Tell me, have you seen UEO’s?

No, not UFO’s, but UEO’s – otherwise known as “Unidentifiable Expensive Objects” !?

Basically, these are objects that seem to mysteriously appear in your shopping cart though you do not quite recall how they got there, and by the time you get to the checkout counter. And next thing you know, the cashier is pointing to a huge amount on her screen…

If this sounds like something that happens regularly to you, do not despair. Help is definitely at hand!

Try these simple and easy tips to maximize your efficiency at the grocery store and also (most importantly) minimize your grocery store bill.

Thorough Inventory

Firstly, do a thorough inventory of what you already have in your various kitchen cupboards, pantry and other storage areas. The inventory can be divided into sections. One easy way of classifying the items is to divide them by location, ie. freezer, fridge, cupboard, pantry etc. This will help you easily list down what you have. Assign categories to the items as well – ie. cleaning items, cooking ingredients, fresh foods, fruits & vegetables, meat, dairy products, condiments, snack foods, etc.

Then, from this list, you will be able to determine what you don’t have. These could be items which have finished, or items which are running low (and will soon need to be replaced).

Simple Forecast

Now, think about the week ahead (or the month ahead, if you are a once-a-month bulk shopper). What kinds of meals will your family be consuming? What sort of ingredients do you need for those meals? Consult your inventory to determine what you already have and what you need to buy.

Ideally, you could plan your family’s meals around the items that you already have. With all the recipes freely available on the internet, you can find a recipe to incorporate just about any ingredient. Be creative as well and come up with new dishes! The objective is to use up items already purchased (instead of letting them spoil and go to waste) while at the same time, reducing expenditure on buying new items for the week/month.

Plan your Shopping Trip

OK, so with your inventory and shopping list done and your plan in place, it’s now time for action – you are now ready to hit the grocery store aisles! Let’s take a trip to your favourite grocery store.

Now that you are there, what are additional tips you can use to keep your bills down while also minimising time spent on grocery shopping as well?

First and foremost, do not shop if you are feeling hungry…take time to have your meal first before you start. Many people make the mistake of shopping when they or their kids are hungry…this only adds to the temptation to buy a whole lot of junk food.

Next, stick to your shopping list! Resist the temptation to “add” more items just because they are attractively arranged, or the sales promoter is telling you how wonderful the product is, or even the fact that the item is on sale (unless of course it is an item that you need to buy now or will need to buy soon). Otherwise, ignore all temptation and work systematically through your list.

As a general rule, buy items that you know you will need regularly, in bulk and better still, on sale. There are considerable savings to be made using this approach.

Also, don’t be afraid to buy in-house brands. Often, they are a lot cheaper than the well-known brands when in fact there is not much to choose between them in terms of quality. Well-known brands spend a lot on A&P (advertising & promotional) activities, and invariably the cost of this is offloaded to the end user in the form of higher prices.

Golden rule…while it is convenient to send older kids out to collect the required items (especially in a huge hypermarket), do not let your kids add items to your shopping cart without these items being on the master shopping list. When dealing with kids, yes, standing firm on not buying the items chosen could result in something similar to World War 3…but all these additional items will all add to your bill if you are not careful.

A workaround is to accept the additional items at first, but before you get to the checkout counter, do a quick review and compare the items in your cart, to your shopping list. If there is any UEO in sight, quietly remove it (try to make sure your kids don’t catch you at it!). Or if you are able to reason with your kids, tell them frankly why you need to remove those items – because it is an UEO!!

This should help ensure that the items purchased match up to your shopping list and that your bill at the checkout counter, is within expected limits.

I hope the above tips will prove helpful to you in reducing the number of “UEO” sightings. Happy Shopping!


Personal finance author and trainer

    1 Response to "Keep out the UEO: Take Control of Your Grocery Shopping List"


      I do annual budget on groceries a year ahead and demand my wife to shop the neccesities according to the budget allocation. What she has been doing is that she prepare a shopping list beforehand and shop only according to the list. If she observes that there is any our daily groceries that are not in her list during her shopping with great offer, she will seek for my approval for the purchase. Hmmm…just like a subordinate reports to her boss (just joking). Well, just to share how we control our grocery expenses 🙂

      In short, I do believe that to effectively control a family grocery expenses requires mutual cooperation between husband and wife as well as self-control.

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