Nov 7, 2010

My grocery budget learning curve

If you've been reading this blog for very long, you know I tend to rant and rave about the amount of money I spend for groceries for just two and a half people (my 4 yr old grandson, Mr. B. is with me 3 days a week and I feed him two meals plus snack). Lately, despite planning menus each week, the cost has been even higher! Some items I buy have increased in price by as much as 40%. An example, tortillas have gone from $3.89 per package of 10 to $4.97 in just the past few months. Coffee, mayonnaise, lunch meats, canned soups -- they've all increased by at least that much.

I was happy to receive the book "Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family" to review for Amazon. My initial reaction was that I wasn't going to learn anything new because Ihave either read and/or tried pretty much everything this book was going to tell me. But I was wrong.

Although I'm only half way through the book, I decided yesterday to put into practice what I've read so far. I sat with my store ads, my list of foods I have on hand, my running grocery list (must have's), and off I went - figuring, printing coupons, clipping coupons, calculating, and listing. The process of making my menus and my grocery list did take me about two hours, but a lot of that is a learning curve on where to find online coupons for what products. I believe that will get faster as I get more organized.

The long and short of all this? I purchased everything on my normal grocery list (the one we add to when an item runs out - the "must have's") plus stocked up on items we normally use but were not required for this week's menus (soups, tomatoes, canned fruit) and spent $86.42. But the really big news is -- I saved $87.12 by shopping sales, using store coupons and manufacturers' coupons! That is slightly more than a 50% savings!

Here's an example of how I saved so much. My local grocery store (Krogers) had a "Buy 10 items, get $5 back" sale. There were specific items that applied to the sale (not everything in the store). I went through the list and came up with my list of those items that we use on a regular basis: canned tomatoes, Campbells soups, store brand canned fruit, for examples. I purchased 8 cans of Campbells Chunky Clam Chowder that were on sale for 1.49. I used a Kroger card coupon for $1.50, plus four manufacturer's coupons totaling 5.00, plus I got .50 off each can for the Buy 10 get $5 back (other items made up the additional two required to make 10).

Regular price 8 cans @ 1.99  $15.92
Sale price $1.49 ($11.92)
Less instant rebate  -$4.00
Less Kroger coupon $1.50
Less manufacturers coupons $5.00
Final cost $1.42 - 17.5 cents per can - 89% saved!
Savings $14.50

There was a similar situation for Stove Top stuffing mix, which, after sale price and manufacturer's coupon, I paid .25 per box.

So if I saved this kind of money, why is my savings "just" 50%? Well, I bought my "regular" grocery list items that were NOT on sale as well -- cauliflower, onions, cat treats, coffee, cream, Diet Coke, yogurt, bread, ice cream, and a few other items.

This is my new "pantry" just outside the kitchen door in the garage. The shelves are stocked by product type - tomatoes together, fruit together, soups together, etc. According to the book, I should go back and mark each can with the date purchased, to keep using the oldest item at the front of the shelf as this pantry grows.

The theory behind the book is NOT to simply shop for what's on sale, but to combine what's on sale with what your family normally eats and stock up on "loss leader" products from the grocery store ads. Even though they were on sale, I did not buy a bunch of processed foods no matter how low the price, but stuck to things we normally use that would store well. The book encourages you to use a storage pantry and your freezer, and to keep a running inventory of what is in both. I'll be working on that this week.

It's not fair to review this book before finishing it, but I admit I was so excited to see my grocery bill cut in half that I just had to share. I still have obvious questions about this "system" - can I maintain it and still buy the groceries we normally buy? Will pouring over ads and finding coupons take up too much time? Will I see this kind of savings every time I shop?

I'll keep you posted.


mjl7266 said...

Coupons are awesome! Even if you don't stick to the rest of the recommended strategies, you will save money if you use store coupons and manufacturer's coupons regularly

Martha said...


I keep a running list of my freezer contents and it is held in place on the front of my freezer by a magnet. When I take something out of the freezer, I note that on my list.

I do the same thing with my pantry. I have an ongoing "inventory" list hanging on a clipboard. When I take something out of the pantry, I note that on the list.

I do the same when I put things in the freezer and the pantry - I add them to the list.

Once a month I print off new lists. No more guessing what I have. I can grab both lists when I grocery plan if I am unsure of what I have or need.

I had to check out your blog. I do believe we have some things in common.