Saving Money on Groceries

“Groceries and personal care” is one of the biggest categories on my budget.  Initially when I moved to my new home I randomly chose an amount I thought was reasonable. I haven’t come in under budget once so far this year! When I was talking about it with Alex she said, “But Mom, cooking is entertainment for you, so what are you spending your entertainment money on?” Food, it seems.

She’s right. I love to cook. I love to experiment. And I’m determined to keep a well-stocked fridge. Well, I have been until recently. The last time I scraped out half a container of pasta salad and then dumped three uneaten pork chops I realized I was still cooking as if I were feeding the multitudes. With just Alex and me most of the time, I needed to cut way back on portions. And since Malcolm doesn’t eat any of the food we eat – he’s a fruit, veggie and fish man – I needed to revamp my thinking.

First stop: The freezer. I decided not to buy a single thing more until I’d used up what was in my freezer. Freezer stocking was something I developed when I lived in the bush. Now that I’m in town, a nano-second away from the store, I can afford to stock up less. It was hard to walk past the chicken sale. It was hard to walk past the sale on steaks. I did it. Determined as I was to simplify my food management, I let the freezer run right down.(It needed a good wiping anyway.)  Then I gave in and bought three packs of ribs, which were very deeply discounted.

Next stop: My recipe box. One of the things I do is pre-cook on the weekends so there’s food in the fridge all week. Being away a couple of days at work means Alex must fend for herself. She’s perfectly capable, but I was feeling some mother-duty-crapola that had me prepping so she’d have three choices for every meal. Lord forbid we should run out of food. OMG! She, of course, only ate as much as she wanted, and I got frustrated with what was left over. My bad. Now I’m cooking in much smaller portions, with the idea of running out! This has me re-evaluating my recipes for the ones that give me smaller portions and more flexibility.

Third stop: My staples. If you think you always have to have cheddar cheese just in case, it’s a staple. I used to have a lot more staples than I’m working with now. I’ve trimmed right back on what I think I need to keep in inventory so it’s always handy.  I’m also buying in smaller quantities and it’s making seeing into the fridge much easier.

Final stop: My shopping list. I routinely keep a list on the fridge, adding whatever it is I’ve just opened the last of, and restocking when I go shopping. But this month I’ve decided to keep the restocking to a minimum. With the markets so close by, I don’t need a huge inventory any more. And I’m finding that with the summer I’m eating very differently: lighter food, more salads, stuff you pretty well have to buy fresh.  I’m not buying anything that’s not on my list now, and it’s helped me not react when I’m in the store.

They say you should eat before you go shopping because shopping hungry tempts you with everything that makes the saliva drip out of your mouth. Those peaches look so juicy. That bread smells so gooood. I find shopping with a limited amount of time available also helps. I have to dart in, grab what I need and get the hell out because I’m due somewhere else in ten.  It has stopped me browsing.

I’m half-way through a month that’s cost me about half as much as it used to. Hmm. This conscious shopping works! Imagine that.

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40 Responses to “Saving Money on Groceries”

  1. avatar Lynn C. Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Timely post. I’m clearing my frezer now in preparation for a trip. I also find that staple stocking becomes a huge waste in that I inevitably arrive home to find I already had three boxes of whole wheat pasta to go with the three I just got on sale 🙁

  2. I was tired of throwing out the wasted-gone bad (fresh) veggies that I had bought that didn’t seem to get from the fridge to the table because they ended up in the back of the fridge and because they weren’t seen – more were bought. I switched to buying bags of frozen veggies and now we don’t throw out the bad veggies and they last longer (and actually likely cheaper – b/c the bag is bigger than what you get in the fresh section) – and the frozen taste just as good as the fresh once they are cooked.

  3. avatar MadmommaP Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Funny thing about the freezer, we too have had to give ours a wipe as it was left open one warm summer evening. Most of the food was fine but i embarrassed myself with what was still in there and well beyond the freezer freshness date. We are wiped, defrosted (my, what a huge freezer we have) and are organized…first in, first out. Last week we lived off the food that needed to be cooked immediately as it was almost thawed…my carnivore was too thrilled for words. Mamma was happy because we spent nothing on groceries, used up all the fresh and culled the pantry and the fish on the bbq was fantastic.

