Monday, January 7, 2013

Let's talk groceries!!

First Nine on a Nickel blog...where to start, where to start? Instead of giving you the version of our family history like most blogs, LOL, I'm going to jump right into the money saving! (That's what you came for here, right?) Let's talk grocery shopping, one of the areas we can really control our spending. I have so many little things I do that save our family money. Most of it is now second nature. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it's a good start. Now let's talk groceries!!

1. First and foremost, set a budget! Many people don't even know where to begin with this, so let me help you. One, don't necessarily compare your budget to anyone else's! Each family has their own needs, wants, and special circumstances. While one family of 4 might be able to spend $50 a week, your family with allergies, homeschooling, and a hubby who takes a packed lunch to work might spend $100. So, what's the grocery budgeter to do? Figure up what your family is spending each month on groceries and try to beat it by $50 each month incorporating the tips we are going to discuss. Keep doing that until you reach the barebones grocery budget for your family. Trust me, you will know when you have reached the end. The lone box of mac and cheese in your cupboard and your kids complaining that they've eaten peanut butter sandwiches for a week straight will signal you that that's as low as you can go...haha!!

2. Make a weekly menu plan! Saving money takes planning and work and while a menu plan takes just that, it is well worth the effort! It will not only keep you from ordering pizza or takeout for dinner (and spending more money), because you are scrambling at the last minute, it will also help you to take advantage of sales and your pantry by planning meals around these items.

3. Keeping with the menu planning theme, plan "cheap" meals each week. Spaghetti is an extremely cheap meal and healthy to boot. You can easily get whole wheat pasta for $1, sauce for $1 and a bag of frozen veggies for $1. That's $3 for dinner. Now if you choose or your budget allows, add some bread and fruit, whatever your heart desires. Seriously though, who can beat $3 for dinner? (For all those who say you can't afford to eat healthy, that's feeding a family for less than the cost of a fast food value meal for one!)

4. While it's important to shop sales, it's also important to have that low priced, go to store. For you it may be an Aldi or Sav-a-Lot, for me it's the dreaded Walmart. About 3 kids ago I used to shop many stores, but these days I need more one stop shopping. I can price match most things at Walmart that other stores have on sale and their prices and very comparable to Aldi on most items. (For those who don't know, Walmart will price match local ads. They price match like name brand items or store brand for their brand which is Great Value.)

5. Shop your traditional grocery (Giant Eagle, Kroger, etc)for great deals on meat, milk and "loss leaders." If you aren't familiar with a loss leader, it's those items (usually) on the front page of the grocery ad that your grocer is willing to sell at a loss just to get you in the store. Also, look for deep discounts on meat and stock up. Don't be afraid to check out non-traditional stores, too! When milk is not on sale I buy milk at our local Dollar General. It's often close to a dollar cheap than everywhere else!

6. Shop seasonally and stock up. Unless you live under a rock, I bet you've noticed that certain things go on sale that correspond with seasons and holidays. The best time to buy ketchup is during BBQ season and stock up on baking supplies at Christmas. You will learn what good prices are now that you are watching more closely and will learn when to stock up!  I'm not talking Extreme Couponing "stocking up", but at least buy a few extra of these items for the pantry.

7. Since I mentioned Extreme Couponing, let's talk coupons. I used to be a diehard couponer. I often walked out of the store with $100 worth of groceries for almost free. For me, the couponing game has changed a lot. We buy a lot less processed food than we used to and while there are coupons out there for items of all sorts, it is mostly processed items. Also, I just don't have time to run to the double coupon stores each week and couponing does take some time, so I use the other tips I've mentioned to save money. Plus, the Extreme Couponing craze has really changed the game for couponing and it just isn't as good as it was. Period. If you want to use coupons, check out where you can pay a small fee to "buy" coupons and receive them in the mail. You can also search for printable coupon sites like . Couponing can be a great way to save on groceries, but don't feel like it's an absolute necessity if you decide it's not for you.

8. While I might sound like Captain Obvious here, what you choose to buy really determines how much you spend. What do I mean? If you have filet mignon taste don't think that you're going to have a hamburger grocery budget. Find "cheap" foods that your family likes. We are big oatmeal eaters. It's cheap, quick and super healthy. At the same time, I don't mind spending a little more to get off season produce (a no, no in the cheap world), because my kids love it and it's healthy. So, I guess it's all about balance. If the kids and hubby aren't on board with the grocery budget then it's going to be hard to stick to it!!! Find a balance that works for you.

9. Stay out of the store! Make a shopping list, stick to it and try to go as long between shopping trips as possible. I am in the midst of experimenting with only shopping every 2 weeks. No small
task for a family of 9. I'm finding that the less I'm at the store the less impulse buying I have and that it makes me use what we already have it the house. In between I swing by the Dollar General or any store that has milk on sale and pick up essentials only! I like to send my teenager son in and then I have no temptation of buying things I shouldn't!!

10. Don't get discouraged. Set goals like spending $50 less a month or finding cheap breakfast foods or trying your hand at couponing. Make it fun and even reward yourself for your efforts. This isn't rocket science, so don't stress out too much!!

Is this a comprehensive list? No way! But it's a good start, especially if you are new to saving money. As time goes on I will add tips and tidbits on here that will continue to help you. If I listed everything I do here, your head would explode and trust me that would not be a good way to save money.....

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  1. Wow thanks, I did not know that Wal-mart would do price match for store brand. I wonder if ours does? I shop a lot at Aldi's but it is not always convenient so maybe Wal-mart price match will help

  2. Love it! We probably eat Spaghetti once a week, because it's cheap and the girls will eat it! We totally need to do a budget though...