Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Save Money on Groceries, part 2

Look through Store Ads

I know I briefly covered this in my last post, but I thought it deserved its own post.  Grocery ads usually come in the mail on Saturday and Wednesday (those days may vary depending on your location).  The day they come is typically indicative of when their sales last.  Typically the ads that come on Saturday are good from Saturday-Friday where the ones that come on Wednesday are good, you guessed it, Wednesday-Tuesday.  That is just a generality, however.  Always check the advertisement itself to see what days those prices are good for.

For example, Sunflower Market in Orem is good Wednesday-Wednesday.  That means every Wednesday you get double the deals.  (In fact, they list both weeks' ads on their website, putting the new one up on Tuesday, so that you can plan your shopping for Wednesday and get twice as many good deals.)

Some stores offer certain deals only on certain days.  For example, Buy Low in Provo offers amazing deals on produce on Wednesday and meats on Friday.  Yesterday, for example, they sold cabbage heads at 6 lbs. for $1.00  That's just less than 17 cents per pound.  That's a great deal.

You'll notice that the various stores usually seem to be offering the same things for sale for almost exactly the same price.  Just because you see a great deal on your favorite ice cream at one store doesn't mean you need to buy it there.  Make sure you look for that specific item in the other ads as well.

Use the ads to see what is on sale.  Specifically look at meats, if you like to use meat in your cooking, as those are typically the most expensive things you will buy.  Build your menu around what is on sale that week.  In fact, if something is on an awesome sale, stock up in your freezer.  Sure, you'll spend more this week, but you'll save a lot more in the long run.

Lastly, don't be afraid to go to different grocery stores.  You don't have to do all of your shopping at one store.  Especially if all of the stores are close.  If one store is significantly further than the others, then the $1 you'd save on bread might not be worth the trip.  But if they're all relatively close together (like most of mine are) then the money you'd save by going to 2-3 stores is worth it.

When I make my weekly menu, I list the menu on the left and the ingredients I'll need to buy on the right.  Next to the ingredient I write what store I want to buy it at and at what price.  (If I've seen a good deal in an ad.)  That way I know at a glance what I need to buy at each store, and if I happen to spot a better deal at a different store, I can buy it there and cross it off my list.  If I'm really feeling organized, I'll actually organize my ingredient list by store to begin with.

Lastly, don't be scared to price match.  I'll get more into that tomorrow.  This post is long enough as is.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to Save Money on Groceries, part 1

Almost every time I redo our budget and realize that we need to save more money, it's the grocery budget that gets cut a little.  Currently I am feeding our little family of three on $100 per paycheck.  (That is approximately $200 per month.  Or $50 per week.)  But how do we do that?  I'd like to start a little series that will help you cut back on your grocery budget as well.

Tip #1: Make a Menu

I know this can be difficult for some people.  Many people like to cook whatever sounds good that night or don't like the idea of having to think up 7 meals at one time.  But I promise you, the simple act of writing out a weekly menu before you go grocery shopping will significantly cut your grocery budget.  Why?

Less wasted food
I can't tell you how many times I used to go to the grocery store and just buy whatever looked good at the time.  And then later in the week I'd be looking in my vegetable drawer and say, "Ewww. Why did I buy so many peppers and tomatoes?  Now they're all moldy and gross."  And then, without another thought, I'd throw them in the trash.  Now, I can't say that I don't still wind up throwing out bad produce here and there (I'm not perfect) but it is certainly less.  I only buy the produce I plan on using.  (Usually waste comes when I have to buy a whole bunch of green onions and end up only using half for my recipe.  But I'll talk about that more below.)

Controlled spending
When you don't have a plan, it's easy to just grab whatever looks good off of the shelves at the grocery store.  When you walk into the grocery store with a list, it is much easier to just walk to the aisles that you need, grab the stuff off your list, then check out.

Save time
Not only will you save time at the grocery store when you can walk to each aisle with purpose instead of wandering aimlessly down every aisle, but you will also save time every night when it comes time to make dinner.  No more staring blankly into your fridge, hoping something will look good enough to eat.  No more asking, "Well, what do you wanna eat?"  Instead you can simply look up at your menu and start cooking.  In fact, for nights you know are going to be busy, you can plan for slow cooked meals.  Those require planning ahead.  You can't open the fridge at six o'clock and start a crockpot meal.  However, if you know that your husband is only going to be home from work for an hour before running off again, or if your kids are bouncing between soccer and flute lessons, crock pots can be your best friend.  Just stick a handful of ingredients into the crockpot in the morning, then come home that evening to dinner all ready to eat.  Mmmm.

Buy what's on sale
I wouldn't suggest doing this right away, but once you get comfortable making a weekly menu, you can start skimming through grocery ads and planning your menu based on what is on sale.  And trust me, once you get in the mindset of saving on groceries and have some practice under your belt, you will know what is actually a sale and what is the store just advertising their normal price, to make you think you're getting a good deal.

Utilize everything you buy
As I mentioned above, I'm not very good at this yet.  So perhaps we should mark this is as a more advanced step.  When you plan your menu, you can plan for all of your ingredients.  If you're making a recipe that calls for 3 green onions, but you know you have to buy an entire bunch, plan another meal that uses green onions.  If you buy a head of lettuce for a salad one night, keep making salads for other nights to use the entire head.  Every bit of produce you throw out because you never used it is money you are just throwing in the trash.

Save time part 2
If chicken is on sale, plan on multiple chicken dishes.  Cook all of the chicken at the beginning of the week.  Then when you need chicken later that week, it's all prepared and ready for you, saving you time in prep.  Also, if you buy your chicken fresh and cook it immediately, you've just saved defrosting time for future meals.  (Just make sure you use it soon enough that it doesn't go bad.  Freeze the cook meat if you need to.)

When you first start cutting on your grocery budget, start small.  Plan a menu for a few weeks before you start worrying about skimming the grocery ads or planning for every last ounce of food you will buy.  If you start all gung ho from the start, chances are great that you will burn out quickly.  Baby steps.  Get used to one part before you move on to the next.  But watch excitedly as your grocery spending slowly starts to decrease.  Get excited over every dollar.  Let that small success spur you on to do a little bit more.

I'm back!

So, I've taken a bit of a hiatus on this blog.  I apologize.  I mostly started this blog to document my couponing, but after having a baby I had to cut some things from my life and couponing was one of them.  Now, that doesn't mean that I've stopped being frugal, just that I've stopped reading couponing blogs and cutting coupons every week and rushing to Walgreens to get a bottle of free nasal spray that I'll never use.  I think my timing was quite unfortunate.  I stopped couponing just after I moved within walking distance of a Walgreens.  Alas.

However, I decided recently that this blog need not be solely about couponing.  Rather, it can be about frugal living in general.  I have been reading frugality blogs recently and have been loving them.  BJ and I have been living quite frugally for some time now.  I've had several people ask me how I do various things that I do, so I've decided to turn back to this blog.

Here we go!