  4. avatar psychsarah Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Funny how long it takes to adjust to new circumstances eh? My friend is living with us this year while she completes her residency, and it took me months to realize that I could not count on the same amount of leftovers for lunch as I did before, because there was a whole other person eating the food I was making-duh! Now that she’s only with us for another 6 weeks, I’m thinking about re-adjusting again once she heads home. I guess that’s life eh? Continual readjustment-I have to get used to that idea with budgeting too. I got so peeved the first time I had to re-jig our budget the first time after I had it all “figured out”. Now I realize that circumstances will always change, and I will have to learn and grow with them.

  5. Great post Gail!

    I think I’ve got my partner on bored with trying a meal plan! Crossing my fingers that a meal plan and shopping once will work for us!

  6. I, too, have to cut way back on purchases from now on. My son is leaving home next week and with him gone, there will be a limited need for food items anymore. I haven’t purchased any meat for a month or so in order to empty our refrigerator freezer before he leaves. I also started to separate the extras from the pantry for him to take and that helped to reduce my stock nicely but there are still some staples there which will either have to be given to the food bank or used (dependent on my mood).

    I have been working at tweaking my budget for the next year and am trying to reduce my food bill starting with this next month. l am hoping that with reduced purchases that I can keep my grocery bill well under one hundred dollars each week for the two of us. My husband has his likes and I have mine. Hopefully, we can manage with a lot less money expended.

    I’m also going to return a digital cable box (my son’s) and reduce my internet band width accessibility from high end to lite. No need to waste the money when no one will be using it. I should have done this when my first son left. He was using the majority of the band width available with his music industry arts program.

    Trim, trim, trim!

  7. avatar Dotty dot dot Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I’m with you Gail, I – Love – Food. I love the taste of it. I love the feel of it. I love the shape of it. But most of all, I love it’s potential!

    I plan a menu every week, so it makes grocery shopping a bit more bearable because it usually restricts me to buying only those items I will need for the following week. That said, sometimes something just catches my eye and makes its way to my shopping basket.

    Two weeks ago I bought some green beans that looked so fresh. One week ago I found them in my fridge, neglected, and not looking so fresh. I decided that it was either prep ’em, or perish! I also have lots of parsley growing on my balcony, in what I like to call my “herban garden”. So, I tried something new, and you know what? It worked!


    Green Beans with Walnut Pesto
    bundle of green beans
    walnut pieces
    garlic, chopped
    bunch of parsley, washed, trimmed, stems removed
    olive oil

    1. Toast walnuts in oven
    2. Blanch beans for one minute. Drain and immediately plunge beans into an ice bath
    3. Saute garlic in olive oil until golden. Set aside.
    4. Puree olive oil, parsley, walnuts, garlic in blender
    5. Toss beans in pesto. Serve at room temp.

  8. Just hubby & me, but I still buy lots of meat in bulk (better prices)….huge pkgs. of hamburger, ribs, chops, steaks, etc. I cook all the burger up with shrooms amd spices, then pack meal size portions in ziplock bags for freezing. Good for a quick sgetti or casserole night. I also seperate all the other meat into meal portions and ziplock them for freezing too. I watch for sales on meats as well. I too keep a list on my fridge and add things as I run out so I rarely buy frivolously (although something always catches my eye at the grocery store LOL) I do believe for 2 people we spend way too much on groc, but have yet to convince hubby to cut back on his portions

  9. Groceries are definitely my bane. With four of us in the house, one being an almost 15 year old who hasn’t been full in about two years, the money just flies out. I look at budgets of other folks for 2 adults and 2 kids and know it definitely does not come close to what I spend.I just never know what seems to be a reasonable amount to budget for four.

    I have said for years I need to get a menu plan going and plan before shopping yet that never seems to happen. It needs to though.

  10. avatar Kandfamily Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 11:29 am

    We’ve been using meal plans for about a year now and it has made a difference for what we spend. I’ve cut more by comparing unit cost–sometimes the “value pack” isn’t a value at all. It takes a bit of time at the store, but I’m getting faster at it. I can say that it has taken about a year to “get it”. The only thing I don’t like is that I no longer have the quick, prepared foods that were a crutch for a long time and sometimes I feel restricted–like we have no fun food. Its better now–plus then the fun food doesn’t end up on my butt!

