About a year ago, I wrote about grocery shopping on my personal blog and a bunch of people commented saying things like, "Um, you guys must not eat anything." I don't really know what to say to that - I feel like we eat a pretty normal amount. We have a full dinner nearly every night, we have people over for dinner, and we pack a lunch every day. I cook a lot. We eat primarily healthy food.
All of which is to say, you may read this post and think, "You only buy two items a week. No wonder your budget is low." And if you think that, I simply don't have an explanation.
Anyway . . . .
When I go grocery shopping, I make a list that looks like this (it's the same one my mom has done my whole life):
And then I just do not buy things that are not on my list. Period.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to get to know your store (or stores). Ask friends or neighbors about any money savings tips they know - two of my favorite money-saving tips came from people I know.
One of my friends mentioned that if you used the self-scanner (a little hand held scanner that you can use to ring up your groceries as you go (I love this thing because I know my exact total before I even get to the checkout lane)), you got extra discounts that showed up only on the scanner (I also found out later that they are tailored to the things you buy, so I often am able to use those discounts).
My co-worker also told me about the reduced produce shelf and where to find it in the grocery store. I owe my $1.29 and delicious pineapple this past week to her. Not to mention all the times I've bought other ludicrously inexpensive produce from this cart. I do many of my side dishes this way - I just anticipate buying at least one or two items that I'll use from there.
Melanie asked about using coupons and how she's found them fairly unhelpful so far. Personally, I do not use a lot of coupons. I don't take the newspaper, but I religiously check coupons.com and am able to make that work pretty well. I scan through it every few days and see if there is anything I'm interested in. The main ones I use are for meat (chicken sausage, pepperoni, etc), cheese, sour cream, yogurt, cold cereal, chocolate chips, diapers, and sugar.
Once I found out that my store doubles any coupon under a dollar automatically, I had a better feel for how coupons could save me some substantial money. I also watch for sales to correspond with my coupons. If cereal goes on sale and I have coupons for it, I'm suddenly paying less than half than I'd pay for a smaller box of the generic brand. That's hard to beat.
Here's a picture of my receipt from this past week - the only thing that's not listed on here that I bought in this is the gallon of milk I bought at BJ's (the east coast equivalent of Cosco) and the additional boxes of cereal I bought a few days later:
I got a discount on my chicken and cream cheese (thanks to the scanner), I had a dollar off coupon for being willing to do a blind taste test of fudgesicles (would YOU have said no?), my reusable bag coupons, a diaper coupon, coupons that doubled for chex mix (a little gift for Bart) and my four boxes of cereal and $1 coupons for both of my yogurt packs.
This was, of course, a particularly good week for me - I'm not usually saving more than 50% on my groceries. But this week chicken was on sale for $1.79 a pound (Sherry informs me that is not a sale, but, let me tell you, in Massachusetts, that is a freaking STEAL. I have never once seen it go that low in the year we've lived here), plus my scanner gave me an extra 10% off. Cereal was also on sale for $1.50 a box and with the coupons I'd printed off a few weeks earlier and was just holding on to, I got those boxes of cereal for 40 cents each.
This coming week, I know that the yogurt I like most is going on sale and so I'll buy more than I usually do (and I've been hoarding coupons for this product for several weeks anyway). When one of my stores sent out $1 doubler coupons a few weeks ago, I bought four boxes of it (each of which have 4 yogurt cups).
At the end of the day, my main strategy is to just not buy things I don't need and to take advantage of sales, coupons, and discounts whenever I can.
Other grocery shopping secrets?