Saving at the Grocery Store... | Little House of Four: Saving at the Grocery Store...

Friday, May 9, 2014

Saving at the Grocery Store...

I'm straying away from the normal house projects and organizing posts to focus on something else that is important to me, saving money.  My husband and I have been saving for a garage, kitchen and mudroom addition, so we try to pinch our pennies wherever possible.

For years, I have clipped coupons, meal planned and did what I could to save money on our groceries.  With food prices constantly rising and our family growing from two to four it's always been important to keep our grocery budget as low as possible while still eating healthy.  A few of you may know that last August I cut our grocery and household budget drastically to see if we could actually live on much less.  Thankfully, we had a garden that we were able to get plenty of vegetables from.  I made pizza sauce and salsa from tomatoes and we ate lots of squash, peppers and cucumbers from the garden.

It may be trivial, but one of the hardest things to give up during August was my flavored coffee creamer.  In August I didn't buy creamer because the $2.00 that it cost had to buy something that we absolutely needed, like milk.  I also switched to a lot of store brand products.  I found that most of the time I couldn't tell the difference between name brand and store brand.  Needless to say, I learned a lot in August and thought I would share a few tips that have worked well for me in hopes that you all may find them useful.

I went to an all cash system about a year ago and have never looked back.  I take cash out each week for gas, groceries, animals, weekly money and gifts.  I use what's in the "envelope" and when it's gone it's gone.  Our grocery budget is $140.00 a week for our family of four.  That includes toilet paper and paper towels.   We rarely eat out, so this includes breakfast, lunch and dinner for seven days a week.  If I have money left over from one week it gets carried over to the next week.  This is by far the most helpful tip.  You can't spend money that you don't have, so it forces you to think twice about what goes in your cart.

This is the only way I am sure to stick within our $140.00 weekly budget.   I make a list each week and include the price of each item.  Since I shop at the same store I've learned how much things cost.  By making a list and sticking to it I know exactly what I am spending and that I'm staying within our $140.00 budget.

I take time in the evenings while I'm watching TV to go through the circular and plan my meals.  If I notice something is on sale and I also have coupons, I stock up. I don't eat beef or pork, so if there are no meats or fish on sale that week then I plan meals around what's in my freezer.   If you get in the mindset of planning meals around what's on sale and not what you want to eat, you will start saving money.

Yes, I clip coupons but I would not say I take it to an extreme.  I try to only clip coupons for items we will actually use.  If you get an item super cheap, but never use it than it's a waste of money.  There are always coupons for cleaning products, yogurt, coffee creamer and cereal, therefore, I do not buy these items unless I have a coupon. A lot of coupons are for pre-packaged items that I don't buy a lot of, but occasionally I find coupons for my daughter's lactose milk, but that is rare.

I primarily shop at the same store every week so I have a good idea of when an item is at it's lowest price.  When chicken breast is on sale for $1.99 a pound then I stock up and freeze what we don't eat that week.  That way, when I want Chicken I don't have to pay $3.99 a pound when it's not on sale. When I'm freezing chicken breast I lay them on a cookie sheet lined with freezer paper and freeze them until fully frozen.  Once frozen, I put them in a large freezer bag.  This way they are much easier to thaw and you can take out what you need without trying to thaw a whole clump of chicken.  I also stock up on pantry staples when they are cheap.  I know around memorial weekend and fourth of July condiments usually go on sale.  A lot of times you will find coupons for these items as well.  I usually don't pay more than $0.99- $1.99 for Hellman's mayonnaise.  We like the Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, so when I can get it for $0.50 I stock up.  Around Thanksgiving you can get baking items and canned goods cheap.  Around this time is when I stock up on cream of chicken soup, which I use in a lot of recipes.  If you buy enough when they are on sale you shouldn't have to buy them again until the next sale.  Just remember, don't buy more than you will use before the items expire.  That just defeats the purpose.

