Cutting Grocery Costs
Posted by Kristine | Filed under Kristine
I revised my budget recently and realized I was spending way too much money on food every week. Once again, it was time to make more changes! I knew there were ways out there to save money and get those checkout totals down. So I took a couple of books out of the library, read some blogs and online articles and got myself motivated to take on the task of saving money at the grocery store.
Doing your research and being prepared are KEY to saving money on food. Sure, I use coupons and ad-match but I wanted to see if there were other ways to save. I figured if I could make a plan to buy groceries every two weeks instead of every week and take advantage of sales during that time then I could cut the bill considerably. Doing some “batch” cooking would help too, but only as long as I wasn’t confining myself to the kitchen for an entire weekend!
Here are the steps I took for my first attempt at it:
1) I created a simple chart based on two weeks of meals with a space at the side for ingredients I needed to buy.
2) I made a separate list of meals that I knew my family enjoyed and I was comfortable making (I’m not a big fan of cooking or experimenting in the kitchen so basic recipes are a MUST). I based them on old favourites (soup and grilled cheese sandwiches) and some that vary. I stuck to recipes with simple, easy-to-find ingredients that wouldn’t blow the budget. I found a chili recipe online and, from a recipe binder at home, a multi-serving soup recipe that I could freeze.
3) I entered the meals into the chart. Breakfast and lunch were easy – we basically have the same thing every day with some variation in our “snacks” to keep things from getting boring. Weekends vary (pancakes and breakfast sandwiches) but I try to use what is in the cupboard or fridge first. Supper took a bit more planning and I had to take our hockey nights into consideration. But I was able to keep it simple and incorporate leftovers and frozen ingredients.
4) I listed the ingredients at the side of the chart and checked the cupboards and fridge at home – if I had it, I crossed it off so I didn’t have to buy it. If I was running low on an ingredient I put it on the list so I wouldn’t run out while cooking.
5) I gathered up flyers for that week and started circling what I could find. Almost half of what I needed was on sale – yippee! Another bonus was that most of the items were at the grocery store I always shop at. I went through the flyers for the “budget” stores first since they usually have the better sales and then checked the “higher-end” stores flyers for any items that I couldn’t find in the others. I did find some but not too many. Keep in mind that I don’t shop at the high-end stores unless I really need something specific. I know this may not work for everyone and that quality and freshness is compromised in some cases but I just can’t stand paying more and getting less!
6) I prepared my grocery list and noted the sale prices. I also noted if I had to go to another store for certain items. Then I could choose if I wanted to drive that extra distance or ad-match at a closer store if I had to go there anyways. This will change from week to week but once the habit is formed and I know what I am looking for, it will get easier.
7) Early Saturday morning, I got up, had my breakfast and coffee and hit the road! I ended up going to 2 different grocery stores as well as a bulk store for a few specifics. Once the shopping was done I came home and listed what I needed to cook that day. Luckily I only had one prior commitment to interrupt my cooking but it didn’t really slow me down.
8) I cooked a large pot of soup (half of which I froze), 2 batches of muffins, a loaf of bread, some oatmeal “protein bites” for snacks, and cut up a container full of fresh veggies. The next morning I made chili and cooked a pot of rice. These will last us for a couple of weeks. Then I went to my son’s hockey game – to relax!
Not all of our meals will be from scratch but most of them are. Some items like granola bars and pizza were bought pre-packaged. I also took advantage of some cereal-box savings: once a year or so, certain brands put a PIN on the inside of the box that you can enter online and have a coupon sent to you for a free food item. This particular week I had 2 coupons for free boxes of cereal that added up to almost $10 – not too bad since they will last us a couple of weeks! Overall, I spent about $200 for 2 weeks of groceries for three of us. Considering I was previously spending $160 for ONE week’s worth of groceries, I would say it was definitely worth the effort!
So now I have my chart on the fridge at home and check it each night to see what I have to take out of the freezer for the following night’s supper. It’s also a way to mentally prepare myself for what I have to get ready the next night. As I mentioned, I’m not a big fan of cooking – but I am definitely a big fan of saving money and making things easier for myself! If a couple days of hard work can give me that peace of mind for 2 weeks then I’m all for it!