  11. For the first time in my life I have a veggie garden!
    It is only 10ft x 4ft, wedged into the south facing side-yard of our suburban lot, but it is giving me so much JOY!
    I have a hard time not squealing and jumping up and down with glee everytime I see a pea pod, zucchini, or green bean! And I have tomatoes in a tub, strawberries in a bowl and herbs planted wherever they would fit…. That small space has given me more than I would have imagined in grocery savings, quality produce and personal acheivement.
    Like Gail, I really need to look deep into my very full freezer. No more meat purchases until it is emptier! (I always feel so safe and wealthy with a well-stocked pantry and full freezer and fridge.) I don’t know what I am stockpiling for….

  12. avatar Patricia Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    I retired 2 1/2 years ago and took over the shopping. At first it was torture and I always spent too much. Then eldest daughter moved out and the change from 3 to feed to 2 to feed. My solution was to create a spreadsheet containing all the foods that we normally eat. Now when it’s time to go to the store I sit down and tick the columns. I rarely stock up on extras as with only 2 most of the time to cook for and by paring down on the quantities cooked I am always on target. I also have a small notebook for my purse that I use to mark down totals of each trip to the store which I find helps to keep me on track. Although I get my pension once a month I withdraw cash twice a month which I find helps keep me from over spending. This year I decided after reviewing last years expenditures that every ‘pay day” I would set aside $20 from the grocery money and bank it to help absorb the extra food costs of Christmas this year. So far so good and extra costs for baking “Mom’s special Christmas treats, turkey, extra entertaining etc” are accumulating nicely in an account in fact based on last year’s numbers I have now reached the goal and will continue to add to this account to help cover the gifts. . Occasionally I will buy 2 instead of one item of something on sale( eg. frozen shrimp are on sale) or even splurge as I did this week and buy 6 packages of pasta because it was such a great deal. I only do this though if I have enough to cover the rest of the alloted amount for this pay period. I find that I have very little wastage now. I feed the cat and dog as well out of this money whereas before I would have to dip into the general finances for them.

  13. For me, the key is to menu plan – but not out of recipe book – from my cupboards! Then I make my grocery list based on the few ingredients I need to complete my menu. There’s ALWAYS lots of stuff in my cupboards that needs to be used up…

    For instance…

    This week I have TONS of frozen veggies in my freezer. As tempting as it was to go the farmer’s market and stock up on fresh organic veggies, I’m making a thai stirfry to use them up (also using up the package of rice noodles and thai sauce that I bought last Christmas).

    Oh, and that frozen pie crust? It’s going to become a spinach (I have a block of frozen) and feta quiche (also using up the abundance of eggs in my fridge before they go bad).

    Now to come up with an idea for the 2 boxes of cous cous … hmmmm…. That jar of marinated artichokes, the rest of that red onion I cut into last night, some fresh tomatoes that are going out soon, the rest of my feta… OH! And my basil plant out on the deck needs to be harvested… Voila! Cous Cous Salad. 🙂

    It’s amazing what you can make out of what you already have… I make enough to have it twice, and three meals is a week’s worth for our little vegetarian family of 3 (by the way, not buying meat is a HUGE money saver!).

    Basically I need some more milk, another package of feta, and I’m good to go for meals this week.

  14. My grocery bills are going up right now, but in my defense I have two little kids. We are eating more than we used to, and it’s only going to increase in the years ahead. So I’ve realized I have to cut myself some slack and re-frame my expectations.

    That said, I find grocery shopping to be pretty unpleasant with little ones in tow. I am definitely not lingering in the store. And I do a fair bit of stocking up, which for us pays off in the long run. Making my own jam might cost more than buying a single jar, but it costs half as much as buying the equivalent number of jars. So, I have a few things on my side.

    The thing that’s helped me the most is making a concerted effort to reduce waste. It’s similar to your approach, only I do still stock up my freezer full of food. I just try to make sure I’m not throwing out a lot of the stuff we buy. It seems to work well. If I have something that’s spoiling I try to use it. And I ask myself if I will really cook dinner with an exotic ingredient that’s caught my fancy (usually I won’t). By not throwing as much away I can make sure that my food money is at least well spent.

  15. avatar Colleen Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I find the easiest way to keep the grocery bill to a manageable amount is to leave my husband at home. 🙂 He’s much more of a carnivore and impulse buyer than I am.

    We also have a garden, which helps when it comes to fresh veggies. You’d be surprised how much you can grow in a 5′ x 20′ plot and a corner of rhubarb.

