Systematize Your Grocery Shopping

posted by Andrea | 01/10/2011

It’s day #7 of my “11-in-2011” Challenge — time to talk groceries, shopping, sales, and coupons!

Over the last few months, I’ve been bombarded with questions asking about my “process for grocery shopping” — what I do each week to plan our meals, make my grocery lists, clip coupons, etc. etc.

So, I decided to bring you inside my kitchen and show you how I save a nice chunk of cash each week by shopping the sales, clipping coupons, and planing our weekly meals. It’s pretty straight-forward and I have a very SIMPLE process I follow every week…just keep reading!

Goal #7: Systematize your Grocery Shopping.

Currently, we spend about $25 per week on groceries but I’m a seasoned “couponer”, we’re not picky eaters, and I grow and preserve most of our jams, jellies, salsa, fruits, and vegetables — plus there’s only two of us! However, there’s always room to improve, so my “simple goal” for you  is to decrease your grocery bill by at least $5 per week, AND to systematize your entire grocery shopping routine by making a shopping list, organizing your coupons, planning your meals, etc.

And before you get all stressed out and overwhelmed, let me show you how I do it each week!

1. Get the Sunday Paper Ads:

When it comes to my grocery shopping routine, my very first step is ALWAYS to look through the Sunday paper. However, unless I’m looking for something specific — like a new computer, clothing, or office supplies,  I only take out the ads for the stores I shop at (Meijer, Walgreens, and Rite Aid}. The rest go in the recycle bin, which prevents impulse purchases and saves me time and money each week.

2. Clip Coupons:

We usually get 2 -4 coupon inserts in every Sunday paper, so it doesn’t take me long to quickly look through and clip coupons for the products I might purchase over the next few weeks. I try not to clip coupons for products I don’t normally buy, however if there are any high-value coupons, I’ll clip them knowing that I’ll eventually be able to pair that coupon with a sale and get the product for free. I also clip most coupons for free products… just because we like to try new things every now and then!

Don’t get the Sunday paper? Here are a few other places you can find great coupons.

3. File and Organize Coupons:

Once I clip my coupons, I file and organize them in my coupon organizer. I also use this time to quickly throw out any coupons that have expired and remind myself of the coupons I have filed away.

4. Pair Coupons with Store Deals:

After my coupons are cut, organized, and filed; I go through the store ads looking for items we use, that are on sale, AND that I have coupons for. Even if I don’t necessarily need something that week, I might still buy it if I can get it at a great price with the sale and coupon. We save lots of money by keeping our freezer full and our pantry stocked; however I don’t over-do-it or “hoard” groceries!

5. Write out my Shopping List:

I write out a grocery list for each store using these free printable lists. Normally, I just go to Meijer {where I get the bulk of our groceries} but if I have time, I’ll make a quick stop at Rite Aid or Walgreens to get free {or almost free} toiletries.

6. Paper-Clip my Coupons to Each Store’s List

I like to streamline my grocery shopping, and I don’t ever want to be “that lady” who holds up the line at the grocery store by not having her coupons ready to go. So, by paper-clipping my coupons to each store’s list, I know I’ll always be ready to go when I get to the check out.

7. Plan our Weekly Meals:

I know many of you might plan meals BEFORE you make your grocery list, but I plan our meals AFTER, because I plan them around what’s on sale and what I have coupons for. I have a variety of FREE meal-planning printables you can use to simplify the process!

8. Add any Additional Items to My Lists:

Once I plan our meals, there might be additional items I need to add to our grocery list. There are also times when we run out of something and don’t have any extra in our freeze or pantry. These items get added to the list at this time.

9. Look for coupons online:

I don’t do this every week…but if I have time, I’ll do a quick online search for any other coupons available for products ALREADY on my list. Here’s a great list of my favorite coupons blogs…if there’s a coupon on the web, you’ll find it at one of these sites.

10. Shop:

Believe it or not, the first nine steps only take me about 2 hours on Sunday afternoon {which is well worth it considering I usually save about $40-$70 per week}.  Then, the only thing left to do is head to the store. I usually try to get all my shopping done some time on Monday so the stores aren’t out of everything I need. If you can’t go on Mondays, Thursdays is another good day because they’ve “restocked” after the middle of the week.
That’s it! That’s my weekly grocery shopping system!

I definitely don’t think coupons are for everyone, but even if you don’t use coupons, you can still save time and money by meal planning around the sales, shopping with a list, and resisting impulse purchases!

