One of the biggest ways Nathan and I have been able to save money over the past several years has been by drastically reducing the amount of money we spend on groceries. For years we shopped at one store – the store closest to our house! – and regularly spent anywhere from $900-$1200 per month. We tried to shop sales and we took advantage of the store’s “15% off Tuesday” on the first Tuesday of every month, but no matter what we did, we were never able to keep our spending less than our budgeted amount, which was $700.
It’s taken a long time – and a lot of trial and error! – but we’re finally consistently under budget for groceries each and every month and have been since August! This past month our total on groceries was $521.61 – including groceries and household items (such as paper towel, toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, cleaning supplies, etc.). There’s definitely still room for improvement, but getting down to $521.61 from $1200+ was HUGE for us!
How did we do it?
- We organized our cupboards and refrigerator. We made it easy to see what we had, and I made it a habit to look through the fridge and cupboards before I started making my grocery list so I could use up what I already had.
- We planned our meals. Breakfasts at our house are pretty laid back – toast, cereal, bagels, oatmeal. Nothing fancy. Lunch is sandwiches or leftovers. I only plan our dinner menu but we stick to it pretty rigidly. If I know we have to go out in the evening for a hockey game I either plan a slow cooker meal that will be ready as soon as we get home – or cook dinner in the afternoon and put it in the fridge to warm up when we walk in the door.
- I made a shopping list – and I stuck to it!
- I started shopping at different stores. This one was hard for us, because we love the store close to our house. It’s clean, the staff is friendly, it’s convenient, and they always have what we need – but they’re far from the cheapest place to buy groceries! Nathan is unfailingly loyal so rather than drag him away from his beloved store, I started grocery shopping on my own. I tried several different stores before narrowing it down to three, which we visit each week: Wal-mart (where I buy most items), Save-On Foods (where I buy a select few items that are cheaper there than anywhere else), and H&W (a local produce store with enormous savings – I spend less than half of what I would spend anywhere else when I shop at H&W!)
- I started shopping without the kids. If they’re not with me, they can’t beg me to put extras in the cart! I always, always, always shop when they’re both at school!
- I started shopping on different days. I used to do all of my grocery shopping on Fridays but one week I had to switch to Thursday for some reason, and I discovered a HUGE difference in prices on meat at one particular store! Two of the three stores I frequent have sales running from Friday-Thursday – now I typically shop on Thursdays, and there are usually some pretty significant markdowns.
- We use our points wisely. We love Save-On but don’t buy a ton of things there because they’re so expensive. We are members, though, and we collect points. It’s not really worth it to use the points on items you’re already planning to purchase, so we save ours for gift cards. I think right now you can get a $10 Save-On gift card for 6000 points – we collect gift cards and exchange them for free groceries!
- I shop sales and stock up when items are on sale. Nathan laughs at me because the trunk of my car is almost always completely filled with toilet paper – but when it’s on sale for $4.99 instead of $9.99, of course I stock up! I don’t think I’ve paid full price for toilet paper in more than two years!
- I keep a price list. I buy a lot of the same things week after week after week, so I know when I can score a better deal. I don’t spend more than $4.99 for toilet paper, $5.99 for a 20 pack of coke, or $1.67 for a box of pop tarts.
- I use the Flipp app. Oh my goodness, this app is AMAZING. I’ve always been pretty good about looking through the weekly flyers, but Flipp has them all in one place. You can search through the flyers for each store you frequent or search for specific items. If you don’t want to go to a ton of separate stores every week, don’t! Just use Flipp to determine the prices of the items that are cheaper elsewhere and ask your preferred store to price match. Most of them have no problem doing so, as long as it’s the exact same item. Okay, sure, it’s a little awkward to pull out your phone to show the cashier the app and how it’s cheaper somewhere else, but so what? I’ll deal with a little awkwardness if it means being able to pay off our debt!!!
- I shop weekly. I’ve tried shopping for a month at a time and I’ve tried shopping for two weeks at a time but I found that food got wasted. It’s hard to plan meals that far in advance – it’s only March 1st, how will I know what I want to eat on March 13th? Our schedule changes depending on my work and my son’s hockey schedule (playoffs start this weekend! Go Warriors!) so it’s hard for us to follow any meal plan that extends further than one week. I shop once a week – if we run out of something, or something goes bad, we do without it until the next planned shopping trip. Sometimes I have to get creative! Last week we were supposed to have turkey manicotti but I didn’t have manicotti noodles (I thought I had purchased them but apparently they didn’t make it into the shopping cart!) so I used lasagna noodles we had on hand instead. It turned out fantastic – now we have a new family favourite to add to the rotation: Turkey lasagna roll-ups! Recipe to follow (seriously, they were SO good!).
What are some ways you save money on groceries?