  16. I have had good luck with the Pantry software for my iPhone. It lets me add food as I buy it and subtract as I use it. That way my grocery list is always up to date. Plus there is a component that you install on your Mac that lets the family update the list from the kitchen computer. It also has a average price area for each item. I tend to put the sale price in here. That if I’m out and see something I use on sale I can check how many I have and if the sale price is actually a good deal.

    This way the whole family is responsible for the list in a fun way. So if DD uses the last yogurt cup, she can click “LOW” on the computer and it will automatically update the list on my phone. Or if DH at work wants a special request item for his lunch, he can update as he thinks of it.

    That said, friends of mine have been less impressed with the newest update. We’ll have to see…

    PS Colleen: I agree. I save money by not bringing or sending my husband. Although he does OK if I send a list and give him the “we have no money ” pep talk before he goes.

  17. I have incorporated several changes recently as I no longer have anyone living with me – I am basically on my own so my biggest worry is do I have anything to serve if I have family visit. Coming from a family of 12, I always cooked too much. Some of the changes I have made.
    . used up everything in my freezer, turned it off and saved electricity. I use the fridge freezer now.
    . when I had a bug infestation this spring, I decided that I am not really a baker anyway, why keep flour, sugar, etc., etc. in my cupboard and I work at a grocery store so I gave up and gave away my baking pans.
    . I dont’ drink fresh fruit juice anyway so i buy 100% juice in packages for when my grandchildren visit, frozen veggies, frozen dinners, ice cream, soups and canned pastas for unexpected grandchildren visits and when I have Sunday dinners, I buy the items I need on Saturday like fresh fruits and veggies and fresh meat. I stopped buying sauces but have other dried seasonings for my dishes. Oil and vinegar for salads. I am sure everyone agrees that the expiry dates on salad dressings seems to be short. I always used to have to throw out salad dressings – ones that I hadn’t even opened yet. Individual packages of yogurt and frozen dinners suit me fine. Put a few veggies with the frozen dinners and I think it is an okay meal. I try to look for low sodium and low carbs. I have to admit it is hard to find low sodium but frozen food companies are beginning to respond. Oh Gail, I can see you grimacing at my lifestyle! 🙂

  18. I completely agree with you Gail & have been implementing a similar philosophy towards our food purchases with great success. After raising a family, it has taken getting use to buying for two and minimizing waste.

    At the moment I’ve also put a complete moratorium on buying any makeup, shampoo, lipstick and toiletries in general until I’ve completely used up the ridiculous stockpile I’ve accumulated – from the small bottles and packages that come with a “gift with purchase” to larger items. I have promised myself that I’m not going to break down until it’s all gone after which I will buy on an as-required basis. I fully expect not to have to buy anything until some time next year!!

  19. Gail,

    How often do you grocery shop? Once weekly? Every evening as you need it? On your show, you urge people to only shop once weekly, and I’m curious what works for you. How specifically do you plan meals? Are you shopping based on your menu that you’ve prepared?



  20. avatar kristin Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    oddly enough, we spend less when we go more. we shop probably twice a week. with a list. we shop small, with ideas of the next couple of days meals. we found that if we planned for the whole week, the weeks plans always changed and the meal got cooked and never eaten or never cooked as plans changed etc. we don’t really have a regular schedule so it got to messy. we buy fresh produce and meat on sale. we are big freezer people but the rule is it must be 50% off or more to buy in bulk for the freezer. we use up everything. when the freezer is full, then we buy nothing till it’s empty. doesn’t matter how on sale is it if you can’t either eat it that night or have room in the freezer.

  21. Here are a few ways I manage my grocery bill
    – Use a food diary. I use this to not only plan my weekly meals but to watch what I eat. Imagine that-cutting the grocery bills and losing a few pounds!
    – No junk food. I’m opting to buy more healthy foods as opposed to crap. My philosophy is that if you don’t see it, you don’t eat it.
    – Buy only what you need for the week. This goes back to my first point about meal planning/using a food diary. I never worry about wasting food as everything in my fridge is gone by Saturday night. If there’s the odd time where there is something leftover, that’s when i get creative to find ways to cook/get rid of it.

  22. avatar Cynthia Says:
    July 20, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    I stock up on lunch add-ons:pudding, apple sauce, fruit cups granola bars, oatmeal and bread at walmart, less expensive than the grocery store. Probably save $20 a month by just walking down the street for this items instead of across the street to the grocery store.

