As promised in my 2013 New Years Goal post, I would share with you my crazy routine for saving money on groceries without coupons.
We are a family of 4 with one on the way. Hubby works full time outside the home while I work part time outside the home as well as blog. Unfortunately, for the past few years, we have lived paycheck to paycheck so I have to do what I have to do to support my family without breaking our bank account.
I have found this to be the easiest method that works best for our family and our budget. (Note, we get paid on a weekly basis so we typically grocery shop on a weekly basis.)
Now, let me start off with a few disclaimers here:
1. This involves time. Quite a bit of time. Depending on your menu and your list, I would say anywhere from an hour to three hours. When doing the group home menus, I could do it in an hour. To do our holiday week menu (which consisted of three bigger than usual family dinners and a bigger than usual family brunch), it took probably closer to the two and a half hour mark.
2. My way may not be for everyone. Just like couponing is not for everyone. I have tried the couponing thing. I have found that coupons do not work for me. They are time consuming, they cost money (to get the coupons in the paper I have to pay for a subscription), I am clueless on how to organize coupons, and I find that I do not save money. I am in no way bashing coupons. I just understand that couponing is not for me.
3. I do not have a stockpile. (A) I do not have space in my house for a stock pile. (B) The only time you will find a stock pile of anything is if there is a really good sale going on. (C) We cannot afford to spend money on extra items to stockpile so we don’t (unless it’s a really good sale).
My routine, for the most part, is pretty easy and it has no out of pocket cost such as subscribing to the newspaper. We receive the grocery ads every Tuesday with our normal mail delivery. No newspaper necessary. And if someone misplaces them before I see them (such as the current moment), I can always go online to the grocer’s website to view the weekly ad.
Step One: Make your menu. Like I said, we shop weekly based on our pay schedule so I typically make a weekly menu that includes all necessary meals and all necessary people. (Unfortunately in our home, Buggy generally takes a bag lunch to school and Buddy will eat something different than what was packed for Buggy so that right there is two lunch menus. Not to mention whatever parent is home.)
Step Two: Create your grocery list. I go through each day on the menu, meal by meal, and write out what I need for that meal. If I need to print off recipes, now is when I will do it.
Step Three: Add any miscellaneous items to the grocery list. We have started a list that is stuck to the fridge so when we run out of an item, we add it to the list. This could be things not typically thought of for a meal. In our house, it would typically be ranch, ketchup, jelly, peanut butter, and milk.
Step Four: Go through current inventory. Cross reference your grocery list with your current inventory. No need to purchase another thing of salt if you have a full one in your cabinet, right? I usually know off the top of my head what I can cross off, but sometimes those spices or canned foods can be hard to remember. I go through my cupboards with my list to double check that I do not buy unnecessary duplicates.
Step Five: Go through the ads. We have 4 major grocers where I live that I shop at. Those are the 4 ads that I do most of my comparing. (I do glance through the others to ensure I am not missing a deal, but rarely do I find something.) With those ads, I go through each one individually seeking out items that are “on sale” AND on my menu. I will then make note of what store and what the deal is. I do this for each and every ad. I then know which stores have the better deals and which stores I need to go to.
Note: Be on the watch for store brand rather than name brand and be aware of loyalty card deals.
Step Six: Shop! I will admit, I will shop all the stores. If that means 4 stops, that means 4 stops. Usually one or two of those stops are quick one or two items so hubby can run in (with a detailed list) and I can wait with the kids.
Let me share with you how this worked for us during the holidays.
I did my menu. It was a one week menu that included: 8 breakfasts (5 breakfasts for 3 people; 2 breakfasts for 4 people; and 1 brunch for 7 people); 7 lunches (5 lunches for 3 people and 2 lunches for 4 people); and 8 dinners (5 dinners with 4 people and 3 dinners for 7 people which included Christmas eve chili dinner, Christmas day ham dinner and Buggy’s birthday chicken dinner). This also included bake day!
My grocery list? Take an 8.5 inch by 11 inch lined piece of notebook paper. From the first line to the bottom line – I had two columns plus one third of another column. (Yes, that made for a lot of groceries.)
My ad comparison took me roughly two and a half hours (I felt like I was buying food to feed an Army!)
We shopped at 4 different stores and spent a total of $163.29.
Oh, and our overall shopping trip was roughly three hours – and that included a stop at home after our first store to drop off the ham and other cold items good that were gotten at the first store (which was on the opposite side of town, but was the only store carrying the ham my mother in law has to have for the holidays).
So now you can say it – I’m crazy. But I have found that this works better for our family financially. Oh, and I do realize Walmart does price matching, but that is a whole other post in itself as to why that does not suit me!
What ways to do you save money on your grocery list?