The Ultimate Guide To A Better Grocery Budget: 7 Strategies to Save (4 Week Series)

 

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So often people ask me how I really spend $100 a week or less on groceries for our family of 5, and goodness, I have to tell you it really (really) can be done. 

 

So, I decided this month to show you exactly what our family really buys (the good, the bad, and the ugly), so that you can see how we really make it work. Honestly, I don't have tons of time to clip coupons (and I have seen more and more processed food coupons pop up, which don't always work for our family), so this series will share how we do it without too much time clipping coupons.

 

I'm telling you what, the secret really is in the sale. 

 

Now, my friend Shannon rocks her coupon trips each week, so if you're looking for crazy savings they definitely can happen. But, if you're pressed for time and realistically that's not going to happen in your home, you can still (easily!) save big for your family.

 

I promise. 

 

Don't believe me? 

 

Here's my my exact process, step-by-step this week so that you can join along too! I know it may seem overwhelming at first, but I promise, you can do this. 

 

Ready?

 

Let's get started. 

Before Shopping . . .

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#1. Make a menu plan and grocery list. (I used Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan and grocery list this week and *LOVED* it. 

While I've always made a menu plan and grocery list, using Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan was new to me. But after one week I'm hooked and highly encourage you to try it out. (Her special sale ends tonight and is $10.50 for a 3 month subscription – hurry before it's gone if you think it will help!)

 

Normally I make my own menu plan which takes a solid 30-45 minutes, and I love that she did all the work for me. (Especially for $3.50 per month or $.87 per week – well worth $.87 to save myself 45 minutes of time!)

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I chose the Whole Foods Menu Plan because we're working on a healthier 2016, and the list was pretty simple to follow. (I loved that you got all three menu plan options though for one price!)

 

I did skip a meal that I knew our family wouldn't eat, but we have enough in the kitchen already to make up a meal or two (and my family could eat breakfast for dinner every single night, so I can always whip up something when I need to.)

 

Even if we really don't like the menus, I love that just by buying what's on her list I have a stocked pantry for 6 meals this week. The menu and recipes looked great, but if I choose to make something else I can easily search All Recipes Ingredient Search and find something else in a pinch.

 

If you aren't using All Recipes Ingredient Search when you need dinner done you have GOT to try it out. It saves dinner for our family at least once a week! 

#2. Shop your pantry.

Before heading to the store, I look over my menu plan & grocery list and determine what I already have in my fridge, freezer and pantry. I also take stock of what we're low on for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and household items for the week.

 

Since we were almost out of laundry detergent and conditioner I added those to my list this week, as well as milk, salad mix, fresh fruit, and chips for my husband to take to lunch. (Y'all, he loves his potato chips and absolutely will not pack a lunch if potato chips aren't there. ‘Nuf said.)

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At the Store

3. Shop two stores.

Folks, this is huge and I know may not work for everyone, but is well worth it for our family. I typically shop Kroger each week for major sales and loss leaders, but also make a trip to Fresh Thyme (or a similar store) for meat and produce at least every other week, saving our family a bundle.

 

If you have an Aldi, Fresh Thyme, Sprouts, or even possibly Trader Joe's in your area, I highly recommend a trip once a week (or at least every two weeks), to stock up on meat and produce. 

 

Their sale prices are significantly lower than anything I've seen at local grocery stores (unless your grocery store has a rockstar sale), and it's pretty easy to get in and out in a few minutes. I don't shop anything else at those stores at all (really, only produce and meat), but it saves a bundle and is well worth the extra trip at least every other week for our family!

 

(FYI – I don't typically buy meat at Aldi, because I have the option of Fresh Thyme. I've heard people say they've been very pleased with it, but I love my Fresh Thyme meat and poultry and you just can't beat the prices!)

 

4. Shop loss leaders.

I'll detail this week's store trips below, but this week when I shopped Fresh Thyme and Kroger I really watched for “loss leaders” – items that the stores put at such a good price you'll take the time to go to their store. 

 

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5. Don't be brand specific.