  23. One of my favourite resources is a book called Fix, Freeze, Feast. It has some great recipes for buying meat in bulk, complete with marinades so that you can put them into the freezer and they are ready for the oven when the time comes. Hubby is a big fan of the recipes – to make the sauces takes less than 10 minutes, taste better than store bought, and to cook the meat is pretty effortless. 🙂 Highly recommend.

  24. […] Saving Money on Groceries « […]

  25. We only buy milk (two types – 2% for my little boy and skim for us. organic), bread (7 grains), cereal (always the same type), meat for one week (4 chicken packages), veggies and fruits. That’s it. Very focused. I stock rice, pasta, cereal and plain tomato sauce.

    When I feel energetic I shop in small places like India Town or in ethnic supermarkets – it’s cheaper.

    I try to get the recipes picked before I shop but that’s not always possible. For the past 2 years I’ve been writing my own cook book with all the recipes that my family enjoys so now I don’t feel so lost when I have to feed the family.. I’m still an anti-talent when it comes to cooking but perseverance pays off.

  26. […] Saving Money on Groceries « […]

  27. Here’s a few tricks I’ve learned over the years:
    1) Always meal plan, and try to do it around what is on sale.
    2) Always stick to your list. If you start deviating, you’ll spend more.
    3) Always leave the family at home. They will just start asking for more and more and more.
    4) Keep a price list so you know a fantastic sale when you see it (this helps with #1). There’s never a reason to pay full price on non-perishables. If you track for several months, you’ll see a pattern form around when items go on sale (about every 6 to 8 weeks, sometimes more frequently).
    5) Use coupons, but ONLY if you’ll consume the product and would be it even without the coupon. I trade with people all over the country and have many times walked in to stores to get things for free! I’ve met some wonderful people, and saved a ton while doing so.
    6) If you would full time like I do, cook BIG batches and freeze. For Christmas I received my foodsaver. It has saved me so much money, especially buying cheese and cutting into smaller portions and refrigerating.
    7) Use a crock pot. Not only can you cook when you’re at work, but you’ll save on cooling costs in the summer.
    8) Fruits and Veggies – sorry folks but I go shopping twice a week so I don’t over buy and have it spoil. The second trip is just for additional fruits and veggies. We do eat a ton of them so I wouldn’t be able to store them all anyway.
    9) Start a garden if you have room, and if not, try container gardening. You’d be amazed how much you can save on spinach alone!
    10) Don’t be shy to look at other places to shop. I was at one store on the weekend and my husband wanted bagels. To my amazement they were over $5.00. I knew I could get them at a grocery in the basement of the Bay for less than half that…so I held off and now he has his bagels. I am NOT paying that price for bread…….

    There’s lots of ways to save, but you do need to spend some time to get organized and good at it. Good luck, and don’t let the muchies get you!

  28. […] Saving Money on Groceries « […]

  29. A couple weeks ago I compared grocery prices of the most common food items my family eats at 4 different stores near my house. I compiled the results on a spreadsheet & then highlighted the cheapest price for each item. This is posted on my fridge. Now when the fliers arrive, I can go through them and pick out the “best deals” by comparing it to the spreadsheet. Every Saturday I sit down and plan a week’s worth of supper meals based around the flier sales and what I already have in the fridge or pantry. Then I go shopping once a week (with a very specific list) at a couple different stores and get everything I need. It seems to work for my family 🙂

  30. I am really having a hard time right now with groceries. Trying to make sure that there is enough at both our camper and at home during the summer months gets confusing. Like last Thursday I purchased a bunch of food to do cabobs got home to cook them and realized the wooden scewers were at the camper. Silly stuff like that where I have half a meal like pasta at the camper and sauce at home. So annoying…

  31. avatar kristin Says:
    July 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    my parents are at the cottage a lot in the summer and they keep an updated inventory list of what’s up there. my mom carries it in her purse, down to the list of spices.
    this has proven extremely helpful in not forgetting something and having to drive into town to the expensive store to replace it or by buying 2 at home and bringing one up, only to find you have 2 there already which is expensive and takes up a lot of space).

  32. avatar Cynthia Says:
    July 21, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    I didn’t see this in the post, but if the parent has medical issues that impairs their health and daily life, they should apply for the disability tax credit (DTC) ASAP. You need the form to be completed by a doctor. This can offset some medical costs associated with a disability or illness.

