Time Management Expert, Event Speaker: Mark Lamendola

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Time Tips: Grocery Shopping Tip #3

Since we all have to eat, it makes sense to see where we can save time in grocery shopping. If someone else in your household does this task for you, then read this anyhow--you will appreciate that persons contribution more. The format here is going to be a bit different from the usual narrative.

Item 1

Bad advice. Have groceries brought to you rather than going to get them.

Why. It takes skill to properly shop for groceries. The variance in quality is huge, and you are what you eat. A good shopper is planning meals while shopping, and making adjustments based on what is available and how good it is. For example, I may decide not to make salads because the bok choy is limp--so, I don't buy the other salad ingredients that day.

Good advice. Learn how to shop to support meal planning, and plan your meals for nutrition and variety. Save time by buying all the necessary fresh ingredients for the particular meals you can make for the next few days and by buying canned or frozen ingredients for the remainder of the week.

Item 2

Bad advice. Buy convenience foods.

Why. Any time you "save" buying this junk will be lost in the aftereffects, with a net loss of time easily amounting to years. These "foods" tend to be loaded with such toxins as high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, and chemicals you can't pronounce.

Good advice. Rather than engage in the false economics of eating poison to "save time" over eating food, use intelligent strategies. For example, cook enough for several meals at once. Then, put the "extra meals" into containers (I use glass ones) and stick those in the freezer. Place a container in the refrigerator the day before you will need it for a meal (I plan two to four meals per container).

This works great for stir-fries and many other meals, as well as items you use as "stock," side dishes, or main courses. For example, I cook a bunch of rice (whole grain, of course) at once (saving time, and in the summer, reducing total cooling costs). I freeze several servings per container. Because beans and rice complement each other to produce a completed protein, I eat them together. But in the summer I use canned beans (I cook my beans in the winter), so all I have to do is open a can of beans and add these to the rice. I now buy large cans of beans, and use only a portion of the contents at a time--the rest go into a glass container in the refrigerator for use later.

Can't keep fresh fruit for a week? No problem. Buy fresh fruit and buy frozen fruit. When fresh runs out, use the frozen fruit until your next shopping trip (again, put some in a glass container in the refrigerator ahead of the actual time you will need it). If you need fresh fruit for lunches, then earmark such things as apples and oranges (which can go a week or longer) for those "later in the week" lunches. Have the strawberries and such right away.

Item 3

Bad advice. Shop for groceries on the way home from work, eliminating one trip.

Why. Well, this may be good advice or it may not, depending on where you shop and how often you are stuck in line because everybody else is "saving time" by shopping at this hour.

Good advice. I have yet to see a crowded grocery store between 0600 and 0900. I'm an early riser, so it would be no big deal for me to be at the grocery store well before the crack of dawn. At such a time, you pretty much have the place to yourself. The downside of this is few other places are open at that hour, so you may find it tough to combine trips. But if you need to drop off library materials, video rentals, and so forth--it's a great time.

Item 4

Bad advice. Wait until you have a good-sized list of things you need, then shop for them.

Why. While this seems logical--not spending time until you have to--it puts you in the situation of letting time control you.

Good advice. Don't let things become urgent. Stock up on toilet paper, canned goods, and other non-perishables--preferably when these things are on sale. You may even find it easier to buy these things separately from grocery store trips. Remember that Murphy's Law is reality! You will run out something and have to get it at the worst possible time. So, don't run out. Otherwise, you'll be standing in line for 20 minutes just because you tried to "save time" by putting off the purchase.

Item 5

Bad advice. Be ruthlessly efficient about shopping.

Why. "Ruthless," according to Danny DeVito in "War of the Roses," means "without love." OK, so maybe you don't consider Danny DeVito an expert in English etymology, but let's just go with it. Disregarding the "No man is an island" philosophy just about guarantees a net loss of time.

Good advice. In the long-term, you save time by being thoughtful of others. Consider it an investment, when you spend a little time helping someone else. If, for example, you are going to the hardware store, ask your neighbor, "Do you need anything while I'm there?"

So you spend an extra 59 seconds picking up a gallon of white paint, and another 59 seconds telling your neighbor it was $20 and change (don't fret that change--just ask for $20). So what? The one time you are knee deep in a project and a trip to the hardware store is the last thing you can handle, your neighbor is likely to make that trip for you.

Groceries, same thing. Maybe your neighbor needs eggs or apples. Or toilet paper. Whatever. Just make sure that you understand each other's requirements ahead of time. For example, I don't eat eggs laid by chickens that spend their lives in 2x2 cages stacked 10 high. I eat free-range eggs. But a neighbor might actually believe s/he "saves money" by purchasing the toxic eggs. You may come out ahead by limiting this form of time exchange to commodity items, rather than trying to educate people away from false economics.

In any case, the goal here is to create a situation in which you and one or two neighbors pick things up for each other, to reduce special trips and to help each other when trips are just horribly inconvenient. I consider it an investment if a neighbor asks me to run to the store for something. I'll do it, knowing that ultimately I will save time. I don't think you can over-invest in good neighbors. That's the key--make sure they are good neighbors, and don't get involved with "users."

Another good tip. Buy in bulk. This saves time, but it usually saves you money as well. But limit this to items for which it make sense. For example, I buy stamps by the roll. But if you seldom mail anything, this is probably not worthwhile for you. I don't do gift exchanges, but if you do them then buying gift wrap materials in bulk makes sense for you.

You might do well to make a list of items that you should buy in bulk. Save this as an electronic file, and then print it out for bulk buying day--which, if you are doing this right, occurs when there's a sale and well before you run out of things.


Do you want to radically improve how well people in your organization make use of the limited number of hours in each work day?

Contact me to arrange a time when we can talk about a presentation: mark@mindconnection.com. Why arrange a time? So I can give you full attention during the call. There's a really powerful time management tip. Ask me why it works.