10 Tips for Grocery Bill Savings

Here are 10 tips on how to save money on your grocery bill.

My quest to manage the weekly grocery budget continues and for the second week in a row I came in under $100.  Today’s bill was $80.18 after deducting $36.90 in store specials and coupons. Not bad for a family of six.  My grocery bill month-to-date is $178.41.

Here are some small but helpful tips that I’ve discovered along the way, both on my own and from others:

  1. Only go to the store once each week.  Small trips are expensive as you tend to be in for only one or two items but leave with five…three of which you probably wouldn’t have purchased in your weekly trip.  Plus you save on gas
  2. Make a list and divide into three categories exactly what is needed, what you are running low on and what you would like to get for future use if on sale.  I find the last one particularly helpful regarding spices, mixes and frozen items.
  3. Grab the store circular.  I’ve found bonus coupons in here and have saved as much as $10 on itmes that fit the above criteria
  4. Stick to your list.    I’ve become prudent to the point of unless it’s milk, bread or eggs, if it isn’t on sale I wait until it is.
  5. Tally your grocery bill as you shop.  This keeps you on track and familiar with prices over time.  You become a better shopper, specifically if your shopping involved more than one store.  It also helps you catch errors at the checkout.  Note – don’t be afraid to tell the cashier when the computer has the wrong price.  In many states, the law is the price posted on the shelf must be honored at checkout.
  6. Try store brands.  Many store brand items come from the same factories as name-brand items, they’re just packaged with a different label.  There are some items you may not want to switch for personal tastes, but give the store brands a whirl every so often and you may be pleasantly surprised.  Store brands can save you up to 50%
  7. Shop by the ounce.   Get your math skills out and shop by the ounce.  Often buying the larger size isn’t necessarily the best choice nor is the smaller bottle/size and cheaper price.  Look at the price and size (remember 1 lb = 16 oz.) and do the math.  Shopping by the ounce can provide significant savings at the checkout.
  8. Stock up!  There are certain items I know we consistently consume – chicken nuggets, peanut butter, frozen turkey burgers, etc.  As they go on sale – stock up!  Having a good stock of supplies in the freezer and pantry have allowed me to be under the $100 mark for the last two weeks.
  9. Rainchecks!  Don’t be shy about asking for a raincheck on sale items that are out of stock even if you didn’t need the item today.  Be sure and write down the name of the item, size (e.g. 28 oz. bag), price and sale price.  Ask the cashier or service desk for raincheck for future use.  I routinely do this on my “stock up” items.  Just because I didn’t need them today doesn’t mean I don’t want to save money the next time I have to buy.  Store rainchecks are typically good for 90 days.  It’s a free and easy coupon.  Today I scored a raincheck on a frozen food item worth $8.49. 
  10. Coupons  Who can forget coupons?  I’m not a coupon-clipper by nature but if you have a little time each week to scan and clip, it can take real dollars off of your weekly grocery bill.

What tips can you share? 

 

Grocery Challenge for August – Keeping it under $100 per week

My grocery challenge for August is to keep the weekly bill under $100 … or at least the average per week under $100.  It’s my monthly progression of personal budget improvement. 

  • In May I stopped putting groceries on my credit card and instead used the debit card
  • In June I shopped with a more critical and value-oriented eye when in the grocery store
  • In July I began tracking how much we spend on groceries each month

For those regular readers, you know that I’ve started shopping once per week rather than heading to the store for a handful of items numerous times each week.  That in and of itself has really helped with the grocery expenses.  My weekly spend has to support a household of six.

The grocery spend this morning after coupons and store savings ($50) came to $98.23.  I was able to stock-up on a few items for the pantry which was great.

August Grocery expense month-to-date (MTD) $98.23

Grocery Budget for the Week – How’d we do?

Following up on last week’s theme of Food Shopping & Menu Planning, here’s how we shook out. 

Total supermarket spend last week:  $128.98

There were a number of sale items last week on frozen foods, mainly for the kids that will tide us over for the next week. 

This morning I did the supermarket shopping for the coming week.  Because a number of the items purchased last week are still stocked in the freezer, my spend was only $79.21.  I’m not 100% confident it will get us through the entire week – but I’m going to try!

Unfortunately I didn’t have any coupons and had to rely completely on my store club-card  …which is better than nothing but not fantastic.   

Deals & Tips in the cart:

  • 10lb bag of potatoes for $4.99 (v. the 5lb bag for $2.99)
  • Whole chicken for roasting $.99/lb. so less than $5.00
  • Grapes $2.99 for 2lbs. v. $2.49/lb. sitting one display over
  • Hebrew National Hot Dogs 3/$8.00 (only brand my kids will eat… normally these are $5/pack)  Sadly, the sale price on these used to be 2/$5

Yesterday was the monthly Costco run totaling $202.49.  That will add another $50 to the weekly average.  If it wasn’t on the essential list, it wasn’t purchased.  Mostly this was cereal, juice, pasta, crackers, frozen foods.  This may stretch a little further, but we’ll see.

I have quite a bit of chicken so I’ll be looking for chicken recipes.  I’ll roast a chicken this evening and make another dish for later in the week.  I’m not sure I can four meals for four from one chicken like Almost Frugal does, but I can try!

Any tips or advice on how we could save more on our grocery bill?  Specifically, I’d love to save on fruits and veggies without having to drive an extreme distance.  I don’t think the local supermarket has the best deals, but I’m not convinced the farmer’s markets or other places will do much better.

Food Shopping & Menu Planning on a Budget

One of my goals this month is to track the family grocery bill.  Long gone are the days of a trip to Whole Foods (a.k.a. Whole Paycheck), Draegers, Paradise Markets or any of the specialty and upscale grocery stores on a whim to get ‘whatever’. 

