Saving by using a grocery list

Use written goals to save money.

I recently wrote an article encouraging readers to make a meal plan to save money and promote a strong family. In the article, I explained that the steps to making a meal plan were similar to any spending plan (track spending, discuss needs and wants, make a plan that the family and your income could support) and that an effective meal plan was a SMART goal. If you plan your meals and are trying to dine in more often, the next step to success is to create a SMART grocery list.

Before you make your list, do a quick ingredient inventory. If you would like to do a little research in regard to your food and nutrition, check out the many food and health articles penned by Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition educators. You may also want to review the local grocery store flyers to see what’s on sale this week and determine where to do your shopping. Keep in mind travel costs and any other errands that you will need to run. Combining trips can cut down on your travel costs. Now you are ready to make your list.

  • Envision the specific store(s) that you will visit. Where are the fruits and vegetables? Where are the meat and dairy sections? Are you going to go to a store that has general merchandise or a pharmacy in order to combine trips? Decide your plan of attack – what section will you go to first?
  • Now that you have thought about what section to visit first, jot down your items in order of the sections that you will visit (making sure to visit refrigerated and frozen sections closer to the end to avoid food safety issues).
  • Use what you have learned from the flyers or past experience to estimate the cost of your items (make sure to multiply the numbers based on how many you need of each item and pay attention to deals – do you need to buy more than one of an item to save?).
  • After you have completed listing your items, review the list and do some quick math to see how much money your shopping trip will cost. You may want to go to the bank and cash a check or withdraw only what you expect to need, or maybe just giving yourself a little extra in case you have underestimated.

You are now ready to work your plan. With this much thought and planning, you just may be able to pass by the appealing displays that have been set up to lure you into buying certain products. You may also save time and be able to get back to your family.

Making financial changes in order to save money can take time and be challenging. Sometimes it helps to have help from a MSU Extension professional. To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Additional articles in this series:

Saving by planning your meals

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