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You probably think that if you make it to the grocery store, buy groceries and return home with your purchases, you are a successful shopper. But here’s the thing: you could probably be doing it better. Not to sound like an infomercial but, do you want to save money, time and make healthier choices? Of course you do! So read on to find out the mistakes you’re probably making so your next trip to the supermarket is even more successful.

Make a list

Mistake: Not making a list at all

When the cupboards are bare and the fridge is empty, it’s tempting to just head out to the store to buy everything you see, but that would be a big mistake. You’ll end up with food you don’t need and won’t eat and will probably forget a whole lot of basics that will require another trip tomorrow.

Before shopping, look at the foods you have and make a list of what you need and want. Wonder why you have so much spoiled produce every week? Think of all the money you will save if you just planned a little in advance. Waste not, want not.

Mistake: Not checking flyers, promotional emails and loyalty apps for deals.

Does your grocery store offer a loyalty program? If so, you probably receive emails with personalized deals and opportunities to rack up points each week. Print the coupons or load them in an app on your phone before shopping (Checkout 51 services all of Canada!) and add those items to your list. Also, be sure to check out flyers for stores in your area. We’re not suggesting you become an extreme couponer, but there’s never anything wrong with saving a few bucks.

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Mistake: Not meal planning

Whether you download a meal planning app (Pepperplate is streamlined and easy to use) or just use a chalkboard in your kitchen, deciding what you’re going to have for dinner each night can save you a lot of money and cut way back on waste. Plan meals that use the same ingredients or those that can make use of the night before’s leftovers. For instance, if you have pasta one night, make extra meat sauce and turn it into chilli the next night. Meal planning makes putting together a grocery list super simple since you just add the ingredients you know you need.

Mistake: Not organizing your list

While no one expects you to remember every aisle of the store, it only makes sense to organize your list by section. Group produce, meat, dairy and grains in their own sections so that you don’t have to double back when you get to “apples” at the bottom of your list. It’s simple solutions such as this one that make mapping your grocery store that much easier.

Create a roadmap

Mistake: Following the aisles of the store

You probably usually just enter the store and shop each aisle in order. This is a mistake. While your first destination—fresh produce—is the best place to start, your next stop shouldn’t be the first aisle you come to. It’s best to shop the perimeter of the store first. This usually means shopping the freshest foods first. So, buy your fruits, vegetables, fresh bread, meat, fish and dairy first then go back for packaged foods. It’s the unhealthy stuff—chips, juice and junk food—that live in those centre aisles.

Mistake: Not comparing prices

You may usually buy the exact same products every time you shop, but you could be spending more money than you need to. Whether you consider buying no name products or just pay attention to the pricing on different brands of similar products, if you keep an open mind, you’re likely to save some cash. Also, and this goes back to keeping aware of sales, plan your meals around what’s cheap in produce that week. There’s always something fresh that’s been discounted!

Fill the Cart

Mistake: Throwing food at random into your cart

Get through the check-out and out of the store faster by paying attention to where you place your groceries in the cart. Whether the cashier bags your groceries for you or you do it yourself, organizing your food from the get-go will make everyone’s life easier.

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Just like your organized list, place items from the same section of the store together. Keep produce, meat, dairy and grains together in their own groups. And if you’ve shopped the perimeter of the store first, this will help. As you’ll find out next, it’s best to keep items that need refrigerating next to frozen items so the cold stuff stays cold.

Check Out

Mistake: Overloading the conveyer just to get through the line quicker

It really doesn’t matter if you’ve managed to get everything from your cart onto the conveyor in less than 30 seconds. It will take just as long to scan and bag, so while it may be a personal victory, it’s not worth it. Plus, a jumbled mess of food will take even longer to sort out when you’re bagging.

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Mistake: Not placing food on the conveyor in order

Just as your list and cart should be organized, so should your lineup of groceries. Make the cashier’s job easier by placing food groups together. This is the way the food will be bagged, so your purchases can easily be scanned, placed in a bag then directly back into your cart instead of multiple piles of food taking up space at the end of the conveyor waiting for an appropriate bag.

Mistake: Throwing food in bags in a haphazard way

Of course, most of us know that the eggs and more delicate items shouldn’t be placed in a bag with say, a can of beans but you can make your unloading process easier if you bag your food correctly. There are many stores that have customers bag their own groceries. If you shop at one of these stores, pay attention.

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Keep fruit and veggies together since they probably go in the same place in your kitchen. Place frozen food in bags with food and beverages that need refrigerating so your milk stays cold on the way home. Put meat together in one bag so it doesn’t contaminate other food. (Pro tip: ask the cashier to wrap the meat in an additional plastic bag, so there’s no chance of meat juice getting all over everything.) Keep cans and sturdier items together—although you don’t want one big heavy bag of cans, so just make sure it’s a weight you can carry, and that it’s a weight a bag can handle. Place four cans on the bottom of one bag with lighter items on top.

We know, it’s just grocery shopping but once you start meal planning, organizing your grocery lists and shopping the right way, you’ll be pleased at how much easier and faster each trip is. Plus you’ll be making healthier, informed choices. So while it may seem a bit anal, it’s actually totally worth it.

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