10 Ways I Stopped Spending Too Much Money on Groceries {Part 2}

10 Ways I Stopped Spending Too Much Money on Groceries {Part 2}

In part 1, I revealed some major changes I made to save money on groceries. While I was looking for a job after we moved to Louisiana, I suddenly had a lot of free time to be thrifty. Though we have a more stable income now, I’m still using these tips to build our savings, pay off our mortgage early and buy a minivan. I hope these tips can help other families who need to cut back at the grocery store:

6. Know store rewards

Winn Dixie’s baby club sends me coupons each month for things like 75 cents off any butter, $2 off a rotisserie chicken, $1 any potatoes, $3 off diapers, etc. I use the coupons on things I’d normally buy, and I look for additional coupons. So for example, I try to save the 75 cents off pet food for whpart-2en our pet food brand releases their coupons at coupons.com and Winn Dixie puts the food on sale which usually happens every several weeks. That way I’m using 3 avenues to save on that food.

I also remember my reusable bags when I’m at stores that give credit for it. The 5 to 10 cents a bag bonus is like an extra coupon.

7. Buy specialty staples at Big Lots – 20% off entire store sale

There are certain brands and items I love like Bob Red Mills, Muir Glen, coconut oil, but they are not budget items. I’ve learned if I wait until these sales at Big Lots, I can stock up on them at a reasonable price. Plus, Big Lots carries lots of other items like dried beans and canned goods. Just be sure you’re getting the best price. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s not cheaper somewhere else.

8. Eat real food and cook

In our house, we live by Michael Pollan’s seven famous words – “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

For a quarter of beef to last my family a year, we clearly don’t eat meat at every meal or even every day. Dried beans and lentils are always inexpensive. We eat a lot of curries and never miss the meat. Burritos are also some of our meatless favorites. Leafy greens tend to be affordable by nature. As Pollan suggests, we don’t buy much in terms of packaged food, and I cook most things from scratch. This removes ingredients I’d rather avoid and negates convenience costs.

Though this may be hard for some, I’ve found reducing alcohol consumption seriously cuts down on the grocery bill.

9. Actually, avoid buying drinks altogether

Juice, booze, sparkling water, they’re all expensive. I’m lucky to live somewhere with good tap water though learning to drink so much tap water after a lifetime of sodas was a big transition, but my teeth, wallet, and arteries thank me for it.

Tea and coffee are good economical breaks from tap water. If there’s something you really enjoy, look for it in the ads and try alternate products whose price may better fit your budget. I was going without sparkling water, which I love, until I found a store brand that regularly puts 12 packs on sale for $1.88. Now I get to break up my tap water with sparkling and not feel too bad about it.

10. Open your mind

There were stores that I never shopped in because they just didn’t look like they’d have anything I wanted, but once I started reading their ads, I saw they routinely had the best produce prices, like 50 cents/lb less. Their selection is limited, but they are serious about their loss leaders. For months I was driving by a bunch of savings, literally.

So open your mind to where you shop and also what you eat. Consider different brands. Read labels. Make your own. Try new things. Use more of the products you may have once considered a waste like vegetable ends, which can be saved to make stock as can ham and poultry bones.

Bonus Organic Shopping Tips:

If you’re concerned about organic foods and pesticides, shop with the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 in mind. The way things are grown and their pests impact how much pesticide is used even in conventional crops. For example, only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides, so if you’re on a budget like me, you can buy conventional avocados with fewer worries. Also be familiar with food terms, even specialty stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Fresh Market sell conventional products often at a much higher price than you’d find conventional produce at a regular grocery store.

Don’t write off those stores, though. I’ve found some items, especially store brand at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are cheaper than anywhere else. In particular, I buy yogurt and milk. Also, Whole Foods will give you a 10% discount if you buy a “case.”

Using these tips, I know if I have to, I can feed my family a healthy diet on as little as $200/month if need be. Thankfully we currently have more flexibility than that in large part due to these practices. For all this, we need a small chest freezer in addition to our freezer over the fridge and extra pantry space for the items purchased in bulk.

The bulk purchasing really helps because sometimes sales aren’t that great for a few weeks, so having bought 7 lbs of pears ahead gets us through until the next noteworthy sale. Part of saving is waiting. Another part is eating what you have. At this point, it’s like a game to me. Few things make my day like seeing I saved 65% on my groceries or making a healthy meal from random ingredients I found on sale plus pantry items. I love seeing how much I can save and how creative I can be in the kitchen.


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