31 August 2013

How I write my shopping list

Do you shop with a list? If you don't you should. Without a list you don't have a hope of sticking to your grocery budget and getting all the groceries you need at the same time. No matter how good your memory is you will forget to pick up something, forget your best price or be in the middle of baking or cooking and realise you don't have a vital ingredient because you didn't have a list!

I found many years ago that I tended to buy the same grocery items over and over, there was very little change in what I bought. It was a real eye-opener for me, and it was the beginning of my perpetual shopping lists and the beginning of real money savings.

It was then that I wrote my master shopping list and each month after shopping day I run off a copy and stick it to the pantry door. As things are used up they are circled on the list. When I'm getting ready for shopping day I take the list, do a quick stocktake and add anything else I need to buy.  It is a perpetual shopping list.
You may find that you buy different grocery items in summer to those you purchase in winter.  I just made two master lists – one for summer, another for winter. I do so I have a summer list and a winter list.  My summer list has things like beetroot, pineapple and coleslaw dressing down for every shop. On the winter list they are down for every second shop. The winter list has soup mix and kidney beans on every list. The soup mix is only on every fourth summer list as we don’t eat much soup in summer.

I love my perpetual shopping lists. Everything I regularly buy is already on the list – I just need to tick the things we need and away I go! No more spending time standing in the kitchen wondering if I’ve forgotten to put anything on the list. And no more getting home, only to realise that I forgot to buy half the things I need for dinner next week.

My shopping list isn't like anyone else's. These days it's a printed A4 sheet. It used to be a spiral bound notebook. I prefer the notebook but it's too hard to stick to the pantry door! 

There are groceries I buy weekly, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly and yearly and the list is broken down into those categories. It sounds complicated but it's not - the sections are just listed in order down the page, with the groceries underneath.

Weekly: usually bought on a Thursday when I take Mum to do her shopping

Fortnightly: bought Monday morning straight after the school drop-off

Monthly: bought first Monday of the month, straight after school drop off

Quarterly: bought first Monday of the Month, straight after school drop off

Yearly: sometime in the week between Christmas and New Year when everyone is home to help - it's a big one!

Before each shopping day I check the list, do a very quick stocktake of the pantry, fridge and freezer to make sure nothing has been missed and off I head to Aldi and Coles (for the things Aldi doesn't stock) then to the greengrocer (if it's a fortnightly shop) and butcher (if it's time for a meat shop) and home.

A monthly shop takes about an hour and a half all up, depending on the queues. A quarterly shop takes about two hours all up. Once it's done and the groceries are put away, that's it. I don't go back to the supermarket or greengrocer or butcher until the next shopping day.

When I hit the supermarket, greengrocer or butcher I don't dawdle. I have my list and I get through it as quickly as I can. I'm in and I'm out. Shopping in sections like this saves me a lot of time, at least 3 hours a month. It doesn't take any longer to toss three or four of each item into the trolley than it does one. It does take about 5 minutes longer to get through the checkout. The biggest time saving is in the travelling and parking and checking out - it's done once a month and then that's it - no more supermarket for 4 weeks.

This is how I shop.

This is how I keep the grocery bill for my family of five to $80 a week, $345 a month or $4,160 a year.

It works for me. It may or may not work for you. Feel free to try it to see how it works. Be prepared though to have to make some radical changes to the way you do your grocery shopping. And be prepared for some fantastic savings off your grocery bill.


  1. Do you have a sample of your A4 shopping list? Do you have a sample of your summer vs winter list?

  2. I'm with anonymous. It sounds easy and I've even sort of attempted it a few times, but it always seems to overwhelm me....
    I can manage some pretty difficult things, but for this one, i just never seem to be able to summon the mental energy to get it all organised. I want to be spoon fed!!!! - did i just admit that in public? I feel so tired of thinking and plan and organising, but i'm also so tired of trying to make money stretch and not being successful!


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