The “Aisle-File” Shopping List
How many hours did I waste killing time, literally beating it to death, by wandering the aisles of my supermarket(s) hunting my supermarket prey (groceries for those not familiar with my analogies)? The answer to that is an embarrassing TOO MANY!!! As a young married college student and later as a young teacher, I never gave much thought to supermarket time management.
Like a lot of consumers I would attend school and/or work all week and reserve precious Saturdays for supermarket shopping. Like a modern pioneer I would set out with my shopping list and errands, leaving the house in the morning and returning with my brown paper bags of booty hours later feeling satisfied and with a sense of accomplishment as I checked off the items I had replenished and the minor errands I had completed.
I really didn’t give too much thought to the time I was wasting until I had children. Once my baby Jordan was born and I was teaching junior high school full time and college part time, it didn’t take too long before I began to visualize my time AND money slipping through my fingers like so much fine sand.
One Saturday in the produce aisle for the third time in 15 minutes I had an epiphany! (How dense was I you may ask?) I asked myself, why are you not getting all the produce at one time and then going on to the next aisle? The answer is of course obvious, however, I was following my list.
The normal course of action for me was to place a long pad of paper with a magnet on the back on my fridge. As I ran out of something or as I remembered that I needed something I would do the natural thing and write the item down on the list. Saturday shopping day would come, I would grab the list from the fridge, grab my coupons and head out. I ALWAYS thought about saving money, but I didn’t focus too much on saving time, because as a multi-tasker I felt I was getting so much done that I thought I was productive. What was missing was “me” time.
My produce-aisle epiphany was the last time I wasted time in the grocery store. Sunday morning when I was perusing the weekly coupon supplements I vowed to create a better system–and I did!
Whether you shop in a Dominick’s, Whole Foods, Albertson’s, Jewel Foods, Ralph’s, Meir, Winn-Dixie, Safeway, Market District or even Trader Joe’s, most stores are organized in a similar fashion.
I had been filing my cents-off coupons by a system that I coined called the “aisle-file” system long before I realized that my actual on-site shopping was sucking my life dry. If you have ever heard the term “Stop and Hurry UP” that is what I learned; I used to just “hurry up” to get everything done–I was great on the production side of my life but always short of time. I vowed to “stop” and get organized before I started the “hurry-up” errands.
I continued to make a list as I ran out of items and I do to this day. However, instead of grabbing the list and my coupons, I take ten or 15 minutes to re-write my list. I took a cue from my “aisle-file” coupon set up and transferred my list to a larger piece of paper. On that paper I wrote the same categories that reflected the way I sorted my coupons:
- Canned goods (then a little detail–Veggies, Fruit, etc.)
- Pharmaceutical (over-the-counter allergy meds, vitamins, etc.)
- Personal (shampoo, deodorant, etc.)
- Frozen Foods
Under each category I leave room to list the items I need in each aisle. Because each family is unique, categories will vary. After a few months of making my list in this fashion, I saved more time by creating a master list on the computer. I listed the categories and left room under each one for the items I would be looking for in that category. Then I printed 25 sheets so I would have them handy when I went to make my list. This saved me a lot of prep time.
The next evolution of my list was to check the items for which I had a coupon and later I added the coupon’s value so I could comparison shop in the aisles, determining if a name brand with a coupon was cheaper than a store brand or generic without a coupon.
The final evolution was taping the list to a 4″x 6″ envelope into which I put my coupons and a pen so that I had everything together. Just taking 15 minutes to reorganize my list before leaving for the store saved me between 60 and 90 minutes a week– That is an average of 65 hours in a year! I got back almost one and a half work weeks of “life time!”
If you have any time saving tricks that you can share, please, BRING IT!
We are all in this together. I would love to hear how you are saving money and time in these crazy economic times. If you have a shopping tip or have a creative way to save money or reach a financial goal, use my contact form to contact me or leave a comment!