I mentioned recently in a post that we have massively decreased our grocery budget and weekly spending at the grocery store, and there have been a few people who have commented on/asked about this. A few people asked about specific meals that I plan and a few people asked about how we decreased our spending in general. If there is more interest in my meal plans (which are VERY simple and easy- I'm not into cooking... at all), let me know, and I'll do actual meal plans in an upcoming post. Otherwise, let's continue talking about how we reduced our spending at the grocery in general.
To self-disclose, while DH brings his lunch to work (which saves us roughly ~$50 a week), I still do buy my lunch the two days a week I work at the hospital. I try to get cheaper items, but it does add anywhere from $6-10 a week, depending on how hungry I am. I'm feeding three here right now with nursing while pregnant, okay? I'm allowed! ;)
Some of these things you might know about already, and you may do already, but on the off-chance you don't, I'll list everything that helps us save.
1. Go to only one store. So many people recommend comparison shopping at different stores, and trying to get the best price of one item at one store, and going to another store for other 'on sale' items. Really, though, to be successful with that advice you have to have the will of an iron man. Because no one walks into the grocery and only buys one item. I know I sure as heck don't buy only one thing, even when I only need one thing!
2. Meal plan. This has been almost the single biggest way to save money for us. Especially since DH and I are parents of a toddler who needs to eat real, healthy food now, we needed to take this step. It has been a little trial and error to start, but we now know how many meals we will get from each planned menu item, and then we figure out how many dinners/lunches that will cover. We try to plan for the whole week, minus a day or so, because there is always something that comes up, and I HATE wasting food. Like it is a huge pet peeve of mine.
(Side story- I am a terrible cook. I'll admit it. One time, I was making lasagna roll ups, and I forgot to buy tomatoes to add in. Being resourceful and crafty, I improvised and used a jar of salsa we had sitting around. I actually thought it didn't taste bad, until DH thought it was terrible, and I was eating salsa lasagna for the next week because DH refused to eat it and I refused to waste any of it...ugh. Okay, back to the useful information.)
3. Make a list, and stick to it! We not only plan out our meals, but also our snacks, drinks, little man's snacks, and any extras like the Clif Bars DH likes to eat after working out in the morning. That way, when we get to the store, we don't have any wiggle room to impulse buy. Well, no. That's a lie. We do typically give ourselves one item (of food or drink, $5 or so at max) each to 'splurge' on. We budget that in as well, and it helps to feel like we're buying a fun treat even while we are sticking to a tight budget.
4. Stop buying crap. You heard me! Or at least stop buying a lot of crap. Allow yourself that one item per week to splurge on. But really, you don't need ho-ho's, pop-tarts, gummy worms, an apple pie, and ice cream every time you go to the store. The crappy-for-you-food is ALWAYS more expensive, and just adds to your bill in bad ways.
5. Make your meals stretch. I have two primary ways to do this: by 'adding' to the meal and by freezing the meal. A favorite around here is taco night. I sometimes cut the cost on that by using black beans or other kinds of beans in place of meat. This is much cheaper, especially in the organic variety. However, after a day or two, it invariably always happens where we have no more taco shells and a ton of taco fillings left. Well, we stretch our tacos another night or so by making sure we have a bag of nacho chips around. Nacho chips on the bottom plus taco fillings on top? Mmmazing. And it gets our one taco dinner preparation to last us at the very least through two days of dinners and two days of lunches for our entire family. The second way I make meals stretch is by freezing part of what I make. This works really well for us to stretch a meal, because we're impulsive eaters. If it is there, we'll eat probably far more than a healthy portion size. If I put part of the meal away in the freezer before I even bring it to the table, there isn't that option to over eat, which makes our meals last longer and stretch further. Bonus? I have dinner ready to be defrosted on a night where I'm too tired to cook or have worked a really long day and don't have time.
6. Buy items that take a little bit of leg work. There are TONS of items that I recently realized I was completely overpaying for. As soon as I started actually looking at the prices on items I buy, I saw that there were better options. For example, cheese is crazy expensive, in my opinion, but if you look closely, blocks of cheese tend to be less expensive (*where I shop) than shredded cheese by weight, and there are actually less preservatives/additives in the block cheese than in the shredded. It takes a little bit more work getting out my shredder and shredding the cheese myself, but I think it's worth it, if you look at the cost over a year's time. We do the same thing with beans (by buying dry/unprepared) and oatmeal (by buying a whole carton of rolled oats instead of the individual packages). You have to do a little more work preparing the item or measuring it out, but it is SO much cheaper for just a little bit of work.
7. Find coupons that work for you and your family. So many coupon sites offer coupons that I find to be worthless, because I never buy any of the products discounted. However, there are a few sites I like. The first is grocerycouponcart.com. The reason I like this site is because it is easy. They send me an email every few days/week with new coupons, so I don't have to go anywhere to look. Also, we've talked about my love of Meijer's Mperks program, which can be found here. Check with your local grocery store, they may also offer discounts or programs like Meijer's. The reason I love it so much is that they also discount organic foods, fresh foods, or eco friendly products periodically, which really helps our family. Also, you can use Mperks on your smart phone, so I can actually clip coupons on the way to the store as DH drives, or check if I really did have an online coupon for that in the aisle. As mentioned in another post as well, I also shop CVS for personal care products once every few months. Just tonight, I was able to walk out with a liquid crystal deodorant for free because I had a $5 coupon for beauty products and that applied to the deodorant.
8. Drink more water and less of everything else. I can't even tell you how much we've saved by eliminating pop (or soda, as DH calls it!) out of our weekly grocery budget. Since I'm a speech pathologist, I am frequently recommending to almost all of my clients to watch/increase their water intake, as I work heavily in voice therapy. I practice what I preach at home. I drink probably 95% water, buying a container of lemonade or juice about once every few months. DH still has a propensity for drinking Crystal Light (don't get me started about all the bad ingredients in there, I know...) but even that costs less than buying pop or juice.
9. Find a store big enough to offer a store brand. I've mentioned before my love of Meijer's organic line of almost everything imaginable. Yes, the organic items are more expensive than Meijer's non-organic branded items, but they are often typically significantly less expensive than regular organic brands, and sometimes quite a bit less than non-organic name brands. We buy almost everything we can in Meijer's organic brand currently, and still stick to our low weekly food cost.
10. One last (and very random thing) that helps us save money and stick to a budget is when we go to the grocery store on a really busy day, like on a Sunday afternoon. I hate wading through tons of people, carts, restocking clerks, and chaos in the aisles. I've found that it drives me nuts to even wait at the deli counter with DH as he buys meat for his lunch sandwiches for work, so I speed around with little man in his sling, picking up one item here, one item there while DH waits. It really helps us to get out a lot faster, because we aren't spending time browsing each aisle, finding things we didn't need. I just want to get in, get out, and get done as quickly as we possibly can.
These are the main tips that have helped us to start saving quite a bit of money at the grocery, so I hope they help your family as well. What are some things you do to save money at the grocery? I'm always looking for new ideas/tips!
Also, one more thing tonight! I really appreciate all the positive feedback I've received on the blog recently, and just want to tell you all how much it means to me that you not only came and checked out the blog, but that you keep coming back. If you like it, please do me a favor and share the blog in your social media, on your facebook, on your twitter, or pin your favorite post to your pinterest boards. Word of mouth is the best way to grow, and I LOVE hearing all your comments that are helping me make the blog better every day!