And if you’re looking for even MORE motivation to help you lower your grocery bill, my friend Jolon over at Savvy Chic Savings is blogging about her $25 per Week Grocery Budget Challenge. Obviously, those of you with families might not be able to stick to $25 per week, but if you’re looking to reduce your spending in 2011, I know she’ll have lots of great tips and resources for you!

What is your “grocery shopping system”?


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Leave a comment


  1. Fadiyah


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  2. Pyper


    How cow! If only I didn’t have 3 teenage boys who eat me out of house and home! I remember when we first got married and my grocery budget was that low.

    What about some suggestions on inexpensive snacks? Although considering one of my boys can eat a whole frozen pizza by himself (and still stay super skinny!), I’m not sure that any snack would be considered “Inexpensive”.

    Thanks for some great suggestions!


  3. L.


    can write a post about meal planning 101 and stocking a pantry 101 (and not spending hundred’s of dollars to stock it). also how a good way to save on your grocery bill if u have a fixed income for groceries (like, food stamps).


  4. L.


    Oh good, Thank You!


  5. L.


    I am new to having my own pantry. How do I know what to keep /stock in my pantry so I can make the meals that I like/want? Is there a basic list of ingrediants to keep on hand?


    Andrea Reply:

    I’m actually doing a post about this exact topic next week 🙂


  6. Dan


    What a great article! I really appreciated the links to the very professional looking printables. I have a suggestion for a new printable that would compliment your grocery list and your meal planner: Some type of form that would let you shop ‘inside your cupboards’ (an inventory sheet for ingredients you already had in your house). Maybe you already had one, but I missed it. In any case, keep up the great work!


  7. Betsy (Eco-novice)


    Wow, this system actually looks doable. Except that I mostly shop at TJs. I also hate looking through store ads and clipping coupons, but this is the first time I’ve seen couponing laid out in a way that I can actually imagine doing.


    Andrea Reply:

    Betsy, I thought of you when I was typing up this post!

    I tried to make it as simple as I could…b/c once you get used to it, the whole process is not a big deal. You should really give it shot!!


  8. oh amanda


    *sigh* I’m a coupon-drop out. I love the idea. I have the file-folder. But…I just can’t seem to connect my meals with my coupons with the sales. It overwhelms me!


    Andrea Reply:

    If it overwhelms, you {and you’ve already given it a good effort} then it’s probably NOT worth it! I love coupons and I love saving money…but there are so many other ways to save than with coupons!


  9. Kathy @ House of Hills


    GREAT step by step approach. It’s basically what I do, but I’m not consistent. THAT is my problem.

    I do tend to meal plan out of the freezer and pantry and then stock back up when meat is on sale. Kroger has a great price on chicken right now, but I’m iced in and can’t get there to get it! LOL!

    Thanks for sharing your method with us!


  10. Jill


    Couponing can be a lot of fun as long as you are organized. I keep a stockpile of things in our basement. When I run out of something I usually can get it out of our stockpile. When we are running low on something in our stockpile then I can usually find another great sale with more coupons and stock up again. The idea is to stock up just enough to get you through to the next sale. We have saved so much money.


  11. Sarah


    Thank you so much! You explained everything perfect…we do much of the same and even shop at the same stores. (I only recently started using coupons and I have saved so much more than I thought was possible!)


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  13. Jolon @ Savvy Chic Savings


    Looks like a fool-proof system. That’s exactly what I do, too. I like your menu plans better than the ones I posted earlier because I really wanted a horizontal version (type-A personality, anyone? lol) I’ll have to refer to those next time. Thanks for the mention, Andrea!!


  14. Linda


    When you figured the amount you spend per week on groceries have you included what you spent last summer on the produce for canning and freezing?


    Andrea Reply:

    We grow most of our own produce {or trade with friends/family/neighbors) so it doesn’t really cost us anything.

    For the items we do purchase, I wait until the end of the growing season to get the best price, and then I include that price in our yearly grocery amount {which then averages out to around $25 per week}


  15. Sue


    I sort of do what you do.. but I do stock up.. I have a pantry of stuff.. I always have things like instant potatos and pasta on hand.. I will stock up on pasta when it is like .88 a box.. I take it out of the cardboard boxes of course.. and put it in air tight containers.. I don’t understand the people who stock pile like on that show on TLC a couple of weeks ago.. I mean who needs 1500 tubes of anti perspersint.. ??

    sue in NJ


  16. Wendy (The Local Cook)


    Fascinating. I really should start couponing, at least for toiletries.