Making the Most of Your
Chapter 11 "Creating a Customized List"
Most people make a new list each time they run to the store, or they may use a standard printed list that comes in an organizer which makes a bit more sense. With just a little bit of invested time, you can create a master grocery list eliminating the need to brainstorm each week. Even using a standard list requires mental energy to fill in the blanks of what your family needs, which usually results in items forgotten leading to a quick run to the store just before dinner!
In addition, lists that you make or the standard variety do not list the aisles where these items are located. With a customized list, we weave through the store saving half the time normally spent, and eliminating having to retrace your steps when you missed something on a particular aisle. There is an easier way!
- Create a master grocery list by walking through your grocery store, just once, with a clipboard. Walk up and down the aisles writing down the items that you purchase on each side of the aisle. Note the number of the aisle.
*Make your list when you are not at the store to buy your groceries!
- Go home and type your list on computer (or write it out by hand) and make copies. Don’t print a whole year’s worth since (each time you shop) you will see things you missed or want to change on your list. Make about a month’s worth and clip it on a clipboard to hang somewhere convenient: by your desk, in your kitchen or maybe in your laundry room.
**This half an hour of invested will save you dozens of hours of shopping, and hours of brainstorming each time you run to the store!
- Use this list each week by reading through the week’s ingredients that you have listed on the back of your 3x5 meal cards and highlight your list with things that you need. To make sure you don’t run out of anything, go down your printed list and cross out what you don’t need that week and highlight everything else that you see you need.
- After shopping, save each week’s list in the back of the clipboard and use these to periodically update your list with things you no longer use and add those things that you may have started buying. I had diapers on my list for almost a year after I no longer had a baby in diapers!
- Rather than running to the store, or running out of things, choose one day each week to do your grocery shopping. Try to pick a day when you are not too rushed (never plan anything you don’t have to do on a Monday). Weekends or after 5 are the busiest days at the grocery store, so if you can avoid these days and times it will make shopping much easier.
If you love a bargain, hit the grocery store early in the morning (while your family is still sleeping). In most stores, around 6–7 a.m., you can head straight to the meat counter and get meats at a reduced price. I buy the more expensive ground beef, like sirloin, for less than the cheapest ground beef. (If you’re not a morning person, hit the store early just once a month and stock up on your meat.) Another added benefit of shopping early is that it is always less crowded. If you can’t go that early, late morning is also good. Just try to never grocery shop on the weekends or after 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Tips for the Holidays
Take advantage of holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter—and “divide the spoil!” “. . . And she who remains at home will divide the spoil”! (Ps. 68:12).
The day after every holiday, the first thing the morning, we go to the grocery store and buy candy or decorations for 50–75% off! Chocolate candy last for months in the freezer and normally lasts from one holiday to the next. This is especially perfect since very often the more expensive candies are left, but are less expensive than the cheap candy if you bought it just a day earlier!
I also buy all my wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, and tags the day after Christmas and store it in my Christmas boxes for the next year. Also, I try to find wrapping paper, gift bags, or other decorations (like paper plates) that don’t look like a particular holiday and use them for birthdays.
In October, many of the fast food chains offer coupon books for just a dollar for trick-or-treaters. For many years we lived in the middle of nowhere, and before that we had a German Shepherd in our yard, which meant we had no trick-or-treaters! One year, I bought a dollar booklet for 12 orders of fries, and we used them afterwards. Now, it is a tradition. Some burger chains offer fries; others offer an ice cream cone, cookies, or fries.
*Watch the expiration date. Some last until the end of November; others will go to the end of the year.
With bags of fries for less than a dime, along with 99¢ burgers, you can’t make it that cheap at home! This can come in handy with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Isn’t God good?
Tips on Lists
The method above is the way I keep my home stocked with food and toiletry items my family needs; however, I also use a dry/erase marker board as a way for my family to communicate that we are out of something.
Place your board on the side of your refrigerator or in your laundry room). As you, your husband, or children notice something that you are running out of or need—just write it on your marker board. Our older children are great about calling home and asking what is on the board to see if they can pick it up for me ahead of my regular shopping day.
Tips on Where to Shop
If you like to save money, choose a store where you bag it yourself. Not only do I like to save money, I also like to organize my bags according to where it goes in my kitchen to save steps when I get home.
