In my last menu post, I promised to write about what has helped us to cut our grocery bill each week.
(Please note: I feel very unqualified to write this post. I am not a coupon-er or one of those people who shops a multiples stores to get the best deals offered each week. I also don't buy in bulk because you usually have to shell out a large amount of money to save money and we just don't have a lot of money to lay down for bulk products. However, I have changed a few of my shopping habits and eating habits in the past few months and have saved some money.)
I used to shop at Walmart for groceries. While they do have "low every day prices!" (sorry, it just worked here...), they don't offer deals like Kroger does each week like 10 for $10, or special lower prices on produce or meat, the two things I REALLY want deals on. So, that being said, I have become a loyal Kroger customer. PLUS, if you regularly shop at Kroger, they send you some sweet coupons for $$$ off the products you buy the most, even coupons for things like free eggs, lunchmeat, or milk. :D
Plan before shopping
I used to plan my menus and then go shopping. This was not the best strategy for getting the best deals--what I had planned to eat wasn't necessarily what was on sale. So, I started checking kroger.com before I go shopping. I even signed up to get an email of the specials that my store is advertising for the week. That way, I can see that pork chops are on sale and beef is not, etc. For example, this week broccoli was 2 heads for $3 dollars, so I planned two meals with broccoli as a side dish. By doing this, I have been able to plan my meals around what is on sale.
Like I said before, I am not a big coupon person. I wish I was. Unfortunately, I have found that most coupons are for name brand products, and I try to buy the store brand as much as possible. Also, I make a lot of our food from scratch, so I am not as likely to use a coupon for a frozen or boxed meal.
However, some name brand food are just better, like cereal (store brand? Ick! Seriously, name brand just tastes better). Thankfully, I can find coupons for Kellogg or GM cereal pretty frequently. Sometimes they are in the cereal box; other times I print them online (couponmom.com) or load them on my Kroger card at kroger.com.
Snacky foods are really easy to throw into the cart. I try not to go shopping when I am hungry, but seriously, who does not get tempted to buy snacks when surrounded by food for over an hour?? I try to plan our snacks out before I go. Aaron and I (ok, more me) have a sweet tooth in the evening. My go-to evening snack is cake (ok, that was a big confession...but I LOVE cake). A cake mix is less than $2 (usually a brand or two is on sale so I usually get one for $1!) and a sheet cake with frosting (I usually make homemade--just tastes better IMO) will last a week at our house. Last week I bought mini chocolate chips to make banana chocolate chip muffins, and I still have ingredients to make some more this week.
I also usually buy one salty snack a week--one box of cheez-its, goldfish, microwave popcorn or something like that. These snacks usually last longer than a week but planning one snack a week insures that we won't run out OR that I won't load up when we already have some at home. The big thing, I guess, is to PLAN rather than impulse buy.
Another strategy to lower our grocery bills has been to go meatless or meat-less (less meat) once or twice a week. A few of our meatless meals have been breakfast for dinner, potato soup (more of a meat-less, since I use some bacon), pasta with salad and bread, or homemade pizza or calzones (a little bit of meat goes a LONG way). I frequently utilize breakfast sausage or bacon into our meals, as these meats are often on sale or cheaper than other meats.
I have changed my thinking about buying meat. I used to think about variety--I had to have a chicken, beef, pork, seafood etc each week (no wonder I was spending so much! Why did I think this way? WHY?). Now, I try to buy meats that will last for more than one meal. My unstated goal is to spend $5 or less per dinner on meat. Now this past week, I bought a pack of pork chops for over $8, BUT this has stretched over two dinners. I also bought a bag of frozen chicken breasts for $7ish dollars, but this will service about 3 dinners. A 2 pound bag of frozen shrimp for $9.50 will be split for two meals. So, instead of thinking of how much meat is per pound, I now try to think of how much I am spending per meal.
Seven minus One
I have also cut out making dinner once a week--this was another one of my must-do's as a "good wife." (I am cringing at this confession too...yes, I cooked a full, three course dinner every single night of the week...please don't hate me.) Now, on Sundays, I schedule in soup, sandwiches, or leftovers into our menu. This saves a lot of money and gives me a break (as well as makes me release my obsession over being a "perfect wife").
So, here is the breakdown:
I shop at Kroger where I take advantage of their weekly deals
I plan my menu by what is on sale/special deals
I plan for "impulse" buys and snacks
I use coupons when I can for the brands I like
I plan meatless or meat-less meals into our menus
I cut out one formal dinner a week
All of this has helped to keep our grocery bills within our $125 budget, and even UNDER budget (by $15-25) for the past few weeks.
I hope these tips help you!! Please comment and share your own thoughts or tips with me!
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