There has been much discussion lately among my family and friends about the economy. In our circle, we have seen job loss, career change, salary cuts, and other circumstances that have caused many of us to take a long, hard look at what we spend and how we spend it. Whenever my husband and I start getting our paperwork together for our accountant in order to do our taxes, I start swilling Pepto-Bismol because when we are done, we see where every penny went for the year. Some of it literally makes me want to throw up. One of our huge money-suckers is the grocery store. With 2 growing kids, I was amazed at what we spent each year on food. I decided to do something about it, and my wallet has never been happier. Let me share my secrets:
- The first thing I did was start cutting coupons. It made me feel a little bit like a grandma on a fixed income, but I started noticing that a lot of coupons in the Sunday paper were for things I bought weekly. I only clip coupons for the things I already buy, but sometimes clip for things we may want to try sometime. Sharing coupons with family and friends is a great way to save even more! There are several great online coupon websites like Coupon Mom where you can print free coupons as well. If you think coupons are a waste of time, I beg you to watch just one episode of Extreme Couponing on TLC, then you can decide for yourself if it’s worth your time. And while you’re at it, don’t miss Toddlers and Tiaras. But I digress……
- Next, I started watching the sales. Here in Louisiana, our ads come out on Wednesdays and I have to say I’ve become a little obsessed. I try and plan my menu for the next week based on what’s on sale. I also look for items on sale that I can also use a coupon. By doing this, I’ve gotten brownie mixes for as low as a quarter, toothpaste for fifty cents, and shampoo and conditioner for free. While I am by no means to the level as seen on Extreme Couponing, it all adds up. I shop at a nationwide chain that price matches, so if an item is at a deep discount somewhere else, I can show them the ad and they will sell it to me for the lower price. By doing this, I haven’t paid full price for cereal, soft drinks, orange juice, and many other staples in a long time.
- Once I have my list, I stick to it. I completely stopped impulse purchases altogether, unless it is a sale I missed while looking at the ads. I also stock up on sale items or items I have coupons for, so it might cost me a little more on that shopping trip but it’s cheaper in the long run. For instance, last week a local store had whole chickens on sale for 68 cents a pound, so I got three chickens for about nine dollars. That’s cheep! (sorry, sorry….couldn’t resist) We’re roasting one tonight!
- Try store brands. I have a friend who uses almost all store brand items and we tease her to death about it (all in good fun, of course). I am somewhat of a brand snob when it comes to food, but I decided to try swapping 2-3 items a week for store brands just to see where it mattered and where it didn’t. Basics like butter, canned tomato sauce or paste, or items that are going into a recipe are usually unnoticeable when you’ve swapped and that will save you money. Other things, like cereal, ice cream, and bread I won’t bend on. It’s kind of like Parfums De Couer….if you like Giorgio you’ll love Primo! Except that Giorgio smells good and Primo makes you smell like a poodle that has just been groomed. I pay the higher price for what we want rather than something cheaper that will go to waste because no one will eat it.
- Embrace leftovers. I can still hear my mother telling us when we were little that throwing food away was a sin. If that’s true then I need to do some major repenting because before my grocery overhaul, we threw away a lot of food. The problem was, because I wasn’t watching what I was spending, I was over-buying. We would have five open boxes of cereal in the pantry, so they would all get stale before we finished them all. Now we have 2 open at a time and you know what? My kids are fine. They do better with less choices! Before, I never went to the store with a list or an idea of what we were eating for that week, so many times I came home with items I already had in the house. Once I discovered I had three spice jars of paprika I got better about checking the pantry, fridge, and freezer BEFORE I went to the store.
- I checked out E-Mealz. This website charges a small fee to send you weekly menu plans guaranteed so save you big bucks . They have varying plans to choose from and comprise their menus from a wide range of nationwide chains based on what’s on sale. I stuck with it for a bit and once I learned the ropes, I kind of trained myself on what to look for and how to shop. It’s a great resource for working parents who don’t have a lot of time to menu plan. You simply print out the grocery list and go to the store!
By doing this, I can happily report that my grocery bill has been cut IN HALF since July. It’s become like a game between my friend and I – who can spend less! We started doing this at the same time and I crack up at how much of our conversation revolves around what’s on sale and coupons. But really, having a partner in crime has been helpful and motivating. I still shop every week, and believe me, we are eating just fine! I am still cooking our favorites and my children haven’t been deprived of anything they love. I’m just shopping smarter. We’ve been inspired to save in other ways too, like repairing our own appliances with parts from PartSelect.com. And with the money I save, I can spend it on things that are really important, like electricity, water, and shoes. 😉
What do y’all do to try and save money on your grocery bill?
I’d love to hear some new ideas!