Groceries on a Budget (part 1)
Groceries on a Budget (part 2)
Tips For Stretching Your Grocery Budget—at the grocery store and at home
$50 grocery trips: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Would you be interested in if I started sharing these more regularly? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook!
One thing I haven't ever wrote much about it is the bulk purchases I make. These purchases do not come out of my grocery budget, but they totally set me up for success. Things I buy in bulk either from local farmers or our local co-op; beef, pork, rice, chocolate chips, spices, oatmeal, coconut oil and probably some other stuff that I can't think of right now. So that's why you won't see a whole lot of meat on my grocery lists. If we didn't have the ability to buy meat in bulk, I think I could squeak out a $50 per week budget, but we would definitely have more of a vegetarian diet. However, if I run into the co-op for just a few small items and I'm not bulking ordering, I do take that amount out of my monthly grocery budget.
Now let me walk you through one of my weekly shopping trips from start to finish.
MAKING MY LIST: I sit down at my dining room table with my Meijer ad, paper and pen. First I list all of my must have items (must haves are items that we need regardless of if they're on sale). I include an approximate cost of each item next to it (I usually round to the nearest dollar). Estimating the cost took me longer than I expected to get good at, but I'm pretty good at it now.
After jotting all my must haves down, I add them up to see how much money I have leftover for other stuff. Then I browse the sale ad. My first time through I don't add anything to my list. I like to see all of what's on sale first and to take a few minutes to think about what meals I can make from what I see in the ad and with what I already have on hand. After going through the ad once, I start back through for a second time. This time I add items to my list, always making sure to jot down the price and keeping a running total as I go. Once I get close to $50 (I like to leave a little wiggle room, $3-$5, in case I find something good on the reduced produce rack or some other clearance item), I'm either all set to go or if there are still some good deals that I want to take advantage of, I continue tweaking it by adding and/or removing items.
Sometimes when making my list I'll pull up mPerks on my laptop or phone. That way I can see if I can pair any mPerks with the sale prices. But I haven't been doing this much lately because it actually rarely happens for me and I've been really disappointed in my personalized rewards options lately.
I typically follow the same route through the grocery store. I'm a creature of habit I guess. I always start in the produce department. I would estimate that I spend between $15-$20 on produce. Fresh produce is something my family values. My girls' love to snack on apples, raspberries and strawberries. Sautéed onions, celery, carrots, and garlic are the base of so many yummy dishes. Red, yellow, green, orange bell peppers and mushrooms are some of our favorite pizza toppings. I always, always, always check out the reduced produce rack! Just this past week I got three bags of bell peppers with about 6 pepper in each bag for like $1.30 per bag! Just to give you some perspective, bell peppers are usually a $1 each when they're on sale.
After finishing up in the produce department, I head over the bread and then follow along the coolers on the outside of the store. I grab stuff like cheese, milk, eggs, yogurt, butter, sour cream. On my way back up front, I weave back down through the aisles, only going down the ones I need something out of. Not only does shopping this way save me money, it's inherently healthier because all the processed junky food is found in the center aisles.
Once I've grabbed everything I need, I head up to the check out. I always look for an older woman cashier because they're usually the best baggers. If my little ladies behaved themselves, we stop and ride Sparky Horse (aka Sandy the Penny Pony).
AFTER THE SHOPPING TRIP: To really be successful at sticking to a tight grocery budget you must also resist the temptation to run to the store for one or two missing ingredients. That can really eat into your budget. So you either find something else to make that night, or you get really good at substituting ingredients.
This was surprising hard to write, so if after reading this you are even more confused or have questions, please don't be afraid to ask!