Amy Clark

Saving On Groceries

I just want to thank everyone for taking our grocery budget poll this week. It was really neat to compare what we were all spending each week on groceries. It seems that the majority of folks have been spending $51-100 each week on their groceries. The poll results can be viewed here

Our family currently spends around fifty bucks each week on groceries. There is myself, my husband, son (who is three) and our daughter (who is about five months). We have been eating on fifty bucks a week for the past three years or so and I just assumed that everyone around me spent about the same amount of money. When I would talk grocery budgets with my girlfriends though, I found that the majority of my friends were spending $400 or more a week. This just blew my mind! I am frugal to the core though and knew that the best way to keep my rear end home was to cut back where I could. Budgeting, for me, started with our grocery allowance.

I will share a few of my secrets on how we save money. For those of you who are as frugal as me, you will just be shaking your head and saying you already know all of this stuff. But not so fast, folks! Maybe there is something in my little tip list that you can get something from. Here are just a few of my tips for reducing your grocery budget and helping you make your wallet just a little bit fatter.

1.Meal planning is key to staying on track. You cannot possibly stay within budget unless you go in with a game plan and follow through with it. Can’t think of a meal to eat? Well look here, and here, and here, and here and then tell me if you see a few things that might help you with your menu planning.

2. Along with menu planning, we stretch our bucks to the max by incorporating a few budget-friendly meals into the mix. One night a week we have a breakfast for dinner night. Waffles, pancakes, French toast, oh my! There are so many great breakfast choices to choose from and most of them are extremely budget friendly. Having one night a week dedicated to breakfast can help cut back the grocery bill. Other budget-friendly fares are pizzas (homemade), pasta, hot soups & sandwiches, and many vegetarian meals.

3. If the recipe calls for a pound of meat, try and make it half a pound and see if you can tell a difference. By stretching your meat, you can now make two meals out of one pound of meat versus just one meal for the family. There is also a great tool that I use on Cheap Cooking for figuring the cost per serving on meat. This can also help you when trying to stretch the meat portion of your budget.

4. I only take cash & a calculator with me to the supermarket. Carrying around cash helps to keep me on a budget. When you have your debit card, there just seems to be an endless budget and if you go a teensy bit over…well, so what? You have the money, right? Well, if you are carrying cash and no plastic you absolutely have to stay within your budget constraints. This forces you to not go over and can help you look at your grocery cart in a whole new light. Suddenly those Twinkies aren’t really necessary, if it means you have a little extra money to put towards things you really need.

5. Avoid paper products and it will free up even more of your grocery money. The only paper products I do buy are toilet paper (can’t skimp on that one, in my opinion!) and paper napkins. The paper napkins are used for lunches & for breakfast. I do try and do cloth napkins in the evenings for dinner though just because it helps to stretch the packages of napkins that I do buy. Could I just do all cloth napkins? Sure, but I can’t keep up with laundry as it is so I choose not to be a martyr and just enjoy the paper once in awhile. Paper towels have been replaced with microfiber cloths (which can be purchased inexpensively in the automotive section of Sam’s, Walmart, or Target), old newspaper is used to wipe down my windows, paper plates have been replaced with cheap plastic plates purchased from Walmart, and paper cups were replaced with inexpensive plastic glasses (also purchased at Walmart). In just one area alone, I shaved off ten bucks or so off of my grocery money.

6. Make your own cleaners or purchase them inexpensively at the Dollar Tree. I love Method cleaners, which are sold at Target, but find the price tag a bit too steep. I noticed now that our local dollar store is carrying an off-brand of these cleaners at just a buck a pop. I purchase all of my cleaners there and save tons of money by not buying the name brand varieties at the supermarket.

7. If you have a breadmaker- use it! This is one of those great little inventions that can be every mom’s best friend. You can use this to make delicious breads & pizza dough for a fraction of the price of the bakery section of your grocery store.

8. Don’t waste your precious grocery money on lunch meat. I purchase a turkey (once every two weeks) and roast one of these for our lunch meat. All I do is put the turkey in a roasting pan, sprinkle a little seasoning on it (salt, pepper, & poultry seasoning), dump a can of chicken broth in the bottom of the roasting pan, and cook as directed. We eat half of the meat one week, and the other half goes into the freezer for the following week. Just double bag the meat and put half of a can of chicken broth in with the meat (to keep it moist) and pop it in the freezer. Once you have a turkey sandwich like this, all of that processed lunch meat won’t taste as good and you will never go back. Trust me! I have got all of my girlfriends roasting turkeys now!

9. Learn to make things that you normally buy. Go on AllRecipes and look up your favorite foods and make them at home. Things that I used to buy (lunch meat, granola bars, waffles, etc..) are now made at home for a fraction of the cost.

10. Hit the wholesale clubs, but be wary…just because it is bigger doesn’t make it a better price. Make sure to read my article for the best deals on everything in these shops.

11. Learn how to make a price book and carry it with you. We offer a free sheet that you can print out and keep in your purse to keep the prices of items right at your fingertips. Knowledge is power when grocery shopping.

12. Shop at Aldi or Save a Lot for the best deals in grocery shopping. I shop at Aldi for almost everything! Even shopping for your everyday basics there will shave a considerable amount off of your grocery budget.

13. Walmart price matches on groceries. Bring fliers with you and ask them to match the prices. They will even match Aldi prices with their Walmart Great Value brand products. You can get some great deals by picking the loss leaders and shopping at just one store.

14. Go where they take double coupons or find out if stores offer double coupon days. Some stores offer special discounts on certain days where you can get double or triple on coupons.
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r />15. Understand how to use your coupons and how you can combine them. For example, if you have a Target Coupon on Crest toothpaste, you can use that store coupon AND a Crest toothpaste coupon that you got in your paper. Another way you can use coupons is by putting them towards trial size items. For example, you have a coupon for $1.00 off of Ivory soap. Use your $1.00 Ivory coupon on a $0.80 bar of soap and put that $0.20 towards the rest of your groceries. Know where to print your coupons on the computer and use these too.

Thank you all for taking my poll and feel free to leave comments on ways you save your family money. I have realized that just when I *think* I know everything, I find that I have so much more to learn.

Published May 14, 2006 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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