Budget Savvy Diva’s Guide to Slashing Your Grocery Bill by 50% or More! (And a GIVEAWAY!!!)

Budget Savvy Diva’s Guide to Slashing Your Grocery Bill by 50% or More! by Sara Lundberg. SHOP SMART. SAVE BIG. EAT GREAT! Do you want to score the hottest bargains and best deals? It’s easier than you think! In this helpful pocket guide, Sara Lundberg, author of the super-saver website…

Layaway Plans are Back! Stores offering layaway service

Layaway plans are back for the consumer just in time for holiday shopping.  For those of you who missed this lovely store feature, layaway started during The Great Depression when people simply didn’t have the cash to make a purchase all at once.  Layaway started to phase out during the 1980’s and by the 1990’s with stores offering their own store credit cards – and making millions – allowing consumers to overspend, the cost of offering layaway simply became cement boots to retailers.  After all, you can’t make more money off of layaway, you can’t “count” the purchase until it is fully made for quarterly sales numbers and most of all…people tend to be more prudent in shopping.

What is layaway?  It’s putting money down on items at the store that are then saved for you in the storeroom allowing you to make payments over time.  Interest isn’t charged but some stores do charge a nominal layaway fee ($5).

With consumer credit and wallets tightening and holiday shopping around the corner, layaway looks to be a popular option.  Get the items you want now – ok, put on hold for you now – and pay in bits at the store until the balance is paid in-full.  Once paid in-full, you take the items home with you. 

Tips for buying on layaway:

  1. Get a copy of the store’s layaway policies and staple it to your receipt
  2. Make sure you understand the policies such as maximum time between payments / schedule of payments, late fee policies, refund and exchange policies, markdowns on sale prices, loss or damage of items while in the layaway room
  3. Be realistic in what you can afford over time and what you put on layaway
  4. Keep clear and accurate records of payments made (staple them to the original receipt and layaway policy statement signed) in case you have disputes later.
  5. When going to the store to make a payment use the direct in-out method.  Walk into the store and directly to the layaway counter to make the payment and then walk out and get back into your car.  Do not browse, sample, sniff, touch… in and out.  Once you are back in the car the chances of going back into the store to shop greatly decrease.

Don’t forget that until you payoff the items in layaway the store has your money and merchandise.  If the store goes out of business while you’re still paying you could be out both the cash and goods so only deal with reputable businesses.

Stores such as Walmart did away with layaway years ago but Kmart kept this feature of frugality.  Kmart, Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s have layaway plans.  If you know of other stores that have layaway service plans – let us know in the comment field!

Store Brands v. Name Brands? Reasons to Buy Generic Groceries

My mother always bought name brands.  Was it the taste?  No, she didn’t want the black-n-white generic cans and boxes in the cart.  What would people think?

Luckily, food manufacturers and marketers have become smarter and that part of my mother didn’t rub off on me.  And in these tough economic times, frugality rules!

Most people think the generic brands taste bad or are of low quality.   On the contrary, the ‘generic’ foods of today, smartly packaged as “store brands” are often times your favorite brands with a different label.  HUH??  Name brand companies compete for the lowest bid to get the store brand label.  From apple juice to grass-fed New Zealand lamb in the butcher case.  It optimizes their factory output and allows them to average out costs of ingredients.  It allows the food manufacturer to hedge their bets in a sense by playing both ends of the grocery shopper market.  

How can you tell?
Look at the label and list of ingredients.  If they are the same or near-same, give the store brand a try.  I’m at the point now that I forgot I used to buy the name brand on some items.  I simply couldn’t tell the difference in a taste test.

Generic Groceries to Buy
Staples such as rice, flour, sugar, salt, milk, applesauce, apple juice, frozen vegetables, frozen juices, vinegar and pull-ups for the toddler all make for great store brand or generic purchases.  Some items I just can’t leave the brand – Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, toilet paper, certain salad dressings… no generic substitutes that are comparable so far.  (Note: if you have children, do not try and swap out the Kraft Mac & Chew or you will forever be stuck with the generic on your shelf.. mine is going to the food bank).

How much can you save?
Plenty!  On average I’m finding by buying the store brand I can save 30% or more on my entire grocery bill.  This does not include store specials or coupons which also come in handy and can help with the grocery budget.  While this post is a few years old, it does a great job of showing the generic v. brand price on the grocery list.

Who’s buying generic?
These days it’s the same as asking “who’s going green?”  The answer – who isn’t?  Even the Wall Street Journal covered our changing habits in frugality at the check-out referencing a report out by Information Resources Inc. (IRI) titled  “Shopper in Crisis” citing

 41% of upper-income consumers reduced spending on nonessential groceries, and a fourth of these consumers said they gave up favorite brands over six months in 2008. Nearly one-third of high-income shoppers said they bought more private-label products during the second quarter, up from about 20% in the first quarter of this year.

So Today’s Budgeteers – what do you buy generic and what brands won’t you part with, even when it comes to your last dime?

How are you saving money and cutting costs?

Chances are if you’ve come across this article you are either a) looking for ways to lower your expenses or b) looking for MORE ways to lower your expenses. 

In good times and bad, the rationale of “if some is good, more must be better” rings true.  In times of big spending, consumers spent B-I-G.  In lean times, when we make cuts, we cut D-E-E-P.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s site, Home & Garden Editor Lynette Evans put a call out to residents asking “How to save money” in these rough economic times.  You can find the compiled list along with reader comments (including mine – give it a vote up!)

I wanted to toss out the same question to readers here and on Twitter – How are you saving money and cutting costs?  Post your best ideas from home & garden, credit/debt, groceries, utilities and more – we’ll take ‘em!

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.