A Strategy for
Battling Your Grocery Budget
My food bill continues to rise.
How about yours?
The food budget in our household is
the largest of our variable expenses. There are so many other kinds
of bills that I have no control over. This makes me want to work
even harder to save at the grocery. With rising grocery prices, your
resolve to save is probably not enough. You need a plan.
Break out your organizing skills and
use them to hunt for a bargain. To get the most bang for your buck,
you can no longer just go to the closest market and picking up
everything you need. It may be efficient but it might also be
Think of stores, outside your normal
grocery chains, which may offer better prices. This time of year,
you will find fresher and better priced produce at local farm stands
or farmer’s markets. In addition, we buy a ton of things with our
food money that we don’t eat, from hairspray to laundry detergent.
Many of those things are cheaper in dollar or discount stores.
Here are some tips to help organize
stick to one store. Choose two or more near-by stores. It
generally doesn’t pay to burn gas to drive across town to save
10 cents a pound on something.
Lay out the competing newspaper
ads or look at them at the store’s website. Grab a sheet of
paper. Make a list, by store, of the really great deals. Those
Buy one and get one free
Ten for $10 items.
Produce on sale that is also
Use the list you’ve made of sale
items from the newspaper ads to develop the meal ideas.
Concentrate on making meals out of the items featured on the
front and back cover of the advertising circular. Those featured
items, such as chicken quarters or watermelon, are the biggest
The more times you run into a
store, the more you spend. Make a menu and then shop for two
weeks of meals. My money saving ideas involve stopping at
several spots. It really won’t impact your schedule much when
you get a lot of groceries at one time. Then you won’t be
heading out for several weeks and will have more free time.
Avoid pre-packaged or already
prepared foods, even if the buy one-get one free types. This is
the time to break out your recipe collection and actually cook
In the warm weather, throw your
cooler in the car and get going. Freezer ice packs are handy to
have on hand as they won’t get your packages wet like melting
Make your first stop the
dollar-type or discount store. Stock up there on all those
non-grocery items…the shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels,
dishwasher soap and so forth. In addition, they have a selection
of dry goods and I can typically pick up cereal, cake mix and
canned goods for less money.
Find a bakery outlet. There’s been
one or more in every city I’ve lived in. Make it your next stop
for bread, cereal, rolls, buns and more. Mine has the cheapest
spices in town, just a $1 to $2 a jar, so pay attention to what
all they carry besides bread. Remember, bakery items freeze
Stop at the local farm stand for
produce. If you are not sure where to find one in your area,
contact your county extension agency.
Next, decide which is grocery
store that you feel has the best prices in general. Shop there
last. First, go to the other store (or two) and pick up the only
the sale items you selected for your meals. Toss the frozen/cold
items in your cooler. At the final store, grab their sale items
plus anything left on your grocery list.
For shopping ease, divide your
list into sections: fresh produce, personal hygiene items,
cleaning supplies, canned goods, and baked goods. I highlight
one store’s sale items in yellow and another store in orange.
When at the store:
buy items from any special in-store displays. That mound of
cookie boxes that looks like a good deal may not be a good deal.
When it is displayed off of the cookie aisle, you can’t compare
the name brand to the store brand. You can’t see if the bigger
or smaller package is a better buy. Stick to shopping from the
main aisles and not the displays.
Try to purchase extra of anything
you think is a really good deal, for example the kids’ favorite
cereal on a buy one-get one free special. I’ll admit that is
sometimes hard to buy extras on a budget. If you just purchase
extras of one or two sale items, it will help in the long run.
You will eventually have a well-stocked pantry purchased at sale
Try the store brands. They are
often as good as or better than more expensive national brands.
I’ve very few products, for example laundry soap and dishwasher
soap, where I feel the name brand is much better. Otherwise, I
buy store brands and pocket the savings.
Carry a calculator. Watch the
price per ounce. Larger isn’t always cheaper.
coupons BUT only when that item is already on your shopping
list. Do not shop based on coupons at hand. Instead, make your
grocery list and then see if you have coupons. Buying something
you don’t need just to use a 55 cent coupon isn’t saving
Clues for the
Watch the register when checking
out to make sure you are getting charged the correct price.
When at home:
Plan on spending a bit of time in
the kitchen after unpacking your groceries. Chopping your own
cauliflower and broccoli into bits and popping it in a fresh bag
is just half the price of buying the pre-cut, pre-packaged
stuff. Cutting up a big watermelon or honeydew is not only
healthier, but will go a lot further for snacking that the money
spent on a bag of chips or pack of cookies.
Save on meats by doing a bit of
work at home as well. Sometimes, boneless, skinless chicken
breasts are on sale at the meat counter. However, they are not
as convenient as a bag of individually frozen breasts. You can
easily create your own individually frozen ones. Spray a rimmed
baking sheet with cooking spray to prevent the chicken from
freezing to the pan. Place the individual breasts on the sprayed
sheet. Place in the freezer. Set a timer for about two hours.
Return to the freezer and pop the now nearly-frozen chickens in
a zippered bag or air-tight plastic container. Read
Where’s the Beef?
Managing you most expensive grocery items.
Divide larger family packs of
chops, steaks or ground beef into portions suitable for your
household, wrap or bag and pop in the freezer.
Make a cake instead of buying
cookies. A box cake mix, on sale, is less that a $1. Add two
eggs and a bit of oil and you end up with a nice size pan of
treats. A pan of store-bought cookies or brownies would cost $5
or more for the same amount.
Most of all, consider this an
adventure rather than a chore. Every dollar you save is money you
can use in other ways. Consider those dollars your reward for an
organizing job well done.