Grocery shopping – wandering down each aisle wondering what you need, your kids whining for candy, getting to the check-out counter with a loaded down cart and being shocked when you hear the final total. How did I spend so much? You wonder. You hand over the credit card, wondering how you’re going to make it through the month.
Shopping doesn’t have to be this way! Here are some simple ways to save time, money, and most importantly, stress.
Go shopping every week
Shopping every week allows you to find better deals before sales end and coupons expire. Pick one day a week as your shopping day and schedule it in, just like you would a dentist appointment. Look through your pantry, fridge, and freezer, and decide what you need. This forces you to take inventory of your kitchen every week, so you’re not buying mac & cheese when you already have ten boxes socked away. This also works best in conjunction with a meal plan for the week, but that’s a subject for another blog post. =)
Make a list – and stick to it!
Make a list and tell your kids – and yourself! – that you can only get the items on it. Ask your kids to help you make the list (“What kind of apples should we get?”) and tell them that once you’re in the store, you can’t deviate from it. If you give your kids treats for being good in the store, it can be the last thing on the list. If you don’t have kids with you, you can make this a treat for yourself for sticking to your list!
**Important! If your kids see you adding cheese puffs to the cart just because you feel like it, then your consistency goes out the window and you’re back to them whining. A list keeps you honest and able to stay on budget.
Shop in a location with multiple stores
I go to the local shopping square that has both a Trader Joe’s and a larger grocery store. I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s, but paper goods and a wider, less expensive selection of produce send me to the other store. I park at Trader Joe’s, then walk over to the bigger grocery store first and get my (much smaller) list from there. I take one or two re-usable bags with me, carry those back to the car, and my son gets a nice walk out in the fresh air. (Obviously if you have smaller children, a stroller works, too). Then, I do the rest of my shopping at Trader Joe’s. "I don’t have time for one store, much less two!" you’re thinking. The good part about having a list is that you’re in and out of stores in no time. My average shopping trip is now 45 minutes (for two stores!), when it used to be an hour and a half.
Hope these tips help you have fun, frugal, stress-free shopping trips!
How often do you refuse to donate or discard something because it belonged to a family member, only to bury that item under a mound of stuff or let it sit and collect dust and bugs in a dark corner of the garage? You say that you're honoring your mom, dad, or grandparent by keeping something of theirs, but then do not show it honor or respect by the way you treat it.
A perfect example of this is something I saw on an organization show a few years ago. A woman was getting help reorganizing her home office. Found in the office by the professional organizer were three dusty, torn boxes full of jazz and blues records. These were her grandmother's old phonograph records. There must have been hundred of records in those boxes. Her rationale for keeping them was that she was keeping her grandmother's memory alive, and if she got rid of them, she would lose her memories of her grandmother.
The organizer said something very interesting. He told her that she was NOT honoring her grandmother's memory. In fact, by not properly taking care of these antique records, she was actually showing dishonor and disrespect to her grandmother.
This idea shocked her. The organizer told her to select THREE records. Three out of the hundreds of records! She hesitatingly and painstakingly selected three records that she felt most represented her grandmother, records that gave her loving and sweet memories of when her grandmother was alive. The rest of the records were donated or (if damaged) discarded.
When the home office was revealed to the woman, the three records she had selected had been cleaned, matted, framed, and were prominently displayed on the wall. The woman burst into tears - happy tears. Instead of her grandmother's records stuck under a desk never to be seen, they were lovingly displayed in an artistic way. The organizer said to her, "This is how to honor your grandmother."
The lesson? You don't need tons of your loved ones' things to honor their memory. A picture, a pipe, a handkerchief, or even a pair of pumps your mom wore to her prom can be displayed in a place of honor. Don't let the quantity of items be your focus; let the quality of items - and the memories they evoke - guide you when deciding what to keep and how to honor it.
So you have your donation box set up and you are ready to start purging. Unfortunately, you never have the time to purge! "I'll do it when the kids are napping," you think. Then you nap when they nap. "I'll do it when the kids are at their grandmother's house for the day," you say to yourself. Then you pay bills and clean the kitchen instead (valid responsibilities, but not purging). Meanwhile, the clutter piles up until you are drowning in it.
