Grocery Shopping on a Budget

by Tena on September 9, 2011

in Girl Talk, Lifestyle, Real Life

I never really thought much of my grocery bill until I mentioned that I spend about $100 a week to feed my family and mouths dropped and a collective curiosity arose for how I do it.

With five kids and one income, budget is a necessary evil—especially in the grocery store. In fairness, I am currently only feeding four kids (the other is nursed, but a sixteen-year-old boy makes up the difference.)

I take my time shopping. I go first thing in the morning AFTER I have eaten (don’t go hungry—your waistline will thank me.) It is not busy and I don’t have to worry about blocking the cracker aisle while tapping numbers into my calculator to find which cheese crackers are the best buy per serving.

My husband and kids are forbidden to come with me so I can stay focused and not buy the crazy cookies that glow in the dark that they NEED since they saw the commercial on TV. Leaving my husband behind is an easy savings of $40. Leaving the kids behind saves my sanity, and that is priceless.

Coupons

I will not be featured on TLC’s Extreme Couponing any time soon.  In fact, I rarely clip coupons, and when I do, it’s a safe bet that I will forget to use them until they have already expired. If you are interested in trying your hand at it though, Fabulessly Frugal is a great site to guide you in your attempt at creating the perfect stockpile in your basement at 97% savings. I wish I were that ambitious.

However, when pricier items like diapers, batteries, and cleaning supplies appear on my shopping list, I always head overt to Coupons.com to try and shave off a couple of dollars with some manufacturer’s coupons. When trying to save money, it is no time for brand loyalty. If I prefer Pampers, but I have a coupon for $3.00 off  Huggies, you better believe Huggies will be on my baby’s bottom.

Check your local favorite stores to see if they have store coupons available. You can double up your savings by using store coupons with manufacturer savings (most stores accept both types of coupons on one item). My two top picks for this are Target and Walgreens (their coupons can be found in their weekly ad) and if the item is on sale to boot… BONUS!

Advertisements/Sales

I scour the ads. We have three local grocers in my area and I look at each ad weekly to see which store offers the items that I use at the best price. Occasionally, I’ll shop more than one store, if the prices are right. Though these are a good gauge, you may find in- store specials that are not advertised, as well. Always be on the look out.

Special Offers

Some stores offer special deals such as double coupons, rewards and  loyalty programs. These are definitely worth carrying around an extra key chain for discounts!  We don’t have any of those in our area, but we do have a store that gives $10 off on most Thursdays when you purchase $50. It’s silly not to use these- FREE MONEY!

Meal Plan/Lists

I do not make an exact meal plan, per se. Instead, I roughly plan out 7- 10 meals that can be made with certain items.

I’m always on the lookout for good recipes that my whole family will enjoy. Organizing Junkie is a great resource each Monday for new recipe ideas and the motivation to create them.

We do have meals that are people pleasers in my family and if you know what it’s like to feed kids, you know that those are invaluable and you keep them in your repertoire!  I make sure to buy ingredients for these on, at least, a bi-weekly basis.

I do make lists. My kids go through grapes, apples, and peanut butter like water, so those start my list. From there, I check my kitchen to see how I’m doing on staples to make pretty much anything in a pinch: chicken breast, celery, carrots, ground beef, milk, and pastas. I add what I need to the list and refer back to the ads to complete it.

$5 Dinners has wonderful templates that can help with organizing meal planning and shopping lists.

Name Brands

I don’t usually buy things at full price and rarely buy name brands. If I need cans of whole tomatoes, for example, I will simply buy the cheapest one on the shelf. I’ve found that, in most cases, store brands are just as good as name brands.

Stocking Up/Wholesale Warehouses

I only stock up if an item that we use regularly is at an unbelievable price. I don’t have a lot of room to store things so I mostly avoid Sam’s/Costco except for parties or large gatherings.

Miscellaneous

I buy meat, produce, frozen and prepackaged foods with the same set of rules. For the most part, I buy food only at the grocery store. I do not buy cleaning supplies, toiletries,  paper supplies, or pharmaceuticals there, as their prices are higher and the selection is limited. I save these for a monthly trip to Target, Walmart, a warehouse store, or even a drug store, if the advertised prices are appealing.

These are some of the ways I keep my grocery bill down. What are some of your secrets?

 

 

 

Daisy September 9, 2011 at 7:56 am

Menu planning is my biggest money-saver, as it helps keep me from buying things I don’t need and it ensures I’m going to use everything in my cart. Great tips!

Ashley September 9, 2011 at 8:27 am

I mentioned this on another post, but I shop at Aldi & other groceries that are more warehouse-y as they have lower prices due to lower overhead. I also shop for produce at smaller markets that tend to cater to a specific ethnicity, like an Asian or Hispanic market. Huge variety of inexpensive stuff plus the standards you find at Kroger, and lots of it is organic/local too. Just don’t biy dry goods there that stuff is usually overpriced.

tena September 9, 2011 at 9:43 am

Good point that I didn’t mention! I do often get produce from our local meat market (they also have other items)- it’s surprisingly cheaper.

Kristy September 9, 2011 at 9:58 am

One things I do is shop the ‘dented can’ store. We have one called Pop’s Bargain Outlet and as long as you check the packaging and expiration dates you can get some good deals. Name brand cereal a week past use by date for a buck!!!!

Also, a good idea to check your dollar stores. Not everything there is a bargain, but if you have a general idea of what the regular store is selling things for you can get some decent things. One thing I like about our dollar store is that it will often have ‘gourmet’ or ‘cultural’ items that I wouldn’t be able to buy at the grocery store!

danetra September 9, 2011 at 11:43 am

I love my binder and every coupon in it! I started couponing the beginning of the year ,yes before that show started. 1. I’m not a hoarder, I take the amount I need without clearing the shelves. 2. I don’t have a stockpile, I have supplies. I shop only if something is on sale and I have a coupon for it. I also look for instore coupons I can use with the product on top of the coupon. My husband does Analysis for work so I get the graphs at home to help budget.

Laine September 21, 2011 at 3:59 am

I’m not really big on the couponing. I always forget them. But I should go back to it. Mostly I do all of the things you mentioned, which seems to work fine for me. I grew up on generic and it didn’t kill me! I live in Upstate NY where we have Wegmans, and their brand is always just as good as the name brand, and for way cheaper. I also like Target brand. The thing I have noticed about store brands though, particularly Great Value, is there is high fructose corn syrup in EVERYTHING, so I’ve really stopped buying from WalMart, except for milk and creamer.
Thanks for this post!

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