Our grocery spending was out of control. Each week, it was common for me to spend between $200-300 at Whole Foods. Add in the monthly trip to Costco. Add in the small trips in between for little stuff we might need at Smith’s. There were months where we easily spent $1,300 a month on groceries. An average month was $1,100+. In other words, too much.
To get my budget under control, I had to take a serious look at the grocery spending. These are some of the ways that I’ve trimmed costs.
This one is the most obvious if you read the list above of what we were spending. We were doing most of our shopping at Whole Foods. Try as I might, I couldn’t get out of there for under $200 most weeks. The first change that we made was to shop at other stores. Fresh & Easy is now our staple grocery store. Trips to Whole Foods are usually for very specific items.
I saw how much a friend saved last year by meal planning and I knew we had to implement it. Too many times, the “what do you want for dinner” conversation meant that we were going to spend a lot more money than we should. In addition, we were buying too much and wasting a lot of food because there wasn’t a specific plan.
Now, every weekend, I sit down with beloved my planner and I write down what we are having for dinner for the week. Before we go shopping. This is, of course, influenced by what we have on hand and what’s on sale. This way, we buy what we need and we use what we buy. That has been a huge money-saver.
I’ve even started planning breakfast and lunch.
Coupon, if it works for you
Couponing to an extreme (like you see on TV) doesn’t work for me. It does work for me to be part of frequent buyer clubs that send out coupons. Each week, I get a coupon from Fresh & Easy that is usually $7-10 off of a purchase of $50. This can be stacked. (So, if I spend $100, I can use it twice and get double that amount off.) My grocery stores also send out coupons based on my usage, which is really handy. This weekend, when I shop, I’ve got a coupon for a discount on a lot of the regular items that I buy. Depending on the total bill, I’m usually able to take $20-30 off of the bill with the store coupons. And it takes maybe 5 minutes of my time.
Shop in bulk when it makes sense
I do one Costco trip each month. For a while, I was buying produce there. Then I realized how much it was being wasted. It doesn’t make sense for me to get most of the produce from Costco. But it is definitely a bargain for organic chicken, frozen berries, Cholula, bread (which I freeze) and yogurt. It is, however, important to look at the price and make sure that it is saving you money. There are definitely times when it is cheaper for me to get my stuff at Fresh & Easy. Certain products are way cheaper. So I don’t get them there.
We have an Amazon Prime membership (which is worth every penny). I use it to shop in bulk with Amazon a lot. Our dishwasher tablets are a great example. At Fresh & Easy, it would cost me $.49 per load of dishes. With a much bigger box from Amazon, it’s $.24. (But check the prices on Amazon. Sometimes, you can find it cheaper from a different merchant.) And with our Prime membership, we get free two-day shipping, so there is no inconvenience or expense in having it shipped.
Stock up on staples
I buy rice at Costco in 12 lbs. bags. They’ve got big bags of organic quinoa too. It’s always on hand and I rarely have to worry about picking up more. It makes meal planning easy and I don’t have to purchase a ton of stuff each week to make complete meals. Just make sure you are getting a good price!
Cook with less expensive ingredients
During the Whole-Foods-Is-Our-BFF stage, we were using a lot of expensive cuts of meat on a regular basis. Grass-fed beef was a staple. If I am going to eat beef, I prefer grass-fed (tastes better). Organic at the least. Now, I just don’t plan meals around those ingredients. We eat a lot of chicken, ground turkey and fish. We get our fish frozen at Costco. It’s worked out well and our meals are much less expensive now.
Those are my secrets. Now, with an average of four trips to Fresh & Easy per month and one trip to Costco, I’m spending about $600 a month on groceries. From those months where we spent $1,300, that’s more than half! (Look at me. Blowing your mind with math.) I like this a lot better because we are wasting less and we know what’s for dinner. It works well.