Let me introduce you to the 15 minute purge. One day every week, you walk around for 15 minutes and de-clutter. For example, last Friday I was putting laundry away and I looked at my shoe collection. I call it a collection because shoes are something I collect, not necessarily wear. I love shoes in the store, then buy them and get them home only to realize that I really don't have anything to wear them with. They then sit in my nicely organized shoe rack and collect dust.
So, I took 5 minutes and quickly scanned my shoes, grabbing three pairs that I NEVER wear. I took them immediately to my donation box, put them in, and shut the lid. Done. No, I didn't de-clutter the entire house, but I did something. And that's better than always talking about it, but never doing it.
So this Friday, or Monday, or whatever day you choose, set the timer and do a 15 minute purge. Maybe you'll start to notice that what you are always de-cluttering is the junk mail on the kitchen counter. Or maybe you're shredding old bills for 15 minutes. Maybe it's the stretched-out hair bands in your daughter's bathroom drawer, or old food in the fridge.
Have your kids get in on the purge, too. Let them purge their toy chest or closet. Show them that they have stuff they can part with, too, and be okay without it.
Try it this coming week and e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how it went!
Question: Do you have a trash can in your house? That's kind of a silly thing to ask, right? Most of us have a trash can in the kitchen, office, bathrooms, and garage/outdoors. Some of us even have trash cans in each bedroom and the den. Why is this? Because we know we will generate trash each day and we want to have a convenient place to put it.
Why, then, do we let things we want to donate to charity pile up in closets, on the stairs, or under the bed for months, always saying with a sigh, "Gosh, I have got to get a box and get this stuff over to Goodwill"?
Can you imagine treating your trash the same way? Imagine piling up your leftover dinner, used kleenex, and old dental floss under the kitchen sink and saying, "Tomorrow I'll get a box to put that in." No way! The same thinking should apply to items you want to donate. Getting things you don't need or want is an inevitability, just like generating trash every day. So you should have a donation box always ready to put stuff in, and when it gets full, it's time to go.
It seems like actually boxing stuff up, loading it in the car, and then piling in with the kids and driving down to a donation center, however, is always a hassle. Well, I have GREAT news! There are countless organizations that will come and pick up items from your house any time. Do you ever get those postcards in the mail that say, "Our truck will be on your street next Thursday?" All you have to do is leave your stuff out by the curb. It's that simple. Even better, you don't have to wait to get a card in the mail. If you have the phone number from the postcard, all you have to do is call and they will come on a day of your choice.
So here's how to get started:
Follow these steps and your donation box will become a regular fixture in your house, just like your trash cans. You will reduce your clutter on a regular basis while enriching other people's lives.
- Get some cardboard boxes. Paper boxes from the office or diaper boxes work well. You can also get free shipping boxes at the post office.
- Label the box "Donations" and set it up somewhere. I have mine in the guest room closet.
- Anytime you decide something in your house needs to be donated to charity, put it in the box. When the box gets full, call for a pick-up, or wait for the next postcard to arrive in the mail.
You might think that some people are born with the organizational gene and some aren't -- just like some people are naturally talented at math, or football. I think that organizing is a skill we have all learned -- we can all categorize, sort, and label. The skill that people struggle with is PURGING.
Being able to throw your stuff away is definitely something you are born with. Some people are like "Throw it all away!" and some are like "I'm saving EVERYTHING!" Most of us are somewhere in between. But to truly be organized, we have to hone our purging skills and be able to get rid of something. So here is my advice if you have a hard time purging: figure out what you absolutely love -- like your vintage tea set collection, your Disney figurines, or your kids' school projects -- and don't even think about those. Instead, find stuff that doesn't hold much sentimentality, like old bills, the semi-dying plants in the backyard, or out-of-date food in the pantry -- and start the purging and organizing process with that.
Once you have mastered purging with non-sentimental things, move on to things that hold more memories. You can do it!
-- Kelly =)