Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Frugal Challenge - A New Way of Grocery Shopping

A few years ago I needed to find ways to save on our grocery and health and beauty shopping and began in earnest on the coupon craze at the time. I did find lots of deals and managed to build a nice stockpile but now I have changed the way I shop. Coupon deals are not as good as they used to be. Stores around here no longer double and coupons are often of less value. I was finding I was working hours to prepare a list and saving only a few dollars. 

Now, with this new school year, my time is even more limited so I have to shop and be done in one or two trips a week. And that is for all of our needs from pet supplies and paper goods to food items. Here is what I do now. I will share on average what I spend and it may seem a lot to some of you but with rapidly rising food prices, I feel I am doing okay. I shop for six animals and six people in this house. I cook every day with the occasional exception. Everyone in this house eats breakfast at home and takes lunches to work and that includes my husband. Dinner is for six or more people a night depending on guests.
I try to spend less than $150 per week on food and toiletries. I do go over at times but this is my goal. This last week I spent $138.29 at the grocery store and $24.12 at the produce store.
Now, for this week, I will go over as I made a Target run for pet food and toiletries, but for six people, three meals a day, and all our pets, I feel this is a reasonable amount.

First, I no longer plan my meals around the sale paper but the mark down meat section instead.  I head there first when I shop and do my main grocery shopping each Friday. Some weeks I find loads and fill my cart and others I find very little marked down. That is why I buy as many good buys as I can on the weeks there is plenty to choose from. All the meat in the picture below was bought marked down. I bring it home and freeze or cook immediately. Meat can be the largest portion of my grocery bill, so I have to cut corners here. I fill in with meatless meals and you can find lots of our favorites here.  

If something is marked down and I think we will eat it, it goes in the cart. Last week a dozen eggs marked 50% off. I have lots of fresh eggs but older eggs are best for hard boiling. They came home and I boiled right away. They became part of a potato salad and egg salad for the next days lunches.

A small beef roast and small pork roast were cooked in the crock pot together. I shredded one for BBQ sandwiches and the other for crock pot chili verde. Cook once, eat twice. With our new busier than ever schedule, I have had to really plan and cook more meals on the weekends to prepare quickly on busy week nights. Crock pot recipes are a favorite of mine for cook ahead freezer meals.

I just wanted to show you how a good meal can me made for so much less. Everything in this meal was bought marked down. My favorite produce store has a marked down section as well and I bought a bag of corn and red potatoes for $1.50. Mushrooms needed to be used from the fridge. Steak, bought marked down, was marinated and grilled and an over sized zucchini was grilled on the barbecue. The cost of this meal was:
zucchini - free
steak - 6.49
mushrooms 1.00
corn and potatoes - 1.50
total: 8.99 or $1.50 per person

I think that was pretty darned good for such a delicious meal. I hope I have showed you how to stretch your grocery budget with minimal coupon clipping and much less running around. With the prices of gas so high, over $4 a gallon here, it can cost money to drive around trying to pick up all the bargains. I don't want to spend dollars to save cents. I will share more next time on continuing to increase my stockpile while staying on budget.


  1. Fabulous ideas. I stockpile all the sale items also. You are right, making a ton of trips is just not worth it. Good example of how to eat well, but on a budget. Hugs, Marty

  2. I shop the same way! I used to use coupons but can rarely find any these days. I will also by reduced produce and freeze it for later use. Ex. Onions, green peppers, etc. I enjoy your blog and thanks for all the money saving ideas.

  3. Very good ideas, Elaine! I also wait to plan my meals until I see what meat is marked down. But now that we are empty-nesters our grocery bill has really gone down!

  4. I enjoyed this post, Elaine. Even though it is just the two of us, I buy marked down items when I can find them and either freeze or prepare immediately. Gas is near $4 here also. I try to limit how many trips I make to the store each week.

    Have a good day.

  5. Great post! With the cost of food skyrocketing I too am shopping sales and markdowns. I never did use coupons much as most of the products were for items I didn't use. With gas high I try to plan one shopping trip a week!

  6. I think you are doing wonderfully well to be spending $150 a week on all of your grocery needs. I was surprised that your total was so low. You're doing great!

  7. Looks like you've got a great system down!

    Everyone I know, is trying to be more wise with their money, and work on their food storage.

    It's very smart!

  8. I buy marked down too, use some coupons and most of all buy wheat (for flour), rice and dry beans in bulk.

  9. Thank you for sharing your ideas! I like to buy in marked down and in bulk. We add a little to our storage each paycheck so we can have a surplus of things - and stock up on them when they are super cheep. Have a lovely day!

  10. It's so great to see posts about home management! Your well run kitchen is environmentally responsible and lets you care, well, for 12 beings on the amount of money some people spend on two. Smart girl! ~ Maureen

  11. Such great ideas here. My problem is storage and stockpiling. I usually check the marked down meat section, and I spend a fair amount on bird seed and bird treats. I have to go to NJ to get a good price on bird seed, here it is $22.oo/bag, with a $2 discount=$20. In NJ, 7.99/bag! Gas & tolls though xo

  12. Elaine - I think you do a fabulous job with your shopping. I just don't cook alot anymore. With the fall setting in, I seem to have the desire to bake but I'm sure it'll go away. ha.


  13. Great ideas, and everyone can benefit from them. I find that we don't have any really great coupon deals here in Canada. And now that we are 1/2 hour from town, we really have to think through what we need to buy, and stock up so we don't run out.

