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July 06, 2010


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I have found that most people that have never really tried to save money on their grocery bill find the hardest thing to get used to is planning your menu around the sales flyers. To me that is second nature, but I've been doing it for years now. There are quite a few websites out there now that do most of the work for you. You can print your grocery list out, grab the coupons, and go to the store.,,, (not my favorite, but good for finding a coupon on her coupon database).

One excuse I've heard over and over is "Nothing I buy is on sale. We only eat fresh foods and organics." That's just an excuse for being lazy. Even if it were true, you still need to buy hygiene products, cleaning products (laundry detergent, soaps, etc), and OTC meds. I have learned to save BIG on these products by doing the drug store games. That alone took a huge cut out of our food budget. Many of your organic brands will send you coupons if you ask. I recently heard about an article that said what you should and shouldn't waste your money on when it comes to organics.

Our grocery budget for a family of 4 (with a son that eats like there is no tomorrow) is $350-$400 per month- that includes the occasional eating out, cleaning products, toiletries, etc.

We do stock up when something is a GREAT price. I have to go to the store at least once a week for milk and fresh produce. I have found that have a stockpile has been a huge benefit on those weeks (or months) that have been totally chaotic. It has helped prevent us from using the "we have nothing to eat" excuse to go out to eat. AND it has given me some stress relief from having to go to the store.

OK - I might agree with shopping once a month. But cooking once a month? I'm not eating 29 day old leftovers. LOL

I have a friend that does the cooking once a month. Basically you do all of your meal prep in one day and then stick it in the freezer. That way, you just pull it out in the morning, put it in the crock pot or let it thaw out and it is ready to cook when you get home.

I will usually cook extra chicken breasts or a larger roast, so we will have leftovers to use for bbq sandwiches, or chicken salad, or a casserole or something of that nature. That is a huge time saver!

Despite the fact that I'm living by myself (and can blame no one else for eating 'all' of something I need) I also find myself in the grocery store 2-3 times per week. Part of that is poor planning, I admit. A bigger part is the fact that if you're going to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, you're going to make frequent trips to buy fresh.

I make a big salad, it lasts me three days. Then I need to make another. And I need to buy fresh bananas, and some more oranges.

I could solve this problem by going back to eating potato chips and fast food. (Ha! Not likely, though I do miss Funyuns™ sometimes...) Some fruits/veggies I could buy a couple of weeks worth, but why take the chance that it will go bad, or even go 'meh', when I know I'll be back in the store in 3-4 days anyway? I could buy 20 apples to last me longer than a week (apples keep pretty well) but why not buy 7 apples and get 7 more in a few days so they'll be nice & crisp?

I've done Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) several times. It takes almost a whole day to do the work but you feel it's worth it when all you have to do for dinner is remember to pull it out of the freezer, thaw it, and dump in crockpot or put in the oven (maybe make rice, pasta, veggies, etc, to go with it).

As for saving money, perhaps. It depends on what OAMC "plan" you follow. Some of the cookbooks for it did not save us money. However, when I plan my own freezer meals and bulk cooking (granola, bread, granola bars, spag sauce, pizza dough, etc), I save a lot of time and probably a little money (one of the ways is simply that we always have food on hand and aren't tempted to eat out).

I'm in New England and feed our family of 6 for under $400/mo, plus $60 for eating out (McD's value meal mostly!). :) I don't use coupons but keep track of which store usually has the best prices. I do almost everything from scratch.

Cooking once a month! Yuks!

I am sure glad I grew up in the good old days where mothers cooked a nice meal from fresh ingredients every single day, even through the rigors of WWII in England. I guess I'm spoiled because we did just that when we were raising our kids and we still do it even though there's now just the two of us. I can remember accompanying my mother to the butcher's and fishmonger's shops where she placed her order for the week, to be home delivered on specified days by an errand boy on his bike. She also used to place her weekly order at the grocery store and that was also delivered, because we didn't own a car, and she never learned to drive anyway. My father drove, but his only vehicle was a fire engine. Fruits & vegetables were purchased daily at the greengrocers, and fresh bread at the bakers. Milk was also delivered daily, and it wasn't the homogenized 2% milkfat product we use today, it had the cream on the top which I used to love on my breakfast cereal. Nothing was ever frozen because we didn't own a refrigerator or a freezer. Likewise there was no washer, dryer, dishwasher, central heating, TV, or telephone, but as far as I was concerned, as a schoolboy, they were the good old days of which I have very fond memories.

Even today, by choice, we don't own a microwave oven or a crockpot and buy everything possible fresh.
Visit France, the home of some of the best cuisine in the world, and you will see the typical French housewife with her shopping basket out shopping every day at the farmer's market to buy what she needs for that evening's meal. Visit some Asian countries and you will see housewives carrying home a live chicken or a container of live fish - they have a thing about freshness.
What we consider to be progress is sure a mixed blessing in many ways as a lot of people are now finding out, especially the 8 million unemployed and the 46% of them that have been out of work for 6 months or more.

If you go to the major chain grocery stores, try some internet coupon sites where you can load coupons to your loyalty card so you won't forget to hand over your coupons:, Or you may want to do some print coupons from the Internet, although they have the same issues as any other print coupons:,,

Be sure to only use coupons you need if you really want to save money. Often these will work with instore sales to increase your overall savings.

I'm all about saving money on regular purchases such as groceries but at some point, there are diminishing returns. By spending an hour each month trying to find ways to save money (clipping coupons, checking sales, comparing prices, etc), I can save $10 or so, if I spent 10 hours each month, I don't know that I'd find that much more than that.

The best and simplest tip I've seen in this regard is to figure out what you spend the most money on and then do your best to save money on those things. You would be surprised if you tracked it - there are probably a dozen or so items on your regular grocery list that you buy all the time (milk, bread, eggs, cereal, apples/bananas/fresh fruit, maybe three or four different meats) that probably also make up at least 50% of your grocery bill. Spend some time figuring out how to save money on these things and you will get some decent return for your time invested, and it is savings that you can bank every time you shop for groceries.

@ Bad_Brad- If you are only saving $10 or so a month using coupons, you aren't doing it very effectively. My typical coupon savings (not including buying items on sale, just using coupons) is about $60-$70 a week. That is worth my 1-2 hours a week it takes to clip my coupons and write my list!!!!

When you find the items you tend to buy the most, stock up on them when they are on sale.

@ SAHM - yeah, if I spent a lot more time (or my wife did), we could probably save more. It's about the return on investment for us. There was a time in my life (when I didn't make much money or have much savings or net worth) that it was worth investing an hour to save $10. Today, I don't view that as a very good trade-off.

And it's also worth mentioning that with coupons, unless the coupon is for something that you were going to buy anyway, you may actually end up spending more money.

I agree that usually coupons don't help much if you mostly buy store brands. Most of the time, if I have a coupon for a brand-name item, the store brand still costs less. Occasionally there's a really good sale that coincides with a coupon, but that's only once a month if you're lucky. I spend $240/month for a family of four.

Although it's already a bit overrated, making a list and sticking with it is really effective.. It helps you avoid grabbing stuff you don't actually need.. Coupons help me save on groceries too and, of course, buying in bulk...

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