“What have you done with those plans?”

There is very little as important as having a plan of attack, whether it be in attempting to destroy a moon-sized space station or gathering supplies for the week’s meals.

This, then, is #1 of Dan’s Rules of Life or At Least of Shopping: make a plan, and stick to it.

I married a hoarder (both syllables or just one, take your pick), so we ended up with cabinets full of food we didn’t really need. Good news when it came time to make a donation to the food bank, bad news everywhen else. I’d keep cans of things we never ate, and the fridge always had weird things growing in it.

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Enter the list. It’s an ancient code, one that many Bothans have died to bring us. In its purest form, it is simply a reminder of what necessary things were missing from the home when it was last vacated. Mine carry a plan for the week’s meals, both entrees and sides. Armed with these plans, one can safely traverse the corridors of the local grocery, unafraid of triggering an overload in the budget by purchasing unnecessary or, worse, redundant items.

The first rule of the list, though, is not to be tied down to it. A few items, such as fresh fruit or an emergency can of soup, may not become obvious needs until the store is reached. Or, you might run across an amazing deal on meat that changes the entire meal plan. If your budget allows and you make few changes, this kind of spontaneity is healthy.

Still, the list has its purpose, and that is to curb impulse shopping. If you’re familiar with your store’s layout, you can even make the list so that it follows a logical path through the store. That way, you can move from item to item with minimal temptation to follow the Dark Side of impulse purchases.

Thanks to online availability of national chain circulars, you can start working on your list from your phone. I check each week for the best prices on meats (I’m an omni; don’t judge) before considering what to cook. If a dish I want to make uses an ingredient that comes in bulk and I don’t cook regularly (potatoes, for instance), I look for ways to add these items elsewhere in the week. This leads to less waste and a happier environment and budget.

Once the list of items for major meals is ready–and you should feel free to add everything needed for the meals before checking off items that are on your shelf already–don’t forget about incidental items. Check essentials like sugar, vegetable oil, and spices. Better yet, keep a list on the fridge and add these items when shortages are noticed. This way you can avoid making multiple trips for food. Decide what you’ll be drinking all week and make sure it’s in stock. Check paper products, garbage bags, and cleaners. If you’re likely to need it during the week, it’s better to pick it all up at once.

Finally, and it’s a cliché, I know, but don’t shop hungry. That list means nothing on an empty stomach. If you can, plan to shop after the last meal on your previous week’s list. Not only will you be full enough to think, but many stores put out breads and meats late in the day that will have to be thrown out if not sold. My store does this with breads, and I’ve been treated to many a 99-cent loaf of Italian bread for being in the right place at the right time.

So remember, it’s your money. Feed yourself, not your trash can with it. Good luck out there.

DS

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