Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Groceries:getting the most for your money



I am a huge advocate of family dinners. I would feel safe assuming that most of us are. I love it when my hubby gets home from work and we can all sit down as a family and eat and chat about our day. However I am always looking for ways to make it easier and more cost effective. When I am planning a trip to the grocery store, I write up a menu of meals I plan to make during the next week or two. Then I write my grocery list off that. I probably could save a lot of money if instead I went to the store, bought what was on sale, and then made meals from that but I am just not that creative. One of my good friends told me about a food co-op that she is part of where a big group gets together and buys produce in bulk. I have been meaning to look into it forever, but I always forget and miss the monthly deadline. I will also admit that I am not good at knowing what is a "good deal." I don't have the prices of many things on my list memorized so I am not even sure when something is a good bargain or not. Make sense? So, tell me your secrets/tricks?

*What do you do to get the most for your money on groceries?

*Do you have a meal plan?
*Do you clip coupons or have some other way of regularly saving on items you buy? *What else can you share with us to help everyone save more while still feeding our families good, healthy meals?

15 comments:

andrea and heathe said...

this is a great post kelly! i have wondered the same thing myself! i plan out our meals for a week or so too but i also feel like i have no idea what is a good price or not. i signed up on coupons.com and they send me an email every week with coupons. i usually go through it to find something that we already use and sometimes they do have good deals!
other than that, i have no idea on how to save money on groceries. i can't wait to hear what everyone has to say!! :)

Jared and Delia said...

What I have found is that coupons work for some people great and not so much for others. I have tried coupon clipping twice (well coupon clipping stints I should say). Yes...I may end up with five cake mixes, and 10 boxes of granola bars for five bucks, but it took me two hours of coupon clipping and checking some website and those AWESOME deals come up only once in a while. Plus...We end up not using everything or getting burnt out on eating the same cereal we didn't really love to begin with because we have 17 boxes of it, or we eat it just because it is there even though it isn't very healthy.

So...for me coupons haven't proved worth it yet. If any of you have a coupon program you like...I would open to looking into though. :) I can't resist a good deal.

I too constantly work on trying to come up with menus for dinner. I don't like eating the same thing all the time.

One thing I rely on a lot is shopping at Walmart. It takes me just a few minutes to scan the ads. I mostly look at the front and back (major deals and produce section). Then... I price match. Be sure to bring your ad with you. Sometimes clerks can be weird about it. Just make sure you are price matching the same item - brand and weight, etc. They usually take a similar store brand item for great value...and they don't let you use store coupons.

To help cut cost. I will usually make a meal that uses the same ingredients in different ways so I can buy them in bulk for less.

For example: you can use sour cream with tacos, beef stroganoff, this crock pot creamy italian chicken I make, and in my favorite sugar cookies. They are all very different meals but use many of the same ingredients. I also cook a bunch of meat and use it three different ways for three days (about the limit for how long you should keep left overs). It also helps me limit our meat consumption to sparingly.

Hope that helps. I look forward to your ideas!

Megan said...

Kevin and I have actually been shopping around at different stores the last couple of shopping trips to find out where we get the best deals. So far, Smith's Marketplace has come in the best. Also, don't buy a lot of food items at Sam's unless it is something that can be stored for a long time. We did this for awhile, bought certain items there, and our grocery bill was astronomical. So, really watch out when shopping warehouse stores.

The coupon thing has never really worked for me, but my sister loves Pinching Your Pennies. She finds a lot of great deals on their website.

Kym, Shaun and Riley said...

I, like Kelly, plan a menu and then write up a grocery list accordingly. But, I also am a "coupon clipper". We take the local newspaper and I go through the coupons and only clip the ones I know that I'll use.(Okay, sometimes I clip out some that I may not need, but think that I'll use) But I don't cut them out until I'm ready to use them.

My sister-in-law told me about this website that she is subscribed to and swears by it! It's myfoodstoragedeals.blogspot.com and they also have one called deals to meals. I think it's like $4.95/mo. for the newsletter which is a report that they send you telling you what food is a good/great deal. They go through a bunch of different store ads to determine this. Also, for I think $7.95/mo. they will send you some menu ideas that go with the things that are on sale. I haven't signed up to do either one yet, but I'm planning on it. Like I said, my sis-in-law swears by it. And I also saw a clip of it on the news.