If you need a certain item for a meal this week, buy whichever brand is on sale at the best price per ounce. For example, Del Monte tomatoes were “on sale” for $1.25 this week, but the Kroger brand was just $.73.  From what I can tell, tomatoes are tomatoes (at least when you’re choosing between Kroger and Del Monte), and there’s no way my family will have any idea whether I use the Del Monte or Kroger brand in our recipes this week.

 

Now, there are some items which a certain brand really does seem better, but if you can give yourself a little freedom to try out the less expensive item, you might save quite a few pennies each week just for going with the sale item! And, if you really do love your Charmin or Quilted Northern (toilet paper seems to be one of those areas where people love their brands?)  watch Amazon or the drug stores for a really good deal.

 

Here's one other example ~ in this trip I needed laundry detergent. Tide was on sale for $4.99 for a small bottle, or the HUGE bottle of Purex with Oxi was $5.99. I've been pleased with Purex in the past and it was a MUCH better price per ounce, so well worth it to stock up while it's on sale! 

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6. Don't trust the grocery store to tell you the best deals.

The grocery stores (and any retailer, really), are notorious for posting signs screaming *SALE* out loud at you just about every look, however often times those sales aren’t really a fantastic price. If you know that boneless, skinless chicken breast priced at $1.99/lb. is a stock up price and that $3.49/lb. isn’t, you’ll be able to skip a not-so-good deal for a stock-up-price deal simply by waiting for a better sale. (And I promise good sales do come around, so when you can, wait for the best price!)

 

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Fresh Thyme had boneless, skinless chicken breast this week for $1.49 per pound. Clearly it was time for me to stock up! Unfortunately, I thought I was also getting a great stock up price on Organic salad mix, but Kroger actually had it for $.75 less per package. I'll be watching that a wee bit more closely in the future.

 

7. Watch for easy coupon & savings deals at your regular grocery store (in my case, Kroger.)

Even though we've got plenty of toothpaste, I knew Colgate was on sale and there was a $.50 off Kroger ecouponThat coupon ended up making it $.50 per tube, which is my stock up price so I grabbed a tube while I was there.

I also picked up orange juice even though we have a bottle in the fridge, because it was $1.49 after the Kroger Mega Sale which is a great price. And I was thrilled to score 2 bottles of Herbal Essences for $.50 each after the Kroger $3/2 Kroger ecoupon – all I had to do was load it to my phone while I shopped.

 

Just taking a few extra minutes to quickly watch for easy deals helped me stock up on things we'll need all month long.

 

***BONUS TIP.***

Each week there are basic groceries that we need, but we don't have to buy everything in the store. This week I picked up laundry detergent, conditioner, chicken and toothpaste because they were well within my stock up price.

 

Last month I stocked up on string cheese, peanut butter, cereal, oatmeal, bread and beef when they were on sale, so I won't likely need those this month. (Except bread ~ we have enough for this week but not tons, thankfully there are some rebates though for free bread right now!) 🙂

 

So each week I don't have to buy everything because I know my stock up prices well enough that I can stock up when I can easily get a deal ~ and it makes shopping so much easier! If you're completely new to menu planning and shopping based on the sales this may take a few weeks to get the hang of, but I promise it's so worth it.

 

WHEW. 

 

(Are you overwhelmed yet?) 🙂

 

Okay, so here's the low-down-nitty-gritty of how much I really spent at Fresh Thyme and Kroger . . . 

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Fresh Thyme

  • Bought 2.67 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast at $1.49/lb = $3.92
  • Bought 2.13 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast at $1.49/lb = $3.13
  • Bought 5 pounds red potatoes $1.99
  • Bought green onions $.49
  • Bought 3 pound bag green apples $3.99
  • Bought 3 yellow and orange bell peppers $.88 each = $2.64
  • Bought 4 containers strawberries 2/$3 = $6
  • Bought 2 containers organic salad blend 2/$5 (price was $1.88 at Kroger – I hate that!) 🙂
  • Bought 4.86 pounds bananas $.55/lb. = $2.67
  • TOTAL = $30.71, saved $23. 25