    I do kind of miss being able to just walk to the grocery store every few days and see the bargains, here it's not that easy.

    I've also noticed that things are much more expensive up here, meat, grains, cereals it's all high.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  14. When all our kids were home we had a food budget of about $500 a month...that was almost 8 years ago, 4 grown kids and 2 adults (the kids always ate more, especially the boys)
    I shop the same as you. I've tried coupons in the past when my kids were very young. But like you the time spent making the list with coupons and then comp shopping at WM just took a lot of time and effort for little savings.
    I'm not the SUPER COUPONER I aspired to just wasn't my bag.
    I do shop like you still with just The Honey and myself here mainly...and the grandkids on occasion; but they eat so little.
    I buy marked down meats and produce same as you and I usually shop the Dollar store for hygiene and beauty and toiletries.

    I liked this post Elaine... Oh! and I did learn something that I'd NOT EVER HEARD OF DOING...using the crock pot to cook 2 roasts! Why didn't I think of that?
    Oh...usually, when I cook a roast we barely use it for 'roast and potatoes'. We almost always shredded if for tacos or something else. Hamburger is just too expensive-- and we've switched to ground turkey now.

    great post! Pat

  15. Seems like so many of our newspaper coupons are not for food anymore!

  16. Thanks for this important information, I'm trying so hard to save on food ... I remember a long time ago going early in the morning to nab the mark-downs. I can easily restart that practice. Mary

  17. The coupon food sales are just now picking back up around here. I've gotten so use to shopping at Aldi and I love it. I wish I had a Trader Joe's close by. I try to not go over $75 for our family of 4, but we do eat out on the weekend. Guilty pleasure.

  18. Very impressive. Our grocery bill is way too high and I watch what I can. I think I can do better.

  19. You are really good at making your money count! I try to do all of those things, but sometimes, the best laid plans just don't materialize!!! I never know how many people will be here for dinner!!! But we do eat at home most nights, and we eat breakfast and lunches here. We go through a lot of breads and cheeses, and snacks.
    In the summer, I rarely ever buy produce. But now I have to again. I don't cook meat every night. I do a lot more cooking in the cooler months too!
    Great tips!!
    XO Kris

  20. Hi Elaine!
    You are one smart girl and your husband must honor you so very much for being so wise.
    I love a good bargain...and, especially, when it comes to groceries. I came home a few nights ago with ten rotisseried chickens (they were still piping hot) that had just been marked down. They are regularly $5.99 and because it was the end of the day they were marked $3.59. I let them cool a bit and then popped them into the freezer.
    My hubby and I love spinach salad with cold sliced chicken atop. One chicken gives us three meals. I add a few blueberries or strawberries, 1 TBSP of blue cheese crumbles, 1 TBSP of sliced almonds. I made my own balsamic and olive oil vinagrette and whallah...a salad fit for a King.
    I appreciate your practical down to earth style, Elaine. You meet the challenge of economizing with such an empowering attitude.

  21. I no longer do the grocery shopping, but my husband buys totally all our meat from the marked down sections...some fruits....Fresh and Easy always marks various things down and he buys what he thinks we will like.
    He used to use more coupons...but now, he says it just really isn't worth it.
    Guess we all are trying to find ways to curb costs...

  22. Elaine, I think you are doing very well with all those humans and fur people to feed! I am particularily interested since I am new to shopping here and am trying the different stores to see what I find where. I would like to know what you think of Smart & Final. I've been switching between Vons and Ralphs because they are close and quite reasonable. My daughter and I stopped in a Gelson's the other day out of curiosity and I almost lost it! Whaaaa? Beautiful store, but wow! My challenge is cooking for two and buying/freezing etc for two. I love crockpot cooking too. Did a ton of it when my kids were at home. Ann

  23. Elaine,
    I am impressed. I have been trying so hard to cut our grocery bill and the best I can do is $200/week with all 5 of us and the toiletries. I have all men in the house, my hubs, 19, 17, and 7 yr old. This must be the difference. This week alone I have bought a gallon of milk everyday! Isn't it crazy! They drink chocolate milk and eat cereal as a filler just to stay full.
    Keep the tips coming.

  24. Thanks for sharing this post. I've tried extreme couponing and my experience is the store has certain rules or I have to drive all over and discover they are out of the product. I agree with what you said, 100%. I'm going to start checking out the clearance section. I already do this with some things. We buy our meat from the farm and we know it's a good price compared to the store.

  25. We eat a los of vegetarian meals, cheaper and healthier than meat. Losing wieght I started to read labels, that was very educational! Some meat items are pretty high fat. We invested in a small chest freezer in the spring. I stock up and rotate things, really saves a lot and uses little electricity.

  26. That meal does look very good.
    It seems to me that you do brilliantly with your grocery bills!
    I also look for the marked down meat first and then vegies.
    Meat has become terribly expensive in our country.
    Thanks for linking up, Elaine.

  27. Thank you for this great post Elaine :)

    We dont have coupons in Australia...As I have plenty of storage room, I bulk buy when goods are cheaper...Hubby goes away for a few days at a time, so while he is gone, I dont go near the shops, this saves money. We live about 4 miles from the town and only go there when we have a few things to do.


  28. Love this post. It seems people don't know how to budget and save on food bills. I would love it if you would link up this with me at Family Home and Life on Wednesdays.

  29. Not only do the grocery prices rise, but you get less. The packages and jar sizes are decreasing steadily!

  30. Congrats! This post has been featured on Show & Share Wednesday this week. Thanks for making our party such a success! :)