“Never make the same mistake twice, if it can be avoided”.  That’s good advice, but unfortunately it relies upon you having a good memory.  One of the places where my memory just doesn’t work correctly is at the grocery store.

It can be hard to keep everything straight at a grocery store.  When you walk in, you’re confronted by thousands of different brands, and tens of thousands of products.  Couple this with all the confusingly similar store brand names at different places, and it’s a lot to keep track of.  Sure, we all remember our favorite brands of peanut butter, ketchup, mayo, etc., but let’s say there’s a store brand that’s on sale for half the price of your regular brand.  You could save several dollars, but how do you know if it’s any good?  Worse, even if it’s good it might not be a better deal unless it’s on sale.  So how do you remember which of the 35 brands of peanut butter you do and don’t like?

This is why my girlfriend and I have started to keep a “good list”.  This is a list of products, brands, and flavors that we know we like or don’t like.  This won’t help us with the first purchase of an item, but it should help us not make the same mistake twice – which will mean we have less junk cluttering up our cupboards.  Ideally, it will also help us make the same good choices repeatedly.

For example, we just bought a really premium brand of frozen pizza.  It was on a great sale, and I figured we’d try it to see if it might be a good occasional “treat” item.  We got two flavors, and they were both horrible.  Like I said, we got them on a great sale (with an added coupon savings), but since these are normally $7 frozen pizzas I’d like to make sure we remember that not only aren’t they anything special, but we actively don’t like them!

I toss them on the list – “(Brand) Pizza – Buffalo Chicken – No”, “(Brand) Pizza – Chicken & Bacon – No”.  Even if they’re on sale for $2.50 each next year, it’s $2.50 that would be completely wasted.  Now I’ve got the list, and I won’t make that mistake again.

I might get a little fancier with this list and make it a rating system (1 to 5), or just incorporate an “ok” designation for brands that are passable if they’re a really good deal, but not preferred.

The other thing that I’m hoping this list does is allow me to spot trends.  I have a friend who has discovered over the years that he likes everything from a particular brand.  If your list says “Brand X (item) – yes” all the way down, a sale on a different item from Brand X might be worth a shot – even if you’ve never tried that item before.

It will take some periodic updating, but if we have this list with us it should prevent us from making the same mistake twice.  Less mistakes equal more happiness and less frustration, and I think we can all agree that’s a Good Thing!

Do you have any tips and tricks to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again?