresh fruits in Store B. The spreadsheet can also serve as a checklist to use when you’re compiling your shopping list.