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Kroger

  • Bought 1 organic whole chicken $8.71 (this was $1.59/lb and a little more than I like to spend, but the best price I could find this week)
  • Kroger Tomatoes $.73
  • 1 1/2 dozen eggs $3.19
  • Kroger Cornmeal $1.97
  • Kroger Sausage $2.50
  • Kroger Pizza Sauce $1.39
  • Kroger Shredded Cheese $2.69
  • Celery $1.99
  • Tropicana $1.49 after Mega Sale
  • Fresh Broccoli $1.41
  • Colgate Toothpaste $1, used $.50/1 Kroger e coupon = $.50
  • Kroger Honey Mustard $1.29
  • 2 Herbal Essences Conditioner $1.49 after Mega Sale, used $3/2 Kroger e coupon = $.50
  • 1 Purex Laundry Detergent $4.99 after Mega Sale
  • 3 gallons Kroger milk $2.19
  • Kroger Half & Half $1.29
  • Mission Tortillas $1.79 (could have used $.50/1 Mission Tortilla coupon if I'd had it!)
  • Bought Lay's Chips (for my husband – sorry guys) $2.99 after Mega Sale
  • Bought 4 Armour Lunchables $1 each (keeping it real guys – my kids do some days take lunchables when we're in a hurry!)
  • TOTAL = $55.03 + $.70 in tax = $55.73, saved $19.84

 

TOTAL FOR BOTH TRIPS = $86.44

 

After getting home I realized I *may* need to run back to the store for extra fruit cups for lunches and eggs ~ I should have checked on those before I left. I'll probably swing by Aldi for those if I happen to be driving by, and should be able to stock up for less than $10, staying well under my $100 budget.

 

SUCCESS! 🙂 

 

It's been awhile since I've really tracked my grocery spending, so I was curious if I really still had $100 or less still in me. I am thrilled to see we can still easily stick to this budget (and could save even more if I took more time to coupon.) I'll be sharing our weekly trips this month so you can seehow it really works, and would love for you to join in!

 

If you have questions about how to really change your grocery budget, I would love for you to share those ~ honestly, I love sharing all kinds of deals here on Passionate Penny Pincher, but my number one place that I love teaching folks ways to save is on their grocery budgets. 

 

As I've said (a jillion?) times before, there is no other area in your family's finances that you can so easily control, so choosing to really change your grocery budget in 2016 really can transform your family's financial future. 

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Are you ready to join me? Let's get started! 🙂

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Looking for more ways to save on your grocery budget in 2016? Here you go:

Would you like FREE daily email updates of saving and an email sent out to you with more tips each week during this series? Go HERE to subscribe, and I'd love for you to leave a comment to share your thoughts on grocery shopping on a budget – I love hearing from you! 

 

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Comments

  1. love this……..& would love to see your actual menu but understand that that takes time 🙂 I have a ? we just got an Aldi about 35-40 min from us (YES we live in the country :)) & was wondering if it would be worth it for me to make an effort to try & go there every 2-3 weeks? I am in the city once a week to clean houses but its another 15-20 min away plus its after 4 pm when Im heading home, We are trying to decide if its worth it for me to make that run often or not as often, like just take another day & run there & other errands.

    • I think it might be worth it to go once every 3 weeks at least? The Fresh Thyme is about 20 minutes from us, and WELL worth it for us. I’d at least try it a few times and see what you think Karen – I love Aldi!

      (And the recipe and list I use is available through the link in the post – they do charge for it, but through tonight it’s just $10 for 3 months – such a great price!)

  2. Since moving to the south, I now shop 5 different store looking for the deals! (3 are within walking distance of each other, one is a bit further, and one is a few blocks away from my house). I shop the sales of each to see where I need to go for my groceries. I try to make my weekly menus based on what meat is on sale. My husband bought me the best cookbook for Christmas! It is put out by Americas Test Kitchen, and they have recipes that “normal” people would make. It has over 900 recipes, and most are ones I am looking forward trying!

  3. Do you shop at Fresh Thyme on Wednesday to take advantage of the double weekly ads? Also there is an app called Favado that helps compare prices of multiple stores. This includes coupons available.

  4. My question is how do you know if your getting the best deal? i here about stock up pricing and that you should buy in bulk but i am a bit confused. It seems to me I spend more or about the same every week even with coupons. I really need a class or serious help.

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