President Gordon B Hinckley got a laugh in 2003 when he was listing womens’ roles and included “shoppers,” in his list. I appreciated that he followed with, “Until I got older I never dreamed of what a demanding responsibility it is to keep food in the pantry, to keep clothing neat and presentable, to buy all that is needed to keep a home running.” Shopping wisely and well can be very difficult! Here are some techniques that may be helpful in learning to do it better.
Plan menus. This might seem like a funny place to start, but this makes a huge difference in grocery shopping. If your menu for the week/month/quarter is planned, your grocery list is made! It’s much more fun to plan meals on your living room floor surrounded by cookbooks than in Safeway surrounded by your tired kids.
Make lists. If you shop with a list you will be more likely get what you need and avoid what you don’t. You will end up with less food wasted and will cut down the amount of time you spend in the store. Once you know your store layout, you can even make your list in the order you will find the items.
Estimate your costs. I faithfully estimated every shopping trip back when I was a student and living on air. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I caught mistakes, both mine and theirs, this way!
Shop with cash. My mom’s first stop every shopping day was at the bank for cash. Without plastic, the only way she could go over budget was to make a second trip to the bank.
Plan when to shop. Limit your shopping as much as possible. Typically, the more often you shop, the more you will spend. Frequency will depend on family size, mobility issues and your family’s home food production abilities, but once a week is generally sufficient. I like to go on Wednesday morning to avoid crowds and to get the best shot at the “while supplies last” sales.
Don’t rush. Unless it’s an urgent need, take your time. This is the shopping version of “measure twice, cut once.”
Distinguish between wants and needs. “There, there little luxury, don’t you cry, you’ll be a necessity by and by.” It’s a good idea to do regular evaluations to prevent this slippage. Make a list of your family’s gray area items and ask yourself, “what if we couldn’t buy this?” There will be some items you really do need (serious impacts on productivity, health and comfort) and many others that you don’t. Eliminate them or confine their purchase to birthdays or Christmas. Luxuries are more luxurious when they are rare!
Do your research. With smaller purchases, you can rely on trial and error, but for big ticket items check out reviews at Consumer Reports, amazon.com, epinions.com, etc. Often you can search your item name plus “reviews” or “best” and end up with more info than you could imagine.
Compare prices. Once you have determined what product you want to buy, start checking out prices. You can call around, get online or pay attention when you are out making other purchases. Record your findings.
Buy used. Check Craigslist or other classified ads, garage sales, thrift stores or ask around. You can save a lot this way.
Buy online. Online stores typically have less overhead than brick-and-mortar shops and oftentimes have lower prices and a better selection. Shipping costs will make or break the deal, so look for vendors that offer shipping discounts. Also, do your research! Search the store name plus “problems”, “complaints” or “reviews” and see what comes up.
Plan when to shop. Summer clothes go on clearance after July 4th and Winter clothes after Christmas. Back-to-School sales are the time to purchase office and some craft supplies. Appliances, computers and cars go on sale just before the new models come out. Determine when you are likely to find the best sales on items you need and plan annual or semi-annual shopping trips.
“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” D&C 64:33