  33. avatar sunflowermel Says:
    July 22, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    We spend a lot of our income on food. We don’t entertain or spend a lot of money on entertainment so groceries are it. A few ways that we do save are: I shop at a local meat market where the meats at a fraction of the price of the grocery stores (so what if my chicken breasts are miscut) and a local produce market. We base our meal choices for the week on what we get on sale at the meat market. I purchase our dairy from Cost-co as they are cheaper then the grocery store. My last stop is the grocery store for canned goods, etc. I double check the flyers for the local gorcery stores for specials but other then that I stick to my plan. I only shop once a week except for produce. I only buy enough for a few days as they go to waste.
    We try to make enough of a meal as their are leftovers but remake them into something new as my other half doesn’t like to eat the same meal two days in a row:(
    Food will always be a struggle for us but as are other things in life, it is a work in progress:)
    We started

  34. avatar Samantha Says:
    July 23, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Two questions/points:

    1. When is a sale not really a sale?

    2. Have you every noticed the prices of certain items fluctuate, sometimes by up to $3.00 per item – up one week and down the next?

    A sale is not really a sale when a retailer increases the price of the item before advertising it as being “on sale”.

    I have caught this so many times with discount stores, big box grocery stores and my own local Co-op.

    An example of this occurred at a chain discount store that had a coupon for 50 cents off toothpaste. Then I went to the checkout counter and the toothpaste scanned in $1.00 more than the price that was on the shelf label. When I stopped the cashier and told her the price was wrong, she went to check. She returned and actually told me “we forgot to change the price”! Even with the sale coupon, they were making 50 cents more per item because they raised the price!

    Price fluctuations on groceries is like trying to follow the stock market some days. In a big box grocery store, I have seen items like a big bag of non-brand name marshmallows increase by $3.00/bag in one price increase. This is nonsense and not even “fuel surcharges due to fuel cost could justify this type of increase on one item.

    And, as quickly as the “regular” price is increased so dramatically, it is just as quickly lowered. Somewhere I read that this practice is called “consumer shock”. Increase a price and see if people continue to buy the item.

    Processed foods seem to represent the main focus of this type of price wrangling. Items like coffee, cocoa, canned meats/fish, canned soups, baking goods, condiments and so on.

    So, to combat these practices, I save money on groceries by noting the regular price on the items I use most often. There is no other way to ensure that it is a “good deal” or that it is a bonafide and not a rigged “sale”.

    I have also learned to walk away when I catch this type of pricing or sale. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t use stringent menu planning.

    Another way I save is clearance bin items – crackers, coffee being recent examples. “Best before” dates don’t mean not fit for consumption.

    Bulk foods are another big part of my pantry along with surplus in proper storage containers and storage conditions. And, I have found the bulk food stores and producers I deal with don’t engage in these types of practices.

  35. Hi Gail,
    I was wondering – I highly value proper nutrition (above entertainment, spending on clothes etc.) and I am currently spending $400 a week on groceries for my husband and I (ages 29 and 27). I love to buy healthy foods so our bill for the week usually is closer to $100 due to the high cost of veggies, fruits and lean meats/chicken and my hubby’s lunch items. I wanted to know what you think – is this too much? or reasonable enough? Our income is $2400 a month net. So it might seem like too much but again, proper nutrition is not only getting good food in our body but also improving our health, lifestyle, and deferring future medical costs.

    Please let me know what you think! Others opinions are also appreciated.



  36. Oh sure, post about a topic I love and actually know something about the week we go on vacation! 🙂

    Here’s what works for us (better late than never). Our grocery bill has fluctuated dramatically over the years. Way low when it was just hubby and I, not bad with the first child, crazy high with the second (his allergies meant we had to make some dietary changes, and shopping with TWO little kids in tow is WAY harder than with one. Kinda maxed out on insta-meals for a bit there too.) Now that the boys are older (7 and 4), I am back to doing what I did years ago, and our grocery bill is steadily coming down, from well over $1000/month to less than $650 (most recent).

    1 – shop from a list, and make the list from a meal plan. I only loosely meal plan–the next 5 or so meals, not “this is what will be served Tuesday at 6:00pm.”