Nope, we are back to basics and the fundamentals of filling bellies with economical and nutritious foods.  Who needs a 5-star restaurant when you can get 5-star cooking on a budget?  All the flavor without the guilt! 

So, how do you perform such a miraculous feat?  By learning from others…

There are two schools of thought on food shopping and meal planning.    Shop first-plan meals or plan meals-shop later. 

Simple Mom plans her meals first.  Check out her guide to simple menu planning.  She plans a week in advance, rotates recipes and is extremely organized.  She uses Google calendaring to automatically repeat recipes to help plan ahead.   What a great tip!

Kelly, over at Almost Frugal, plans her meals after she shops.  She shops fewer times but buys quantities of various staples such as pasta, rice and flour. 

I like both approaches and probably fall somewhere in between.  Since my kids are predictable on what they will eat, most of my meal planning is simple.  I’ve covered our breakfast routine, Kids’ Breakfast on a Budget, and lunch is the same day in an day out…much to my chagrin.  Dinner rotates between 4-5 dishes from mac & cheese, pasta & veggies to hot dogs.

The challenge is filling in the gaps for the adults in the house.   We don’t eat out and I love flavorful foods.  I keep a number of rubs, spices, marinades, oils and vinegars on hand for seasoning.  I stock the freezer with beef and chicken as it is on sale and supplement with seasonal fruits and veggies. Using different seasonings and cooking styles it’s not terribly difficult to overcome the sense of “chicken, again???”

Ideally I would like to hit the grocery store once per week.  I did my shopping for the week on Sunday for a grand total of $112.80.  I had a few coupons, but not many.  Chicken was on sale for $.99/pound and there were a number of other store specials.   I’ll likely have to hit the store again before Friday for more milk and bread.  I’m hoping to stay under $150 for the week.  We’ll see!

What’s your grocery bill for the week?  For how many people?  Do you plan meals first or shop first?

Why the 4th of July is the Budget-Friendly Holiday

The 4th of July is a great holiday because there’s no gift giving.  No cards or presents are expected.  Unlike Thanksgiving, a feast for the ages isn’t demanded.  

For kicks, here are my top reasons why the 4th of July is the top Budget-Friendly Holiday

  1. No cards or presents required
  2. Entertainment is free.  No charge for the parade or fireworks.  If you don’t want to spend money to drive to entertainment, watch parades and fireworks from around the country on TV or online
  3. Hourly workers (some) get time-and-a-half for working on a holiday
  4. No travel required
  5. Stock up on condiments and meats!  From Safeway, Target, Lucky, Walgreen and your local markets – condiments and meat can be had for ultra-low prices.  Check your weekly flyers for coupons on hot dogs, bratwurst, BBQ sauce, mustard and ketchup.  Buy extra meat and freeze it.

        hot dog coupon

Food-Shopping Tips – Ask the Cashier

If there’s anyone who knows the food business and how to save, it’s the people working in the store. The New York Times ran an article today, Food-Shopping Tips Direct from the Store Manager with some interesting insights. 

Specifically –

WHAT KIND OF GROCER DO YOU PATRONIZE? So this is what you have to ask yourself: If you are patronizing a grocer that doubles your coupons, discounts your gasoline or runs other expensive promotions, how exactly are they staying in business? Are they gouging you on the second most popular brand when the most popular one goes on sale? Do prices bounce around so frequently that it’s impossible to keep the baseline in your head?

Shoppers can play the discount game and win by shopping six different stores, buying only the sale items and products they have coupons for, buying in bulk and then cooking from the pantry and freezer. 

As much as I love the thrill of the hunt, with gas prices above $4.40 in my area,  stores out of my usual route, three kids, two dogs and a full-time job, it’s a trade-off between my time budget and my money budget.

So what are you to do?  Ask the cashier.

Unlike the store manager, the cashiers and people at the customer service desk are probably a bit closer to feeling the same pinch you and I are in.  Rising food and gas prices and the need to make paychecks go furhter.

The next time you are in the store, take a few extra minutes to visit the Customer Service Desk and talk with the cashier during checkout.  Explain that your personal budget is tightening and your looking for some advice on how to shop smarter.   My bet is that each person will shower you with empathy and advice that will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year.

On a recent trip to my local Safeway, I stopped off at the Customer Service Desk for a quick chat.  Janice, an employee for 12 years gave me a two tips on shopping smarter that have already paid off.

Grab the print circular at the entrance of the store.  I always thought these were junk touting what my card was already saving.  Not true!  The circular has additional specials and coupons.  I saved an additional $3.00 on a block of cheese that was on my list that day.

Raincheck!  Keep a pen and notepad handy.  When you see that an item you normally buy is on special and out of stock, write down the item, size and sale price.  While at the checkout, ask for a raincheck.  It’s a hand-written coupon for the item good for 90 days depending on the store. 

Even if it wasn’t on your list for today, it’s guaranteed savings for the next time you shop.   My husband used a raincheck this morning that I requested over the Memorial Day weekend.  At the time I had the raincheck written up for 4 packs of Hebrew National Hot Dogs, normally $4.99 each, on sale 2 for $5.00.  We didn’t need hot dogs, but the special had left the shelves empty.  We needed them this weekend and used our 2 for $5.00 to save $10.00 on the 4 packs.

Ask the cashier while at the checkout where they are finding the best deals both in and out of the store.   I’ve found better quality and less expensive places to buy meat and produce.  I’ve learned what to avoid in the store – “it’s always priced too high, even with the specials” and what’s always a bargain.