Ten ways to simplify grocery shopping

Photo by Creative Exchange

Grocery shopping is something everyone has to do, and Britain’s retail giants have elevated it into an artform. Gone are the days of visiting the butcher, the baker and the fishmonger in turn – today, you can buy everything from gluten-free cereal to vegan chicken strips in any mid-size supermarket. The daily shop has given way to weekly outings, self-scanning has replaced cashiers, and bags for life have eliminated rolls of plastic carrier bags at every till.

Despite these welcome evolutions, picking up the messages remains an unavoidable chore for many people, usually conducted by car so it can be completed as quickly as possible. However, this process can be greatly improved with effective planning and clever kitchen management.

These are ten tips for simplifying something we all have to do, even if few of us actively enjoy it…

  1. Buy a hand-held label printer and print off today’s date whenever you open a packet or tin. At a glance, you’ll be able to tell if each opened item needs to be replaced.
  2. Invest in baskets and inner shelves for cupboards. Being able to see every item avoids duplicated purchases, or rooting through cupboards trying to check stock levels.
  3. Devise a weekly meal plan. It’s much easier to shop if you know what’s needed, and a meal plan helps to itemise this. Less waste, lower cost, fewer throw-together meals.
  4. Add items to a list as you think of them. This doesn’t have to involve pads and pens, as every phone has a note-taking app installed. You could even use a smart speaker.
  5. Print out a list and take it with you. Armed with a pencil (pens have a habit of leaking when carried in pockets), you’ll navigate the store more quickly and effectively.
  6. Group items into categories. Rather than randomly adding things to a list, group them. Having all the frozen items in one column ensures swift progress on the freezer aisle.
  7. Keep bags for life in the car boot. This ensures they won’t get left behind on groceries day. If you use public transport, nest a few bags into one, and leave them in the hall.
  8. Shop at quiet times. There may be less fresh fruit and veg in the final hour of trading, but there’ll be smaller queues, a quieter car park and more ‘Reduced to Clear’ bargains.
  9. Pre-book delivery slots. Placing an online order is quicker than going out, and you can book multiple one-hour delivery slots at once, simplifying matters in future weeks.
  10. Save favourite items in your online basket. This can rapidly populate a delivery slot with regularly-ordered staples (milk, bread, etc), for a quicker checkout process.

It’s always advisable to avoid top-up shops, as these tend to involve an element of unnecessary purchases. Come up with a list of essential items (like margarine and hand soap) and add them to a shopping list when stocks are low, rather than waiting until you’ve run out. Top-up shops inflate the overall amount spent on grocery shopping each month, and they also eat into your free time. It’s inadvisable to visit more than one store per week unless there are items you can only get in certain places – retailer-specific product lines, or niche items.

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