I began an exercise this morning that I realized I do frequently to save myself time and money. The exercise? Well it's not jumping jacks; rather, it's "take an inventory". I am planning a grocery shopping trip for Saturday night and wanted to make a list so I began by inventorying what I already have.
Here's how it works: I begin with a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, labeling the left side HAVE and the right side NEED. Then I delve into whatever area I'm working on, this morning it is food, and I look in the freezer, fridge, and cupboards to see what I already have to work with. I write it down, in order of meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks.
Example: Breakfast HAVE - bagels, (twice, because I have two packages), English muffins (again, twice), oats, flour, potatoes, canned/bottled fruit.
Breakfast NEED - milk, eggs, cream cheese, sausage, bacon, whole wheat tortillas, bread, dried fruits, fresh fruits, plain yogurt, orange juice.
Those are the things I have and want to get so I can whip up a delicious breakfast every morning.
After doing an inventory I write down all the menu ideas that come to me from that list (they're pretty much the same each time) then I can choose for my actual menu plan, according to day of the week, and how much time I'll have to prepare things.
When I go to the store I have a complete list of what to buy in what quantities to fill up my freezer, fridge and pantry so I have all the ingredients necessary. I do the same with lunches, dinners, and snacks. I don't make a menu, then shop; I take an inventory of my supplies, then make a menu using up the things I already have, and adding the items I need to replace and replenish my supplies.
I use the same method at the beginning of the school year to see what clothes the boys already have and what they need. We've never bought all new school clothes for our children. I keep boxes of "to grow into clothes" handed down from older boys to younger brothers from which we "shop" for new clothes. If there is still a need, I will make a list to take to the thrift store. If I can't find it at a couple of thrift stores and it is a critical item I can then look for a sale at a retail store, otherwise we just wait until we do find it.
Several times a year I clean out the toiletries cupboard and take an inventory of what I have and need then add items to my shopping list to look for sales on those items. Cleaning out cupboards and rearranging items usually yields a few surprises as in "Oh look, I have 2 bottles of shampoo left so I don't need to buy more right now." I also pull things forward and make plans to use them up by having them in the front where they are visible. (Out of sight, out of mind is certainly true for cupboards!)
There you have it, my method for saving time and money.