Shantel said...

From all my experience the simple fact of the matter is that saving money takes time. The more time you put in the more you save. I believe that this is what determines why cutting coupons works for some but not others. Its all about whether you feel the time you spend cutting coupons, organizing them, etc is worth the reward of extra cash off at the register. I have decided that cutting coupons works for me, I see it as a little way I can provide a kind of return to our family while I am at home. I often cut and organize coupons while I watch TV while by baby naps, it makes it so TV isn’t such a mindless activity. We get the newspaper, which provides a lot of coupons, and I also use online sites like coupons.com and shortcuts.com (which lets you load coupons onto store cards ie. smiths fresh values, which makes it so you don’t have to clip coupons they simply are loaded and come of automatically when you purchase the required items). I plan a months worth of meals on a calendar and get all the items I need at the beginning of the month, minus some perishable items for the end of the month. Then make short trips to the store throughout the month when perishable items run out. Anyway, this is long, but is what I do, hope this helps. (As a side note, when I have more kids I may find that I don't clip coupons as often because I won't have as much down time to devote to it, but for now it works.)

On The Go Family said...

I started using coupons and "shopping the deals" about two years ago. Our monthly food bill went from about $550 a month to under $400. (FYI, we are a family of four, living in the mid-west to give you some perspective on the prices.)

I made a lot of changes at once, so I wasn't sure how much to attribute to better planning and how much to attribute to deal shopping and clipping coupons. So this year I've been keeping track. Are you ready for this?

So far in 2009, I've saved $900 at the grocery store: $425 with coupons, the rest by shopping the deals. My spending year to date is $1605.

The amazing thing is that I'm getting SO MUCH MORE for what I spend. When I first started, we had zero food storage, having just returned from living overseas and not being able to bring home any of our food. Now we have four tall shelves FULL of food in our basement, enough of what we eat on a regular basis for about three months. So $1605 for five months may not be the cheapest bill ever, but the amount of things I've gotten for $1605 (many of them TOTALLY free through combining deals and coupons) is AMAZING.

I could write PAGES about what I've learned in the past two years. There's so much info I'm not really sure where to start. Like someone else said, you can spend HOURS putting it all together to get these type of results. My husband is crazy busy with work/school/church and I have spent a lot of my discretionary time putting together my shopping plans. It's not something that you can do in every stage of your life depending on what all you've got going.

If I could only give one piece of advice, I'd say this: create a price book. Learn what things cost on an every day basis. Without knowing this, you can't shop the sales, you can't know when it's better to use coupons or go generic, you can't know when to stockpile. Once you've got a price book going, the game really begins.

Then you can get started with coupons, price-matching and lots of other fun stuff.

Jared and Delia said...

My interest has been piqued by your coupon clipping programs. For those of you that swear by coupon clipping...could you share your programs? Or...do you just do your own thing?

Betsy said...

I am a coupon clipper and I love doing it. It takes some time to get it set up, but the up keep really isn't bad - maybe an hour a week. I use the Savvy Shopper website - she is based out of Utah County, but I have friends that live all over that are able to use her deals. The website is: www.savvyshopperdeals.com. She uses a binder system, which is honestly the best. Once you get it set up, it is easy to file coupons, get rid of expired ones, and know what coupons you have. When I first started this program, I did buy too much of some things just because it was a good deal - so they ended up getting thrown out because we were sick of them. Now, I only get things I know we will eat. Plus, it is a great way to stock up on not only food storage, but household supplies. I have cut way back on the things I buy (i really don't buy many treats or processed food), and I still save SO much money. It is all about combining coupons and the store deals - the Savvy shopper is great because she does it all for you, but you learn how to do it on your own too.

On The Go Family said...

Like Betsy said, look for blogs in your area that feature local deals. There are a ton here in Ohio that tell you what's on sale, what has a coupon to go with it, when to stock up, etc. They do ALL the work for me so all I have to decide is what I need and want to buy.

