Strategy in the shopping cart

Even during the weekend I am implementing strategies!

“Don’t go to the supermarket when you’re hungry!” – this is a well-known, popular saying. I have no doubt it’s a good tip, but even if you’re feeling satisfied, a trip to the supermarket can have disastrous consequences. So take my advice: “Don’t go into the supermarket without a well-considered list!”

My girlfriend and I live for Saturday – the highlight of our week: shopping. This week I was once again wading through the supermarket aisles with a list in one hand, pushing the shopping cart with the other, holding a scanner under my arm and, with a bag of potatoes at my fingertips, I suddenly reached a new insight. Even during the weekend I am implementing strategies!


I suddenly realised that the list in my left hand was the result of a comprehensive strategic exercise. Not a simple collection of articles that I need to buy, but much more than that. The list is what we use to prevent us from filling the cart with chocolate and tiger bread and then, when we get home, sitting in front of the TV and relenting to our hunger with sumptuous sandwiches and snacks. How has the piece of paper in my Möbius notebook succeeded in doing this? While the list was being made, a wide range of internal and external factors were taken into account:

  • Where and when are we working next week?
  • What is the weather forecast?
  • Who is coming to eat with us tomorrow?
  • Are they vegetarian, or not?
  • What is still in the fridge that needs to be eaten urgently?

Based on this and more, we were able to create a menu for the coming week. Based on this menu (minus our current stock), the shopping list can be drawn up.

Is this strategy a done deal? Not even close! We have yet to set foot outside the door; we have simply developed a vision document (the menu) and an implementation plan (the shopping list). We now need to make it happen!


Fortunately, we have our list. It leads us around the store and tells us what we have already have and what not. This means we don’t lose any time looking at all the ingredients for the complete menu over and over again. We can fill our cart as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Just before the checkout, I notice a discount on the ice creams – and I fancy an ice cream, especially if the weather forecast is to be believed. I keep calm, this morning I already checked the freezer for ice cream, and the ingredients for the apple pie are looking at me from the cart, so I am happy to conclude that extra ice creams are not required.

We have avoided a deviation from the list. Earlier, we needed to make a series of decisions for things that we had not previously taken into account:

  • The shop had no fresh basil, do we buy a packet of dried basil or do we look elsewhere? We still have dried basil at home!
  • We need five large tomatoes, but the smaller tomatoes look nicer. We’ll buy eight tomatoes then!

We both know what the end result must be, so we can make these decisions quickly. There may be disagreement while developing the menu for the coming week, but in the store the direction is clear because we both support the same plan. The only decision we have to make is which amendment fits the original plan. The plan itself is no longer questioned. Fortunately, there are only two of us and we know each other very well, otherwise it would take forever before we could even make this decision. It is always exciting when we split up and separately make decisions that will affect us both. For this, I keep one rule in mind – “Happy wife = Happy life” (just a small sample of the infinite wisdom of Nathalie @NathVermassen).

By following the list too strictly, we would never get out of the store (because there is no fresh basil), or get home early, just to find out that the taste of tomatoes is actually quite disappointing. Also, by deviating from the list too much we would never get out of the store (because we would put back the apple pie ingredients, get some ice cream, and then get a sudden urge for éclairs).


At the checkout, we have a clear overview of how we have performed. Has everything on the list been crossed out? Good, then at the very least, we have everything we came for. Do we have any additional articles? If they fit into next week’s menu, it’s not a problem. And if we have to make changes to the menu due to unforeseen circumstances and we both agree, is that a problem? I would prefer to have a good meal at the end of the week than to have implemented the plan exactly. But there can be different opinions about this.


By drawing up this list for hundreds of weeks in a row, we have not only eaten well, we have also improved our process. We walk through the shop in our established order so everything can be put in the correct place in the cart: first dry food in large packages, then bottles and cartons, followed by softer packaging such as pasta, biscuits etc. In a second container, the fruits and vegetables go first, followed by cooled items and finally, the frozen goods. And it’s not only our processes that have been finely tuned, the cooperation between our systems has been revised: we draw up the list so that everything is in the right order. And at home we try to group everything in our cupboards as it is in the shop.

Have we achieved perfection then? Far from it! Sometimes we learn about new products, sometimes the layout of the store changes. (Even the shop isn’t perfect!) We could also buy some of our products online and only go to the supermarket for fresh produce. Maybe we could draw up our list digitally? What will happen when the future brings us the home scanner and the smart fridge? As long as we are able to keep our chocolate addiction under control, we will be happy to experiment with these new capabilities and see how they can help us.

What have we learned today?
1.Strategy is more than a simple shopping list.
2.Success is not necessarily achieved by the execution of the planned steps, but by achieving a specific objective.
3.It is difficult to achieve these goals without formulating them. That’s why we make lists.
4.But a plan is just half of the work. We may have to adjust our plan within the framework of our objectives.

Have you got a taste for it? With the Möbius Strategy Experience, we will discuss this and other topics interactively. In one session, you will step into the shoes of a CEO, and then the shoes of an employee, and finally you will find yourself in the customer’s shoes. Don’t hesitate to contact me for more information!

Thanks for reading

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