If you have several places to shop, like going to a discount bread store, go to these first if at all possible. Even Sam’s Club may not have what I have on my list, so going there first will enable me to transfer what I need onto my grocery store list.
Tips for Your Weekly Shopping Day
Making my list and shopping in one day took too much of my time, more effort, and I often felt rushed. So a few years ago I divided the task into two days. It made all the difference in the world! I take more time and effort to make sure that I have everything on my list. I also found that I rarely missed items that I needed.
With a new printed list, go to your marker board and transfer the items written down onto your list with a highlighter, and then erase them.
Next, use your printed list checking your pantry and refrigerator against the “needed ingredients” for that week’s menu.
If you use coupons, put a “C” next to the item and then clip your coupons on your clipboard. This helps to make sure you are choosing the correct item that it is being offered, and to make sure you hand your coupons to the cashier.
For the hot summer months, I invested in coolers and cooler bags to get my frozen foods and refrigerated foods home safely.
It also helps to have a couple of rectangle laundry baskets in your trunk to put your plastic bags into, which will save you time and effort getting the bags into the house. It also prevents the items from spilling out while driving home.
Including your Children
If you’d like to use this as a “learning experience” for your child, give your child the clipboard, along with a pencil, and the coupons while you push the cart. Have your child tell you the next item you’ll be looking for and the coupon brand or requirement (buy two get one free).
If you have other children, let them be the one to get the item and put it into the cart. Have your helpers hand the coupons to the cashier, and be sure that your children unload your shopping cart.
When unloading the car on shopping day, my family has been taught to help. They place all the bags on the counters or table, and once the car is empty, they take all the food out of the bags. The older children (or I) place the food in the cupboards in an orderly fashion. I have a labeled shelf for cereal, for chips, for canned goods, for baking, etc.
If you have several children that can help, break down this job for efficiency and speed. I had my tallest put away cokes and chips that went in the cupboard over our refrigerator. My organized daughter put canned goods away, always being very careful to have them sorted properly with the labels facing forward. Another child put away all refrigerated items, and the guy who’s always in a hurry put away the freezer stuff. The youngest child collects all the discarded plastic bags.
If you cook your ground beef when you get home from the market, it will not only be ready to throw together in a meal, but it also tastes fresher, and it can be kept longer in the refrigerator without spoiling. (At one time I paid one of my sons to do this. He needed the money, and I particularly hated this job.)
Cooked ground beef also keeps well in the freezer; use zip lock bags to save space and eliminate buying a lot of plastic containers. Just recently we had a party where we served tacos. I made extra on purpose to be sure I didn’t run out, and also because I knew I could use the meat later. Since I cooked the meat up fresh, I was able to bag up the leftover seasoned meat and have three dinner’s worth still in my freezer—I love it!
Make up your meatloaf, pour the sauce over you bar-b-q ribs, make up your lasagna, and put them in the refrigerator. This not only makes it easier on cooking day; it enhances the flavor of your meal.
The most important thing you can do is to enjoy the job God has given you, and find “joy” in it! By being incredibly prepared and staying ahead of this all-important task of purchasing the food and preparing meals for your family, you will be less likely to hate the job. Anything that you are good at, you’ll enjoy doing. On the flip side, things that you struggle with in your life, you can’ help but hate.
Once you use this chapter to master this task, begin to enjoy the challenge of preparing fun things in fun ways. Cut your sandwiches into special shapes with a cookie cutter. If your children hate the crust, cut out different shapes in the middle, then take the crust and roll them into a “wrap” that they will eat!
In the summer, purchase plastic burger baskets for lunches or for a burger dinner for fun. Put a sucker in the basket for a fun dessert.
As I mentioned in the last chapter, keep your children from overeating and save on “serving dishes,” rather than placing the food on the table “Country Style,” line your plates up on the counter in order of age, and serve each child the appropriate portions. Even husbands will eat less and keep their weight down with this method. And if anyone does want “seconds,” they have to make the effort (and call attention) to it by going back to the kitchen or stove.
With your meals and shopping organized, you can now find enjoyment by creating delicious, nutritious, gourmet, and fun meals.
Finally, be sure to set your table early in the day and make it pretty, fun, and inviting for your family. That will show them just how much you really care!
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As an “Older women likewise…teaching what is good, that they may ENCOURAGE the young women…” (Titus 2:3) you will have the opportunity to speak to the younger women who are still single as part of your ministry.