As for the coupons themselves, here are some of my favorite sites:

coupons.com
smartsource.com
boodle.com
redplum.com
kraftfoods.com
bettycrocker.com
meijer.com
shortcuts.com
cellfire.com

You do have to be careful because printer ink is not cheap, so don't go wild and print everything in site. You CAN print in B&W and on fast draft. As long as the bar code will scan, the coupon's good. (If anyone tells you otherwise, ask to see the manager.)

It's true that there are more coupons for junk food than healthy food. We save a ton on granola bars, cereals, cake mixes, etc so that we can use that savings to buy fresh produce. We're crazy about fruits and veggies and eat meat sparingly.

If you watch carefully and shop the deals, you'll learn to plan your meals around what's on sale and see that the healthy stuff does occasionally go on sale. When it does, stock up!

Also ... coupon stacking is awesome (meaning you stack a coupon on top of an already-good deal). Today I got six boxes of sugar-free Jell-O for .70 total. I also got a 24 oz bottle of Pace salsa for free, two bottles of Kraft salad dressing for .16 and two boxes of Reduced Fat Wheat Thins for $1.32 total.

Chances are that if you see a lot of coupons available for a product, a good deal is looming. Don't necessarily use the coupon right when you get it ... wait a few weeks and strike when the good deal arises.

Jared and Delia said...

thanks! I did pinching your pennies and grocery guru. The newspaper subscription cost pretty much evened out any savings we were getting and I was buying stuff I normally wouldn't use and ended up spending more than I would have without the coupon clipping.

Your methods sound really promising though. I will check out those sites. Thanks!

mistybown said...

Has anyone heard of grocery smarts? It's similar to pinching your pennies, but easier. If your interested in knowing more, I'd be happy to send you some info or give you a blog address! You can email me at: mistybown@hotmail.com

Shantel said...

Hey "On The Go Family", I am curious what sites you use that have local coupons for Ohio. I am moving to Ohio in a few weeks and would love to know the websites you use!

Debbie and Boys said...

When I first read this, my thoughts went to what my mother taught me and adjust it for inflation.
Cold cereal: .10-12/per ounce. As close as I can. add a zero to the ounces on the box, and if the price comes pretty close, thats a good deal.
Cheese: $2-a good deal/$3 more likely.
Chicken Breasts: under $2. is good, but 1.67 is great. and comes around once in awhile, worth buying and freezing.
Hamburger 93/7% Fat: 1.99 is awesome, but usually around 3.00 is normal.
I like the idea mentioned of using same ingredient for different meals throughout the week.
Also, if I do a monthly planning/trip, I buy enough fresh produce to enjoy before spoiling, then I buy frozen and canned for the second half. That way my little trip to get milk or eggs can be quick.
Produce is tricky. grapes at .78/lb is great, but usually more than a dollar is fine. But if its around 1.78 I think twice if I really can't have apples instead...which I go for as close to $1/lb
Strawberries in season at 1.00/lb is great. But 1.50-$2. is normal, not outrageous.
Couponing is harder if you're a health concious person, who does a lot of produce but theres plenty of stuff we use that isn't food related, like toilet paper, paper towels, dishwasher soap, any soap. etc., but I have found that it helps if stores price match or let you use a newspaper coupon with an internet coupon on one item. You just have to try it to see if it works.
I just got two boxes of crackers for free, using a newspaper BOGO free, and then used internet coupons towards each kind of cracker.
Walgreens, and CVS pharmacies have great deals, too.
With couponing in general, I'm very cautious that I don't buy products I would buy already. Even if its a great deal, if you didn't need it, it still costs you.

On The Go Family said...

Shantel, where in Ohio are you headed?

Here are the sites I use most often.

http://www.moneysavingmom.com/
http://cincinnaticents.blogspot.com/
http://littlemissknowitall.net/
http://blog.nickels-n-dimes.com/
http://www.stretchingabuckblog.com/
http://mommysnacks.net/

I think they'd be interesting even to people who don't live in this region. On top of weekly sales, they also discuss saving money in general, along with free samples, homemade recipes, etc.

So fun!

Shantel said...

Thanks so much "On The Go Family" We are moving to the Columbus area. My husband will be attending OSU's Dental Program. I am so happy to know sites with info for Ohio!