I love name brands for many items, but there are a ton of items that the store brand is just as good.  I usually buy store brand paper towels, toilet paper, baking supplies, milk, butter, apple sauce and rolled oats.  I will not skimp on the name brand when it comes to yogurt, bread and crackers.

Every week I buy items that can be used for multiple side dishes or meals.  If broccoli is on sale I'll buy enough to have broccoli for dinner and make broccoli salad for lunches.  Each week I buy one or two packages of Romaine lettuce.  We use it for salads, sandwiches, tacos, etc.  Carrots are used in salads, as a snack and in stir fry.  The kids like to make little pizzas so I either buy flour tortilla's or pita bread.  Both can be used for pizza and either sandwiches or fajitas.   If we make tacos one night for dinner then we'll make taco salads another night.  I buy turkey bacon which I use in potato salad, broccoli salad, on burgers, for breakfast and other dishes.  I buy cilantro each week to make avocado salsa, so I usually make at least one other dish during the week that contains cilantro.  If I buy chicken I sometimes make bourbon chicken or some other shredded chicken in the crock pot.  We'll eat it for dinner one night and then use it for sandwiches and other meals throughout the week.

My daughter likes granola bars, so I will buy the items and make them at home.  They're not only cheaper, but also healthier.  I also use the granola in my yogurt in the morning for breakfast.  I buy tea bags and brew my own tea instead of buying pre-packaged drinks.  Instead of buying Texas toast or mixes for corn bread, I'll make sweet muffins from scratch to eat with chili or spaghetti. 

You have to be careful not to buy more than you are going to use.  If you use/eat something on a regular basis it usually pays to buy in bulk.  Personally, the only things I really buy in bulk are ground turkey and baking items.   I cook the meat all at once and split it between how it will be used.   I tend not to buy buy paper towels in bulk because I can get better deals on smaller packages or simply by buying the store brand.  There is a "bulk" section at the grocery store that I go to, so I buy certain items in bulk there.  This includes, chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut to make granola.  I also buy Organic yogurt in the quart containers instead of buying the pre -portioned containers.

Food tends to be easily wasted if you're not careful.   If you freeze what you don't use it won't go to waste and your food will go further.  We grow a garden each summer and always have a ton of peppers.  I cut them in strips and freeze them to be used for fajitas, Cajun chicken pasta and summer vegetables and sausage.  If the kids want to make little pizza's and we don't use a full can of pizza sauce then I'll freeze the rest in ice cub trays.  

It's worth mentioning that I shop only one day a week and go to two stores, Aldi and Martins.  I do my primary shopping at Martin's and get certain sale items and staples at Aldi during my lunch break.  Milk, cream cheese, shredded cheese, toilet paper, baking items, canned goods, fruit and vegetables are much cheaper at Aldi's than Martins.  This works for me because it's convenient and saves a ton of money.  If it's not convenient to go to multiple stores or if you think you'll spend more, just stick to one store. 

I hope you all found these tips helpful.   I know they won't work for everyone, but this is what works for our family.   Have a fabulous weekend!


  1. Great article. Thanks for taking the time to post. Lots of wonderful tips. I do most of these, but it was a nice reminder that a little work has a big pay off. I do these tips vs crazy extreme shopping....because really, even if I can get 50 things of mustard free, do I need it? :-) thanks again, JB

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you found the tips helpful!

  2. Great tips!! We LOVE Aldi...and I totally agree, the fewer times per week you go into the store, the better! It is always so tempting to pick up a few extra things every time you go to the store, and that can sure add up!!
    So, do you have a good recipe for granola bars? The ones I have made always get really crumbly so I would definitely be interested in a more chewy recipe!

    1. I just e-mailed you the recipe that I use. Let me know what you think!

    2. I would love the recipe, too!

    3. Hi Sarah! These are the two recipes that I use to make my granola. The first one is a chewy granola bar and the second one is a crunchy granola that is great on yogurt. I like to use cashews rather than almonds and I leave out the dry fruit.

      Hope you like them!

  3. Great tips! I've never thought to write down the price of items on my grocery list. So smart!