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I used to have a much smaller grocery budget. Those were the days when I had the time to coupon hardcore. I was also single, in college, childless and had a much higher eating out budget. These days, I am not single, I have one child, hardly ever eat out and don’t have time to coupon every day. I have to make my grocery budget stretch for 2 adults and one child. I am happy with where we are with our grocery budget but I know I could lower it more if we absolutely had to.
If you are wondering what the number actually is, it’s $300 total. I do not include household goods into my grocery budget. Those come out of my household budget. By household goods, I mean things like toilet paper, cleaners, laundry soap, medicine, ect. I recently had to up my budget from $250 to $300 due to my daughter having a yeast allergy. We know have to spend a lot more on certain food items than before. For example, pasta. I used to be able to find it for $.88 per box consistently. Now, I pay almost $3.00 per box for Quinoa pasta.
$300 is about $3.34 per person, per day or $1.12 per meal (assuming 3 meals per day and 30 days in a month). $1.12 per meal doesn’t seem like that much but it’s very doable. We don’t eat beans and rice for every meal. I don’t use a giant stack of coupons every day. And, I don’t have a garden or animals to offset the cost. What I do is plan. That’s really what saving money is all about. Planning ahead.
I used to only shop once a month. It was just easier for me as I lived a good half an hour away from any grocery store. Now, I live much closer and shop once a week. This means I can purchase the loss-leaders every week. I don’t purchase much else at regular grocery stores than the specific products that are on sale. Each week, I look through the sale ads for each local grocery store and plan my list based on that.
I don’t buy all of my food in bulk. I don’t belong to any warehouse clubs either. Don’t thing that you have to join a club to save money on bulk purchases. I mainly purchase my meat in bulk. I have a local store that offers discounts on bulk chicken and beef purchases. This week, I purchased a 40-pound box of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $42.00 and a 40-pound box of chicken leg quarters for $20! By purchasing the 40-pound boxes of chicken, I saved a lot more than I would have just purchasing them one pack at a time.
I’ve found that many areas have stores that offer bulk meat discounts. If you don’t know of one around you, try asking in a community online group or your friends. Chances are, someone knows where the best meat deals are. If you still can’t find one, talk to the managers at different stores and/or meat markets and ask if you can receive a discount on bulk meat purchases. This usually works better with local businesses rather than large chain stores. It might take a little bit of searching to find the best places to purchase meat in bulk but once you do, it will all be worth it.
I don’t only buy my meat in bulk with advertised bulk sales. If I find a really awesome deal on meat in individual packs, I purchase several packs at a time. A local grocery store frequently offers buy one get two free deals on pork. I wait to buy pork until these sales and then I buy enough to last until the next sale.
I will also use Amazon subscribe and size to purchase bulk non-perishable items. Just this past week, I was able to order individually packaged chips for cheaper than I would have bought the big bags!
Keeping a Pricebook
A pricebook is simply a list of products with their average cost from store to store. I keep my pricebook in my bullet journal but any notebook or electronic note app would work. I don’t list every single product I’ve ever purchased. I only keep track of the items I purchase constantly. It does take a few weeks to know what the best price is, so have a little bit of patience with yourself. Stay consistent and write down the cost of products from week to week and soon you will be able to see the lowest amount. I’m going to go back to my pasta example. $0.88 was the lowest amount I knew I could purchase pasta for without using coupons. When I saw it for that price, I would buy enough to last my family a few months. By doing this, I never had to pay full price. This way of shopping can be applied to any product.
I am a wanna-be minimalist. I hate clutter and am constantly purging items from my house. I do have exceptions to this. I don’t see my stockpile as clutter. I see it as a money pile. It does help that I keep my stockpile out of sight. No, I don’t have walls of toilet paper stacked all over the house. Although that would be nice, toilet paper is expensive! When I say stockpile, I simply mean a pantry and freezer that is full of products purchased at sale prices. You don’t have to go overboard. Most sales happen every month or every other month.
Utilizing Reward Programs & Coupons
I am loving reward programs. I don’t have a capable device to use Ibotta but I do have a few others that I can use. I mainly use the reward programs for their produce offers. It’s not much, usually only a dollar or so a week, but it adds up! The two I’ve listed below are not referral links. I don’t believe either one of them offers referral credits. I’ve chosen these two based on the offers they list and ease of use. There are many other reward programs out there but I don’t use them, don’t have a capable device or don’t like how their system is. I’m basing this on simplicity, and the following two win that award.
Checkout 51 is easy to use. They have an app but I use the website. I check their offers once a week when I’m making my grocery list. When I get home from the store(s), I scan the receipt immediately so it doesn’t get lost. I upload it to the website when I get on the computer that night or next day. A check is sent once you get $20 in the account. Only selected stores are able to be used with Checkout 51, mainly larger chain stores. They do allow more than one account per household but each receipt can only be claimed once.
With Saving Star, the offers are linked to my store rewards card. Once a week, I select the offers I want. The rewards are automatically deposited once Saving Star processes it. It usually takes a couple days. You can also upload a receipt from their selected stores that don’t have store reward cards
While I don’t have the time to think of elaborate coupon scenarios at this moment of my life, I do use coupons when I can. I quickly scan a few coupon blogs to see any good match-ups and pull the coupons out from my inserts or print the ones I need. I pretty much only use coupons this way now. Also, many grocery stores offer e-coupons now. I add them my store card and they are deducted automatically. This saves me from having to remember a bunch of paper coupons.
Using My Freezer
I use my freezer a lot. I freeze leftovers if I know we won’t use them up before they go bad. When I find a really good deal on product, I cut a bunch up and freeze it for later use. I prepare some meals ahead of time and freeze them for busy nights. We also keep shredded chicken and stock in the freezer for easy meal preparation. Always make sure you label everything and take some time each month to inventory what you’ve got. You don’t want to have a bag of freezer burnt mystery meat a year from now! That sure won’t save you any money.
I am a planner. I have to plan everything out or I feel frazzled. Each week, I plan a list of meals. I also make sure we have enough food to prepare a few different breakfast options and lunch options. I don’t plan snacks, they are whatever happens to be on sale or what we have stockpiled. I do plan for leftovers. I have two set days each week that are leftovers night. This helps me to cut down on food waste and it also means less cooking. Meal planning allows me to plan meals based on what I already have and what is on sale. This saves a ton of money. There have been several times that my meal plan had to be switched up due to an unexpected event. This is when freezer meals come in handy. Always have backup options available to prevent emergency pizza runs. Note: there is nothing wrong with planning a Pizza night occasionally. I fully support that. Just budget for it and plan ahead of time.
I understand that it’s difficult to start bulk purchasing or even just shopping sales in the beginning. Allow yourself a few weeks or months to get into the swing of things. If you can, allow yourself an extra $10 or $20 to purchase stockpile/bulk purchases and then lower your budget once you have enough staples that you can only shop sales. Or, if your budget doesn’t allow for that, plan cheaper meals to free up some extra cash to bulk purchase with. Focus on one or two items at a time. Do not try to build a stock of every kind of meat, pasta sauce, canned food, cheese or snack foods at one time. It takes time. If I find a really amazing sale on meat that I just can’t pass up, I will “borrow” money from another part of my budget. I do not recommend you borrow from bill money. Rather, take it from the portion of your budget that you plan for entertainment, “blow” money, household expenses or clothing. I rarely have to do this anymore now that I’ve gotten into the swing of things again. We did have a really rough financial patch last year that wiped most of our food stockpile and caused a lot of credit card debt. It took me a good 6 months to build it back to where I’m happy with it.
Are you able to stick to your grocery budget? What is your number one grocery shopping tip?