Can You Stick To Your Grocery List?

This week I did my grocery shopping with the Little Miss. I made up the supper meal plan for October and saw that I could make do for the next week with what we already had. Our cat supplies and diaper levels looked good too. So I just needed to pick up the usual suspects for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Because the list looked pretty light, I added some treats to spoil us a little. You know, simple pleasures and all that.

I’d now like to share with you a little prophetic comment I made over at Frugal Voices on their post called Frugal Slips:

“Our grocery list has what we’re out of and what we’ll need for the next week or two’s meals (monthly meal plan). Usually, there will still be some room in the budget to stock up on a great deal or to pick up a treat.

If I don’t go in with the meal plan, I’ve been known to have some frgual (sic) slips (wipeouts?) and to stock up on too much stuff and blow the budget. If I can add everything to the meal plan it’s not so bad because I can delay the next shopping trip and avoid bringing home more impulse buys. When I get upset is when the food goes to waste.”

As we walked through the store I couldn’t help but smirk as a I tossed the sale items into my cart. When I got home I ran the numbers. 42% of what I spent today wasn’t only my list. The store’s sales manipulated me into buying almost twice what I went in there to buy! Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Everyone knows that stores are setup to get you to leave as much of your money inside as possible. That’s why I’ve worked some safety measures into my shopping routines to minimize the damage.

  • I only shop once every week or two to limit the opportunities the store has for convincing me to over spend.
  • I create a monthly meal plan so help decide if a sale item I want to stock up will actually be used.
  • I don’t push my cart down aisles unless they have something on my list.
  • I bring a list to force myself to acknowledge that anything when I buy something that wasn’t planned.

They still got me. They’re good.

I followed all of my rules. I shopped from my list and used the rest of the budget to stock the pantry at deep discounts off regular price. The problem wasn’t that the mean grocery stores conned me out of my money. It was that I had enough room in the budget, so I let them!

Even though I followed my plan and stuck to my budget, I still consider this a frugal slip. The bulk of our “special buys” were junk food and I’m incapable of rationing junk food. So I didn’t actually stock up to save myself from buying full price junk on future shopping trips. I just created a junk food buffet for this week!

We could have got better value for our money. We could have waited for another sale to stock up on healthy staples that would last months into the future. Instead, we have a belly full of cookies. I admit, it’s probably not the worst problem to have. But, when we’re not spending our money they way we’d ultimately like to: it’s time to improve the budget.

  • Maybe we should separate the food from the other consumables in our grocery budget. Then, it wouldn’t look like we have a huge surplus to fill on the weeks we don’t need kitty litter or diapers.
  • Maybe we should increase our budget. If we stretched our budget a little and cut the extras, we could afford those premium local organic cuts of meat and exotic fresh produce.
  • Maybe we should slash the budget and see if we could live without any extras.
  • Maybe I just have to stick to shopping alone after a satisfying supper and work on my self control.

The one thing I am sure about, is that we have an opportunity here to improve a weakness in our budget to get better value for our family.


It’s important to recognize stores have figured out some pretty clever schemes to convince you to buy. Once you can spot their tricks, you have a fighting chance. We all slip up once in a while. But, it’s alright as long as we learn from it. Being frugal is about always looking to find the best value for your dollar. If you ever think your budget is letting you make stupid purchases: it’s time to improve your budget!

What About You?

Is there an area where you always find yourself over spending?

What “safety measures” have you put in place to avoid unwanted purchases?

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Written by mom

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