Joy’s recent post on saving money grocery shopping sparked an interesting debate in the comments. Erin B. provided some great tips, including this one:

ALWAYS make a list, NEVER buy anything not on the list. Ever… ever… seriously, I know we are all grownups and we think we can walk around Target without a case of the “gimme-gimmes” (a great Berenstein Bears book, by the way!) but we can’t. Make a list with literally EVERYTHING you need and buy off the list and not a single item more. Seriously, it works.

I loved all of her ideas except for that one above, which I hear a lot. Here was my response:

I don’t agree with tip #2! I love grocery shopping and part of that is scouring around for interesting foods and deals. I always thought people wasted tons of money by meal planning first, then shopping off a list. Say they planned to make eggplant parmesan, then bought eggplants, tomatoes, and the cheeses–but none of it was on sale. They would spend a lot on that one meal.

Kate had Erin’s back. She added,

I have to agree with Erin about making a list — and about substitutions. (In fact, I love all of Erin’s suggestions.) Yes, when I try a new recipe exactly as written, I might spend a little more than usual. But I choose new recipes in part based on what’s in season and what I have on hand, and after I make it once I figure out what I can substitute for or leave out.

Now, I stand by my original assertion: making lists and sticking to them wastes money! I spend $175/month on three people (as I may have mentioned once or twice), and I believe this has to do with buying foods only when they’re on sale and then improvising with all those discounted ingredients in the kitchen.

I realize my way of thinking is unconventional, and I will admit it wouldn’t work for everyone. If you find yourself tempted to buy expensive treats at the store, the “stick with the list” rule would probably help curb your temptations. (I have the opposite problem in that I have to almost force myself to buy things that cost too much. I’m still stuck in the “no more than a dollar a pound” mentality I’ve had since the ‘90s!) It also wouldn’t work if you work from recipes and don’t like to just make things up as you go along.

So that’s my wacky tip of the day: Don’t make lists and don’t stick to them! Much like the ol’ “I don’t buy in bulk!” argument, I believe I may be in the minority on this one!