Don’t Run Out

by Kelly · 6 comments

in Concepts in Frugality


One of my biggest budget busters is those last minute runs to the store. Today I made a lunchtime run to the big box ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ grocery store near my office for a certain number of essentials: diapers, cat litter, cat food, light bulbs and toilet paper. You can imagine how uncomfortable life would have been at our house otherwise…

I try really hard to stick to a regular shopping schedule, but despite my many attempts at finding the perfect combination of shopping times, preferred stores and preplanned vs impulse buys, I’m still far from having it all down pat. Things have changed too much over the past year or two (new house, new job, children’s schedules) for me to be able to find the perfect, workable solution and stick to it.

What do I do that works?

Well first of all, I try to make sure that I have dedicated areas for different supplies so that I can tell more or less at a glance when I need to buy more of something. This is one of those times that being organized really pays off, frugality wise. Three bottles of milk in the cupboard? Check. An extra roll of garbage bags in the drawer? All set. One of the failures of this system, however, is due to that all too common factor called the existence of a husband human error. Case in point: my husband changed the litter box the other day (good man!) and thoughtfully left some litter still in the bag, for the next time. The thing is, however, he only left a spoonful or two… yet I had seen the bag in its place and assumed we still had enough so that I didn’t need to buy more. He ended up making an emergency run to the grocery store that evening!

Another thing I do that seems to work well for me is to combine a variety of stores according to the coupons they accept, their ‘discount’ days and the kind of prices they have in general. I order heavy things and refrigerated items from the store that delivers. This way I can do my shopping at 11pm in my pajamas and have it delivered Saturday morning (again while I’m in my pajamas. Scary thought: if I could go to my neighborhood store in my pajamas, would I?). I buy things that the on-line store doesn’t carry from either the big box store near my office or my house, but only when I can use a coupon or my discount store. And then a lot of stuff I buy at the neighborhood discount store, which has surprisingly good deals on fresh fruit and veggies as well as dairy products.

The biggest thing that helps in not running out (both of and for food) is a certain, let’s call it, flexibility in how I cook. I often start out a recipe with just one ingredient, and add to it as I go along. This way, if I use mostly sour cream instead of mayonnaise, or maybe bulgar instead of rice, it doesn’t really matter. Of course it also means that I can’t really reproduce the same meal twice, but hey, eating’s supposed to be an adventure! Isn’t it?

How do you manage to not run out, both of and for groceries?


1 Aspiring Millionaire December 9, 2009

Great article!

For me, I am trying to create a better system to manage my "inventories" of things. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of how much of a certain item I have in stock. When my weekly shopping trip comes up, I look at my inventory, create a list of what I need, then find coupons. I've found this to be quite effective.

2 Mrs. Money December 9, 2009

I can totally sympathize… this is my biggest budget buster too!
.-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..Can Doing What You Love Become a Chore? =-.

3 Nancy December 10, 2009

Somehow I've managed to work out a system where it's pretty rare that I run out of anything between shopping trips. It took a lot of months of trial & error. I do my grocery shopping every 2 weeks and I go with a comprehensive shopping list (based on a 2 week menu I plan before hand). And, if I have to have something, I send my 16 year old to the store with a list and cash to cover only what's on the list; that's a great way to eliminate impulse buying.
.-= Nancy´s last blog ..snow day =-.

4 Wojciech Kulicki December 11, 2009

We had a similar problem, but are slowly getting it under control. Like you, “capturing” the fact that something was running out was the big issue, not actually seeing that it’s running out.

As a solution, we turned to Remember the Milk as a way of inputting what was needed as soon as we saw the need. I tag every item with the store I need to get it at, and when I happen to be there or nearby–pull up the list for that store on my cell phone. Then I know exactly what I need to get there (and I can prioritize as well if I need to, but at least the whole list is there). It’s been working great so far.
.-= Wojciech Kulicki´s last blog ..Pregnancy Expenses in the Third Trimester =-.

5 Becky December 11, 2009

This is definitely our downfall. I think there just needs to be better planning on the official shopping trips. The stress comes from coming so close to the budget limit early in the month. While we may have gotten good deals, I know in the back of my mind that there is no way the cheese, milk, and bread is going to last the month. I have to focus more on leaving money for those things and not stocking up when not necessary, even if they are good deals.
.-= Becky´s last blog ..Human Rights Day =-.

6 rosa rugosa December 20, 2009

I hadn't really thought about it in these terms before, but I have two techniques. I keep a running grocery list, and I add items as I notice they are getting low. I also keep two of many items in stock, usually things that are primarily used by my husband (who will never write something down or the list) or things we tend not to readily notice are near ing depletion. Some examples for us are plastic wrap, foil, mayo, & cooking oil. When my husband (who does all the cooking & food preparation) tells me we are out of mayo, I get the second jar from the basement and add mayo to the grocery list. So basically, I try to always keep a spare in reserve.

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