Shopping: No Hassle, No Waste

Reconstructing Your Perception of the Kitchen and Food

Tips & Hints

Grocery List

Once you have decided on your meal plan, it is time to start making a list of the grocery items needed to carry out the plan.

Grocery lists on the personal level safe you money and the time spent running around supermarket aisles making decisions. On the collective level, grocery lists, if promoted in communities, will eliminate much of our national food waste, which in the long term impacts positively on the environment.

In planning your grocery list you should ensure the following:

  • Make sure the ingredients are enough to cover your desired period of time (i.e., two weeks or a month).
  • Write your grocery list while roaming around your cupboards and fridge to check which ingredients and items you already have and which need topping up. Also check the date labels of what you already have and aim to use those ingredients with the closest ‘use by’ date first in your meal plan. For more on date labels and what the various labels mean, check our date labels guide. [To Web Developer: link to date labels table]
  • A good way to track your grocery supply is by having a magnetic notepad kit and pen on the fridge so you can immediately update the list every time you run out of certain ingredients or products. Even the family members can get involved and help with updating the list.
  • Highlight along the way those standard cupboard items you regularly use (e.g., soft drinks, tinned tomatoes, pastas, oils and so on). This way, you can match them against discounts and offers on display, or you can stock them in bigger quantities, as they may be cheaper by the dozen. Warning: Don’t forget to check the dates! [To Web Developer: link to date label guide]
  • Another important tip is to realistically link quantities to how much storage space you have, be it in the freezer or in the cupboards.

Before You Shop

Plan your supermarket journey in advance:

  • Remember, as mentioned previously, you must go with a list in hand and be committed to stick to the plan.
  • Know your supermarket. For example, when does it likely reduce meat, fresh food and/or bakery items? Many supermarkets reduce prices at the end of the day. Do they have discount brochures, coupons or loyalty programs? Make the most out of each.
  • A golden rule that deserves repeating is to never to go to the supermarket while hungry, otherwise it would be difficult to stick to your grocery list.
  • Make it a rule to avoid the supermarket in peak hours or before festivals or occasions. If either Ramadan or Eid is approaching, then do NOT wait until the last minute as the crowdedness and long queues are guaranteed to put you – and everyone else for that matter – in a bad mood. This will make sticking to your grocery plan very difficult.
  • Kids on a shopping trip will cause you to spend more than planned, as they will insist on buying additional items you do not need. Moreover, they will be a source of distraction. Try to arrange with a friend to babysit them and next time you can return the favour. If you have no other option but to take them, then involve them in the meal planning and shopping by giving them small tasks where they can fetch some ingredients – provided they are old enough. This should keep them preoccupied and happy since they are included in the mission.
  • Your bill receipt is a good record to see if you bought certain things but did not use them. So, keep it with you so you can learn from the past and modify as you go along.

At the Supermarket

Stick to your wise, well-thought plan. After applying the tips above for the ‘before shopping stage’, it is now time to put your wise ideas to the real test inside the supermarket:

  • Take your own shopping bags regardless of whether or not your supermarket charges for giving you bags. If they don’t charge for them, then you will be at least spreading an environment-friendly culture in your small community. If they do indeed charge for the bags, then you also get to save money.
  • Remind yourself that it is one thing to make a grocery list, it’s another to stick to it.  
  • One way to motivate you into sticking to the plan is by keeping an eye on your budget all the way through and totalling up the cost as you shop. Round items up to the nearest Saudi Riyal and keep a tally. This avoids a nasty shock at the cashier!
  • Sometimes you will have to make decisions outside your list when bargains or offers appear. Don’t act spontaneously, rather check if indeed that “2-for-1 deal” is really a bargain. Look at the regular shelf to compare or see cheaper brands. Also ask yourself:  is it something on your list? Will anyone in the family really eat or use it before expiry? Can you freeze it? Do you have space for it or can you share it with a friend?
  • Now if you do indeed buy products on promotion, then you can make sure that you use them by either freezing the extra ones or by cooking twice the portions needed and then freezing the second batch for a later day.
  • Try the supermarkets’ own brands. You will be surprised to find out that many of them are of good quality. Also, move down a level at a time (e.g., top brands, regular and value).
  • Shops and supermarkets sometimes stack items that have the longest remaining shelf-life in the back rows of the shelf and those with the shortest in the front rows to sell them first. If you believe you will not get around to eating certain products in time, then search for items with the items that will last longer in the back rows. Understand the date labels on the products with the help of our guide. [To Web Developer: link to date label guide]
  • When reaching the meat section, check if there are cheaper cuts of meat and poultry. Look at the small print as they show you the cost per unit under the total price. Being familiar with this information enables you to compare prices. Also, to reduce money spent on meat and improve health, you should have already planned in your list to buy beans and vegetables to bulk out meat dishes.
  • Be thoughtful about large pre-packed fruit bags as they might be more than you need. Think! Will those fruits along with your money be sent to the garbage? You might decide that buying smaller portions of loose fruit is better for you regardless of the offer.  
  • Brands are at times a powerful thing, especially for kids. You can always put cheaper brands that are on offer into storage tubs or jars once home to prevent kids rejecting them over brand issues.
  • As mentioned before, given the Kingdom’s warm weather, take extra precautions when buying dairy products, meat, poultry, fish and any type of frozen foods by making them the last things you pick out and place in your trolley. After making your payment, pack all freezer and chilled groceries together in the same bag to keep them cool for longer. Drive straight home and avoid putting chilled items in the car trunk especially on a warm day.
  • Finally, remember your “Savvy Shopper” journeys are going to be rough and tough at first, but with time you will be more accustomed to making quicker and better decisions and become familiar with your list. Once, you find that you are saving more money and exerting less effort, you will realize it is worth it!

As an exception, there will be times when you will find yourself needing to pass by the supermarket without having a grocery list. If this happens, then minimize waste by doing the following:

  • Either quickly take photos of the fridge and cupboards contents so you know what groceries are missing and need topping up. If you are outside, then ask a family member at home to take a photo and send them to you.
  • Also, as advised above, if you already have a notepad on the fridge with updates on out-of-stock ingredients and products, then just take a quick photo of the list.
  • In all cases, it is important to ensure that shopping without a grocery list is a rare exception and not the norm.