We live out in the country a good 30 minutes from the nearest store. Over the years I have perfected a system where I basically take one day a week and throw it into the garbage of “errands.” I literally put in an 6-8 hr workday visiting all of the stores on my list and gathering everything we need. Back in the pre-pandemic days my five year old and I would sometimes go out to eat and always pop into Goodwill.
These days my shopping is different. Besides the mask that I wear, sometimes the shelves are barren. Items that I’ve always counted on aren’t there. But, you know this. You also have to purchase goods to survive the week.
Now I don’t bring my daughter with me, even though all four of my children are now at home all the time. My husband “watches” them while he works and all is well-enough.
Even though many things have changed, some things have stayed the same. I’ve added stores to my shopping days. Places I never thought I would shop, Walmart Neighborhood Market I’m looking at you, have become a regular part of my routine when they have items that my beloved regulars just don’t.
Enter the notebook
I’ve always kept a list, but probably six months ago I found this little notebook at Target in the clearance section. Pink is not my thing, rainbows are really my thing, but the hard cover is definitely my thing. This cute little notebook has been my constant companion for months and months (except the time I left it in the Food Lion parking lot and the HEROES at the grocery store saved it for “me” at the customer service desk for a week! – that was a happy day!)
Usually I rip out my old list as soon as I get home, but since the pandemic started I’ve been keeping my old lists to help me remember what items have been in stock in which stores. This is a practice that has been surprisingly helpful.
The way I do it
I make my lists by sectioning the pages into stores. I try my best to section the store lists by aisle, but some of these stores are new to me and I don’t know where everything is – just what you want in a pandemic to be roaming those social-distancing aisles. These past two weeks it has been easy to make my lists and get everything I need, because I’m meal-planning from the Budget Bytes recipes that I’ve already printed off. But in the past I have just tried to guess at what might make good meals or I would look for meat on sale (by this I mean clearance in the store, what my FIL calls “used”) and work from there. After I’ve roughly guessed at what we will have this coming week and written it all down, I look back at my old lists and add in things that we eat every week that aren’t part of the lists. (cashews, chips, evoo, dog food, etc)
When I shop I have four different colored pens in the car. I am not sure how they ended up there, but it’s been very handy. I use a different colored pen in each store and when something is out of stock, let’s say from the list above, pretzels, I would circle it on the Aldi list and rewrite it on the Walmart list. That way I know that it might not be at Aldi next time. Obviously if Walmart didn’t have pretzels, I would add it to the Kroger list using the same circle-rewrite method.
Aside: Sometimes this has resulted in happy discoveries. Usually I buy freeze-dried strawberries at Aldi, but for some reason they were out of stock for weeks. I tried the ones at Target, the pink Good and Gather type, and now I will never go back.
One final thing. I always have coolers with ice and my reuseable bags in the car. I know a lot of stores won’t bag your stuff into reuseable bags, but having lived in Minnesota I don’t want them to bag my groceries anyway. I try to do self-checkout where I can to limit mine and the cashier’s exposure and at Sam’s Club we do the scan and go which is an app on my phone.
*in an odyssey