Grocery Shopping

Grocery Shopping

As I wrote about Thursday, Tim and I just began a new family budget plan to help us continue working toward our savings goals.  One of those areas we saw room to save money was in our grocery shopping budget.  I always make a meal plan for two weeks at a time, and then make a grocery list to correlate with the meals.  However, the number of ingredients needed adds up quickly and some of the more elaborate meals can really make a dent in the budget.  When I look for recipes to add to the weekly meal plan, the ones that catch my eye first are those that aren’t just the quickest, but also are the ones with the least amount of ingredients.  To sum it up: the fewer ingredients needed the better.  We are also going to try and improve on the number of impulse buys we make.  I am sure many people can relate to these types of purchases.  My husband’s biggest struggle seems to be in the chips and snacks aisle, and my kryptonite is the health food aisle: almond flour, chia seeds, protein powder etc. can add up very quickly!  We hate to give up the things we love, so we are going to attempt to be more selective and try to only purchase what is on our grocery list.  There is no reason why these fun items can’t make the list, but they shouldn’t go in the cart unless they are written down.  Cutting down on impulse buys is key.

DSCN3084

I also only meal plan the dinners for two weeks, because my family’s breakfasts, snacks and lunches tend to be the usual staples, like:

Breakfasts: Oatmeal, Cereal, Eggs

Snacks: Fruit, Greek Yogurt and Cereal or Granola, Protein Shake, Peanut Butter, Almonds

Lunch: Sandwiches or Dinner Leftovers

Since we basically eat the same thing for these meal times over and over, all of the above ingredients typically make the grocery list every time we shop without even having to think twice.  Dinner though is always planned since that makes it easier for me to know exactly what I need to buy ingredient wise at the grocery store, allows me to mix-up the meals instead of always sticking to the same basics, and takes the guess work out of asking ‘What’s for dinner tonight?” 

 

For example, here is our dinner plan for this coming week:

Monday 03/04 – Ground turkey and marinara sauce, spaghetti for Tim / spaghetti squash for me, and broccoli

Tuesday 03/05 – Leftovers (Probably this recipe I made Saturday)

Wednesday 03/06 – Turkey, Swiss and apple quesadilla

Thursday 03/07 – Turkey sausage, kale and white bean soup

Friday 03/08 – Black Bean Soup

Saturday 03/09 – Leftovers / TBD

Sunday 03/10 – 3-Cheese Lasagna

 

After doing a quick inventory of what we had in our cupboards, refrigerator and freezer, I looked for the recipes that utilized many of the ingredients we already had purchased.  I then began to build our list of the items we needed and also took into account coupons we had and looked at the store’s weekly advertisement for additional sales.  After all was said and done, for two weeks worth of meals including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and drinks, our bill only came to $96.59 after storewide sales and coupons.  Here is what we purchased:

DSCN3086 Veggies: Baby Spinach, Baby Spring Mix, Tomatoes, Baby Carrots, Broccoli, Iceberg Lettuce, Butternut Squash, Kale and Collard Greens

DSCN3087 Fruit: Bananas, Oranges, Strawberries

DSCN3088

 Protein: Eggs, Egg Whites, Chicken Drumsticks, Split Chicken Breasts, Deli Sliced Turkey, Turkey Sausage

DSCN3089

Frozen: A mix of Steamfresh frozen veggies including items like Sweet Corn, Brussels sprouts, Green Beans and Edamame

DSCN3090 Dairy: Milk, Half & Half, Almond Milk, Sour Cream, Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, Greek Yogurt, Fresh Mozzarella, Deli Sliced Swiss Cheese, and Chobani

DSCN3092 Canned Goods/Miscellaneous: Peanut Butter, Orange Juice, Coffee, Wheat Bread, Chickpeas, Capers, and Cannellini Beans

 

When the groceries are all laid out, our trip seems pretty successful and includes quite a bit of items for roughly $100.  Here are some tricks that I find helps us to keep the final bill down:

  • Join the Rewards Program at your grocery store, (If one is offered).  This is how we save the majority of our money.  For example, we saved $23.00 yesterday just on store-wide savings by using our Kroger Plus Card.  We also saved another $4.00 using coupons that Kroger sends to us through the mail.  These are my favorite coupons to use since they are geared to the things we buy all the time like produce and items at the deli counter.
  • Store Brands are your Friends.  Don’t be afraid to buy store brand items, especially canned good and dairy products if you do not solely purchase organic.  This is a great way to save a ton of money and most of the time the items taste the same, or can even taste better.  Store brand items also seem to be on sale more often than the name brand versions.
  • Make a List.  Planning your meals and making a list is key.  If you go into the store without a plan, it will be difficult to pass on the items you don’t really need.  This also allows for the ability to cut down on wasting food, because you are more likely to eat everything purchased when each item has a particular purpose for a meal.
  • Look for Manager’s Specials.  They may be called something different in your grocery store, but these sales are awesome.  If you look in my veggies picture, you will see that the spinach and spring mix both have Manager’s Specials tags.  This does mean you will have to eat these items faster since they are nearing expiration, but these two items cost more than 50% less than the original price.  Besides, buying these items forces you to eat your veggies, so why not purchase the cheaper version when available?
  • Avoid Impulse Buys.  Enough said.  Impulse buys can easily cause your bill to rack up right before your eyes.  Be selective in your purchases and try to buy only what’s on your list as often as possible.
  • Shop the parameter of the store.  You have heard this before, but shopping the parameter of the store can save a lot of money just by avoiding those middle aisles.  The pre-packaged items are where the costs really add up, as opposed to fresh veggie, fruits, and dairy.
  • Shop Less.  We try to go only once every two weeks since it really forces us to eat what we have, which eliminates wasting food.  Plus the less you go the store, the less often you will be tempted with impulse buys and treats.

 

I hope today’s post provided some insight into how we grocery shop and how we plan to keep saving money every time we go.  My goal was to also show that it is possible to buy healthy foods on the cheap.  Eating light is not always more expensive, and can even be less so when not eating a diet filled with preservatives, artificial ingredients, and cheap fillers.  There is always room for splurges, but make those choices absolutely worth it and fill up the rest of the time on fresh fruits, veggies, and other healthier items.

 

Talk to Me!

  • What is your favorite grocery store?  Does your store offer a Rewards Program?
  • Do you meal plan and make a grocery list before shopping?
  • What are the staple items in your house that are purchased every time you go to the grocery?
  • What tricks and tips do you have for saving money at the grocery store?

Comments

  1. since I moved to CA Ive fallen in love with my SAFEWAY APP.
    everything is so so pricey here–I need my app coupons :-)

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      Oh I am sure! I haven’t been to California in a long time, but I definitely know all about its pricey reputation! I live in the midwest and am still coupon obsessed! ;)

  2. Ideally, I would love to shop at Whole Foods for everything, but that doesn’t work out so much with the budget. However, some items (like bulk foods) are cheaper there. I def go to a few different grocery stores to get the best price on items but I’m really bad about impulse buys!

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      I agree with you, I would absolutely love to shop at Whole Foods all the time! I shopped there a lot during college, (before I understood the value of a dollar lol), but now I like to go on special occasions!

  3. How do you make sure that things don’t go bad over a two week time span? My vegetables always start getting brown after sitting in the fridge for a week, and then I have to go buy more! Or do you just eat everything fast enough (we don’t)? I need tips :)!

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      Ha ha! Great question! Honestly, I start with eating the leafy greens first, followed by peppers and fruit like strawberries , but a lot of produce like squash, carrots, apples, oranges, and even broccoli seem to last longer. I try to plan my meals to eat the items more likely to go bad first. I love relying on steamfresh frozen veggies for the end of the second week when most of the fresh veggies have already been eaten up…hope that helps! :)

  4. Candis Thomas says:

    This was perfect timing Jana! Just as I was about to make my grocery list for tonight, your blog caught my eye! In the last few months, I have actually started splitting my shopping between Aldi’s and Kroger’s. It has taken some time to learn but I now know what is good to buy at one place vs. the other and it has significantly dropped our grocery bill! And I love saving $! Thanks for the other tips, I will have to see how they work out for me tonight!

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      Hey Candis! Thanks so much for commenting, it made me smile when I saw your name pop up! :) I actually split my grocery shopping trips up between Aldi and Kroger a lot too! My mom always shopped at Aldi when I was a kid, and it seems like each year the variety of products they offer gets better and better. What do you find is cheaper at Aldi as opposed to Kroger, or vice versa? Sounds like you have a great plan in place!

      • Candis Thomas says:

        Aww! Usually when I am on Facebook it is a quick on and off. However when I have the time I love clicking on your blog posts and enjoying a bit of reading! You have a fan here! :) I have found that most of the frozen items at Aldi’s (veggies, fruits, meats, etc.) are usually a bit cheaper, but also the canned goods and baking items. There are a few things that are staples in my house from Aldi’s but other things that I don’t skip out on from Kroger’s no matter the price difference!

        • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

          You are too sweet! So glad you like reading :) Next time I am at Aldi I am going to check out the products you suggested! Can’t wait to see how it affects my final bill! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Great tips! I love that you got all that food for under $100. Way to go!

