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WFMW - Organizing My Grocery List

Wfmwsmall I am insane list-maker, and I like to be organized. Before I was married, I was one of those annoying neat freak types. A place for everything and everything in it's place. Then I married, well, a slob, and my standards lowered ever so slightly, as they have done with each additional child until the point where I am now, which is harriedly cleaning up the house in time for my cleaning lady to come in and rescue me from insanity every other week.

Anyway, maybe that's why I so steadfastly cling to my little "systems" for getting things done, one of which I'll share with you this week: the dreaded grocery list. (And you know you must have a list!)

First, start with the coupons. I don't understand why everyone doesn't use coupons. C'mon, it's like free money, people! I don't know anyone who wouldn't want free money. A dollar here, a dollar there - it adds up! I save an average of $30 every biweekly grocery trip.

So, collect them from the Sunday paper and any other source, cut out the ones you'll actually use, and save them in a box organized by category such as "cereal, dairy, hair care" and so on. (If you want my complete list of categories, comment and I'll get back to you.) Go through them at least once a month to get rid of expired ones and to be familiar with what you have. If you're feeling philanthropic, check here for a list of military bases where you can send expired coupons for overseas troops.

Next, keep a magnetic dry-erase board on your refrigerator, and continuously add to it as you run out of items or come across new recipes to try. Write on it as soon as you run out of something!

Make sure to keep the sales flyer for the store(s) you frequent, so you can match it up with your needs and the coupons you have. There are many things I won't buy unless it's both on sale and I have the coupon.  Add to your fridge list as needed, according to what's in the ad.

Get a small notebook with pockets in the front (Walmart sells Mead ones), and a pack of good, different-colored highlighters. Transfer your fridge grocery list to the next page in your notebook, and then go through all your coupons to see where you can save. If you're really good, you can list your items in your notebook by aisle and department, but I don't bother with that anymore.

This is what I do instead:

I use a dash (-) in front of each item on the grocery list. If I have a coupon for it, I use an asterisk (*) instead of a dash. If the item is on sale, I underline it. Sometimes I'll put a tiny note next to it so I can remember what brand/size/etc. is on sale if I know I'll get confused at the store. Then I highlight each kind of food a different color: non-food items get yellow, dairy and freezer items get blue (get it?), meat, seafood and deli items get pink, and produce items get green. I don't highlight regular grocery shelf items at all. 

Then, when I'm in, say, the produce department, I only have to scan the green items to make sure I have everything before I walk next door, to the deli - time for pink!  I cross out items as I go, and when I have chosen something for which I have a coupon, I move that coupon from the front pocket to the back pocket. Then I just give all the back pocket coupons to the cashier.

I know this sounds like a lot of work - and it kind of is - but believe me, it works! We almost never have to run back for items I've forgotten; short trips are usually for milk and things they were out of in the first place.

Oh - always keep your cell phone with you, so hubs can call if he suddenly remembers something not on the list (and make him use the fridge list, too! Keep a magnetized cup on the fridge for a dry-erase marker).

And don't shop off your list! Unless you have no budget or weight concerns whatsoever.

And always recycle the plastic bags that inevitably end up back your house even though you always, always (right?) use canvas tote bags!

Phew. I totally thought this was going to be a short post. Sorry!