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Write a Better Grocery List

woman scanning a barcode at grocery store with her phone

Do you need extra wiggle in your budget? Creating and using a grocery list can help! The less time you spend in a store, the less you’re likely to spend. A grocery list can help you get in and out of the store with the food items you need.

First, what do you want to cook this week? Plan out a few meals around your weekly schedule.

Next, what is in your cupboards, refrigerator, or freezer? Add to or change your meal plan with these food items. Using what you already have on hand will decrease food waste and save you money too.

Also, when creating your list, ask yourself:

  • What food staples do you and others in your household like to eat regularly?
  • What’s on sale at your grocery store?
  • What can you substitute in recipes for less expensive items? For example, if beef prices are up, can you use pork or beans in your recipe?

Once you’re at the grocery store, stay mindful of your shopping. Reflect on the food items you’ve added to your cart that you didn’t have on your list. These questions might help you stay mindful of your goal to reduce costs:

  • Are you in the habit of buying an expensive brand when a store brand might work well?
  • Do the extra items meet your health and financial goals? Or, would you prefer to use those calories and/or dollars in a different way?
  • Is this food purchase about an emotion such as stress or anger? Recognizing this can help you decide on the purchase.

It’s okay to purchase food items because we like them! Being mindful of why you’re making the purchases you make can help you make an informed choice.

Being aware and mindful of purchases is a key step to making changes in your spending. Keep in mind that small amounts do add up. For example, eating out five days a week at $8 per meal adds up to $2,080 a year. Is there something you’d like to do with $2,000? Or $1000? You can make the changes to make this happen!

Would you like more tips on saving money on food costs? Listen to the podcast, Hey, What’s for Dinner?, or watch the recorded webinar Save Money on Food.

Kathy Sweedler, Personal Finance Special Projects at Illinois Extension
February 14, 2023
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