    2 – know your prices. Use flyers and shop different stores if you have the time (I’m a stay-at-home-Mom, and consider this a way to contribute financially). Superstore has good prices in general, but sale prices at Safeway, Sobeys, etc. are usually cheaper. Superstore also fluctuates its prices regularly, and some items (specialty baby formula anyone?) were higher there than anywhere else, and substantially so (about $8/case). One thing I have found helpful is to record prices for our most commonly used items in a binder, so I know when something is truly a good deal. Just cuz it says “sale” or “BOGO” does not mean it is a good deal. And it gets confusing–those baked beans are 4 for $5…is that the good sale price? Nope–other places regularly put them on 5 for $4. 🙂

    3 – If you live in an urban area, cut back on “stocking the pantry” (or freezer)–things go on sale regularly, and food sitting in your house is money not sitting somewhere else, earning interest. Once you know your prices for your most commonly bought items you’ll know if something is a super-amazing deal, or just a regular sale price that you’ll see at another store next week. For our family of 4, I now buy 1 of something if I need it for a meal, and 2 if on sale. Occasionally 4 if it’s the cheapest-ever-price for a non-perishable item.

    4 – I have also found it helpful to restrict our shopping (ALL shopping, not just groceries) to 2 days per week. Watching TDDUP I noticed how many folks shopped almost every day, and while I didn’t consider us to be that way, our credit card statements told a different story! I now shop only Tuesdays (partly cuz Safeway and Sobey’s have 10% off 1st Tues of the month) and Saturdays. This is also having the effect of reducing the amount we are spending in other ways–no more popping in for 1 thing and buying 5, or stopping off for a little snack with cranky/hungry kids in tow ALMOST EVERY DAY. And we’re using less gas too, as this forces you to group and plan your errands. I find twice a week allows us to enjoy fresh fruits / veg and breads–nothing rotting or going stale here.

  37. Fiza–$400 a WEEK?? Or a month? If it’s a month, sounds more than reasonable to me–when you think about it, that’s 50/wk for each of you for food. Not too bad. If it’s a week, then I don’t know what to say–that seems like a LOT of food for one week!

  38. Fiza,
    $400/week is outrageous!!
    You can buy healthy and nutritious foods without spending that much.
    If you are buying “organic”, please research what the really means, it is not always fresher or healthier for us or the environment.
    Also, food supplements are expensive and if you eat properly, not needed. (ie protein powder,etc).
    I shop for a family of three (with varying buddies thrown in) for $120/week. I don’t buy prepared foods or get healthy gimmicks.
    I even resent having to buy bottled water for my fussy husband, as tap water is just fine for us.
    My friend is a huge fan of health food additives and protein supplements, etc, however it has not improved her family’s weight issues or health and it has encouraged them to rely on non-foods for their daily nutritional needs.

    Just my 2 cents worth…..

  39. We’re a family of 4, including an 8yr old and a 15yr old boy (read bottomless pit). I budgeted $225/week for 2009, but for the past month I’ve been attempting to cut it to $200. If I can prove this is sustainable and maintain this until year end I’ll use $200/wk on my spreadsheet when I set up the 2010 budget. This amount takes into consideration that we virtually never eat out, we all pack lunches and it includes all our personal care items. The one “junk” item we seem to buy regularly is corn chips and salsa. For a non-necessary item they really add up. We don’t buy any chips, pop, cookies etc. and this is our one treat and my son’s favourite after school snack. I haven’t proposed we cut it out yet as I need to keep reminding myself that I may soon cross the line and be the labelled as person who banned all fun and enjoyment. I have to remember not to see every food item as good or bad. Maybe I’ll just reclassify this as entertainment since it’s often consumed while watching a movie?

    I also support the clear out the stockpile suggestion. We’re so keen to take advantage of a deal that we forget to consider what our families can realistically consume before it expires or becomes freezer burnt. Twice a year we attempt to go a full month using up only meat from the freezer. Twice a year we do the same for the pantry items, although it doesn’t usually take a full month to get the canned goods and pasta under control. We stagger these 4 special project months so we only have 1 per quarter. It’s really is hard to walk past the sales but as some point you need to get busy using up that good deal you found months ago. Tonight we finally feasted on the enormous $5 package of ribs we picked up 4 months ago…. One less item in the freezer. Yay! Then hubby had to stop at another grocery store tonight to get something not in stock at our regular store this morning. He got looking around…and came home with a huge ham at $1.99/lb. Yes it’s a great deal. We’ll get many meals off of it, and the bone and meat scraps will make a giant stock pot of pea soup. He pointed out it can sit in the fridge until it’s due date of early November so it doesn’t have to go in the freezer while we’re trying to empty it. Guess he got me on a technicality.

  40. […] can cut back on a variable expenses category by investing a little time and effort into planning.  Save on your grocery money […]

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