Ease the stress of grocery shopping during the holidays

(ARA) – Hectic schedules often make meal-related decisions a chore. And planning for a bigger family meal over the holidays just adds to the stress. Affordable and simpler shopping routines could help you start savoring family meal time again.

Regardless of whether you’re planning a holiday feast, a birthday celebration, or just day-to-day meals throughout the year, it’s easier and more cost effective if you go into grocery shopping prepared.

Consider these tips from national grocery retailer Save-A-Lot before your next shopping trip:

Create a weekly meal planner
Many grocery shoppers make the mistake of only planning for a big special meal when they can cut time and cost by planning for several. Think about what you and your family members typically consume each day. If there is a particular food item or meal idea that your whole family enjoys, make sure to stock up when it is on sale. Ask each family member to pick a meal for dinner.

Decide ahead of time how your family might want to use leftover meat or veggies from the meal, and buy extra ingredients to create new meals. For example, be sure to stock up on bread, mayonnaise, mustard and lettuce in advance if you plan to cook a turkey or ham for a holiday meal or Sunday dinner.

Keep track of ingredients to replenish
You’ve got everything laid out to make chocolate chip cookies, but you forgot to buy the baking soda – nothing is more frustrating than having to make a return trip to a store.

Keep track of ingredients you frequently use in your cooking. Then, as soon as you use up an item, immediately add it to your ongoing grocery list. By the end of the week, not only will your shopping list be complete, but also you won’t be stuck in the store trying to remember what is or is not in your cupboard. You also won’t be tempted to buy something you don’t need.

When cooking, be sure to use measuring utensils so you don’t use more ingredients than necessary – which can be costly to your family’s waistline and budget.

Visit grocery store websites for tools and deals
Grocery retailers frequently offer tips and tools for meal planning, as well as exclusive online bargains. Check to see if your store is offering discounts in exchange for signing up for their shopping clubs year round. For example, Save-A-Lot offers a $5 coupon for signing up for its Smart Shopper Club.

Take advantage of store brands
Many grocery stores offer their own exclusive brands of foods and everyday items, and frequently these items are of equivalent quality as more expensive national brand names. By using store brands, you can save a little money on your grocery bill and splurge on something special, such as a celebratory dessert. Store brands are great for helping to keep your weekly grocery costs down.

Simplify shopping trip
A popular strategy for many shoppers is to shop at several retailers throughout the week for bargains. While this approach may add up to a couple of cents saved on a receipt, it is quickly gobbled up in fuel costs as well as time. Instead, save both time and money by limiting shopping trips to one day a week or add a stop to the grocery store on the commute to or from work.

With these few simple tips, you’ll not only save money at the grocery store, but you’ll have more time to enjoy cooking and celebrating with those you love.