    My favorite store is Trader Joe’s but we do get great deals at our local grocery store Dominicks. The biggest deal is on gas so it’s totally worth it to do our shopping there. And they have a rewards card so I’m always adding the deals to it when it comes via email.

    I would however like to save more but Kev and I are not coupon kind a people unless it’s a big savings. We like the $10 off of $100, things like that. But I do want to try to do better.

    It does not have to be expensive to eat healthy as you have shown here.

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      Thanks for commenting Angie! My bill is definitely not always under $100, but when it is, I sure feel happy with the results. Plus, if you look at the pictures, it is easy to see that I got quite a bit of food (healthy food I might add) for cheap! I love Trader Joe’s too, but don’t get over there as much as I would like. It would be nice if TJ’s or Whole Foods came out with a rewards system too, then I would probably make more trips to those stores!

  6. My favorite grocery store is Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but I rarely shop at those places because they’re too far away or too pricey. I typically will do our regular grocery shopping at our local Smith’s or WalMart. I’m a huge fan of meal planning! It eases my mind throughout the week and gives me one less thing to think about. It also makes grocery shopping a lot easier and allows us to stay on top of our budget. Some of our weekly staples are bread, eggs, milk, bananas, random fruits and veggies (depending what’s on sale), and yogurt.

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      Oh me too! If I had all the money in the world, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s would be my go-to stores, but right now I am quite pleased with the selection at my Kroger’s! I believe you have mentioned before that Smith’s is your version of my Kroger’s…? I love reading your meal plans each week and I agree with you, I love having one less thing to think about on a busy week night!

  7. I always meal plan and make a grocery list before heading to the store. If I don’t, I go way too crazy buying things that I do not really need!

    That cheese lasagna sounds fabulous! I cannot wait to hear how it turns out for you :).

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      I am the same way! I used to spend a lot more at the grocery store before I learned to meal plan. I will have to let you know how the lasagna turns out, hopefully as delicious as it looks in the picture! :)

  8. I wrote a post about how I budget for grocery shopping awhile back- check it out!

    http://www.livehalffullblog.com/2012/02/20/balling-on-a-budget/

  9. I shop at a local chain — Giant — and I use their rewards card! It’s great for in-store discounts and we also get gas rewards points which Chris always uses to fill up his truck! I’m with you on buying the store brand, BUT there have been some things — like ketchup, for example! — that the store brand just didn’t cut it for!

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      I love love rewards points at groceries and really can’t recommend them enough. Our grocery store, Kroger, has gas rewards points as well that we definitely take advantage of…every penny counts! Ha ha, and I agree with you, once I purchase off brand Fiber One Original and let’s just say it wasn’t the best thing I have ever eaten lol! But hey, you win some you lose some? :)

  10. Paula Thompson says:

    Having a plan is a much better idea to keep within your budget. You make a great point about buying food that is good for you doesn’t have to be expensive. Great plan and great spend at the grocery!!

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      Thank you! I should have thrown in an Aldi shout out too, but of course with a disclaimer about the bananas…! Ha! :)

  11. Love these tips! I did a post on this not too long ago too. Great minds think alike! ;) I also save by buying what is in season. That saves a ton!

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      Oh awesome! I will have to go back and read your post! And yes I agree… Great minds definitely think alike! :)

      I can’t wait for farmer’s markets to start opening up this spring! Nothing is better than local, in-season produce!

  12. My plan looks the same as yours…..I search through recipes and find ones that have few ingredients/stuff we already have, then I look in the cupboards to see what we have. Then I search through the ads and coupons….usually I go to two or three stores every Sunday. I make it a challenge!
    Recently, I started eating Paleo, and while most people think it’s so much more expensive, I no longer have to buy things like greek yogurt, almond milk, and crazy expensive flours and other foodie items. I focus on veggies, meat and fruit. This makes it so I always have to go grocery shopping every week, however, because the veggies go fast!

    • HappyWifeHealthyLife says:

      Hi Andrea! Thank you so much for your comment! I am happy to see that some of my tips, tricks and plans already resonate with you and your shopping habits… :)

      I love that you commented from a paleo point of view, it brings such a differing opinion to the post! I agree with you, dairy products can get expensive and I definitely know how much almond flour and what not can cost… an arm and a leg! I really appreciate you sharing your experience with a different diet and how it works for you. No matter what your nutrition plan looks like, I agree that a veggie + fruit focus is key… ;)

  13. Jennifer says:

    This exactly what I do!! Its a great system and has helped us waste so much less and save money. The planning gets tiresome but it’s worth it!

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