Why You Should Try ‘Goal-Oriented’ Grocery Shopping

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Can the way you write a grocery list really save you money? It sure can – if you add a bunch of items you can't buy at the store.

Recently, I was asked for advice on grocery shopping by a woman who really wants to cut down on food costs. She’s sincere about it, but once she’s in the supermarket – faced with all those goodies – her willpower dissolves like a Popsicle on a summer sidewalk.

I told her a few old chestnuts, such as not shopping while hungry, creating menus based on the best deals of the week, and making a list of only the ingredients you need to cook those meals. Then I suggested a different way to write the list: Begin with a goal.

Holding ourselves accountable

Before you write “milk,” “bread,” or “ground beef,” write down something else that you really want…

  • Debt-free in 2011
  • Pay cash for our next car
  • Down payment for a home

Halfway down the list, repeat the goal. When you’ve reached the end of the list, write the goal one more time.

I suggested it be written in capital letters with a black Sharpie so that it can’t be ignored or easily crossed out.

Do this with every shopping list every week. Seeing the goal spelled out should help hold you accountable as to where your money goes.

While I think you should allow for a payday treat, it’s easy to get carried away – especially when you smell the chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the in-store bakery oven. Having your goal right in front of you may help you put things in perspective: Overspending on nonessentials is not getting me any closer to my dream.

Our choices have consequences

Some weeks this might not help. Some weeks we really do want the Doritos, or to buy a rotisserie chicken and a sack o’ salad because we’re too tired to cook.

But we have to remember that choices have consequences. The more work that’s done for us, the less value we get. Money spent on Double-Stuf Oreos is money that can’t snowflake a debt. Frozen mac ’n’ cheese is much costlier than making our own. Those prefab bottles of “all natural” iced tea work out to as much as $13 a gallon.

Yes, some days we’re just going to say “the hell with it” and buy the cut-up pineapple or the pre-marinated meat. But if we do that consistently, we forfeit the right to complain about how much longer our months are than our money.

We can’t pretend that our choices have nothing to do with the bottom line. We can’t eat our cake and have it too. Or, for that matter, our Double-Stuf Oreos.

More stories from Donna Freedman:

Stacy Johnson

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