How do you grocery shop? My latest & greatest way to grocery shop is online with curbside pick-up! But there are times when I choose to actually push a cart up and down the aisles of the store.

 Here are my top 5 tips for grocery shopping:

First, have a plan-. Making a meal plan for the week before you go to the store can save you money if you consider what you already have in the freezer, in the pantry, etc. and build meals around those items. Using your calendar, consider which nights you’d like to cook meals at home and when you will be eating out, at an event, or on the go. For me, it’s usually 3-5 times a week that I’m cooking a meal.

Loosely decided on your entrees and side dishes, and write those ingredients on your list after checking your pantry. An easy meal formula is protein + starch + vegetables.

Second, have a list. From your menu plan, make a list of the items you need to buy. You will spend less money and be more focused if you shop with a list. It’s also helpful to actually cross the items off the list as you go. Times when I’ve not crossed off, I inevitably forget to buy something on my list because I overlook it.

Third, shop at the same grocery store(s). Unless the store does a major re-set, this is helpful because you know exactly where items are located in the store, so getting in and getting out is quicker. When you have to hunt for items, you are more likely to fall prey to grocery store marketing tricks.

Fourth, be aware of what grocery stores do to entice you to spend more. Milk is always in the back of the store, along with eggs and meat, so you have to walk all the way through the store to get those items. Promotional deals on end caps encourage impulse buys and kid-friendly items are placed lower at kid level than more adult-oriented items. Free samples also draw shoppers and increase sales. I know I always buy the wine I sample unless it’s truly awful! To avoid getting sucked in, try shopping the perimeter of the store and avoiding all the “fun stuff” in the middle aisles.

My final tip is all about food safety. Think about what you put on the bottom of your cart, and what you pick up last. Try not to have fresh fruits and vegetables underneath cuts of meat in the cart. You don’t want to take the chance that the meat will drip onto something that’s going to be eaten raw. I like to pick up my meat second to last and position it on top of canned and bottled items. This also minimizes the amount of time the meat is in the temperature danger zone. Lastly,  I select fresh fruits and vegetables and place them on top of everything. And once summer hits, I suggest a cooler in the trunk to store your refrigerated items in for the ride home.

What about you? What tips do you have for making grocery shopping a little easier?