How do you save money on groceries?

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Calico
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How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Calico » Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:54 am

I've noticed lately that money has been a bit tight and I decided to do some reports in Quicken to figure out why. First off, I had some one off events in the past 12 months that will not happen again and I hope won't happen again (big vacation plus unexpected medical and veterinary bills), but something that troubles me is the huge increase in my grocery bill.

I am on a very tight budget because I like to save. I am a single mom (divorced) living in a high cost of living area. I still manage to save nearly a third of my income and I have no debt other than my mortgage. I bring all this up because as the only adult in the household, I am the only one spending money on groceries and the only one in charge of the budget.

Rounded to the nearest hundred dollars, last year (all of 2017) I spent $3,400 on groceries. In the past 12 months (August 2017-August 2018) I've spent $6,300 on groceries. That's almost double in a year! I am having a hard time figuring out what it is that made the bill go up and how I can cut the bill more. The only thing I might have done, I got a pantry (shelving I put in the basement) and a deep freezer and stocked both over time with stuff that I usually buy that's on sale/when it's on sale. But now I don't buy the things I've stocked up on. I wait until I runs out. When it runs out I buy it as needed until it's on sale again.

Anyway, things I already do are:

- buy generic
- make meals from scratch
- buy produce at the farmers market when it's open (produce from there lasts longer so there is less waste. Plus, it's cheaper. For some reason meat, eggs, and milk there is not cheaper so I buy it in the store).
- use coupons when I can (but since most stuff I buy is generic or fresh food, I don't really get many coupons I can use).
- my daughter is vegetarian so I tend not to buy much meat.
- shop with a list (I kind of have to when cooking from scratch. I would forget ingredients otherwise).

I just changed this:

- I now bring leftovers to work for lunch. I used to buy frozen dinners (cheaper than eating out). But I think leftovers are even cheaper than frozen dinners.

Another change (but this is new as of this month):

- My daughter buys school lunch. She just started high school and the food is better. I used to pack her lunch. I think money-wise, this is a wash.

Any additional money saving ideas for grocery shopping? I hope to trim the budget back down. Maybe not back to $3,400 (teen daughter is eating more now and prices have gone up a little) but certainly less than $6,300 a year.
Last edited by Calico on Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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cheese_breath
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by cheese_breath » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:00 am

1. Store brands. In most cases they're just as good as the name brands, IMO.

2. Sign up for shoppers savings cards at the grocery stores. Besides in store discounts for card holders they also gave additional on-line discounts if you sign up for that too.

3. Don't shop when you'r hungry.

4. Remember, sales items aren't bargains if you don't need them.

5. Buy in bulk when possible... Costco, Sam's Club, etc.
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Calico
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Calico » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:03 am

Thanks for the ideas. I do those things already which is why I am confused. I added something to my list above too. I forgot to mention that I shop with a list and only buy what's on the list. So I avoid impulse buys.

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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by fabdog » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:15 am

The only other item I can suggest is maybe switch stores. We are in a medium COL area, and the difference between grocers is amazing. Assuming your not shopping at Whole Foods, the difference between a Harris Teeter to a Food Lion to Walmart (to use examples in our area) can be quite large. Depending on your area there may also be bulk stores (non Costco/Sam's) near you that may offer good pricing as well

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AerialP
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by AerialP » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:17 am

It looks to me that you've really focused on doing almost everything reasonably possible, going beyond what most folks do. Your list reads much like one from "Your Money Or Your Life", "Tightwad Gazette", or various "simple lifestyle" forums. And that is a good thing! :-)
But yes that is a big categorical expenditure jump year-over-year and I think it is most likely, as you said, that brief change in behaviour when you strove to put extra effort and resources into stocking up the new pantry and the deep-freeze.
I guess my only suggestions would be, very much depending on your location, considering incorporating a place like Grocery Outlet (an amazing store, found in California/Oregon/Washington and also in Pennsylvania), or Aldi or Lidl, into your shopping routine.
Another tactic may be to look into nearby food co-ops where you can buy high quality staples in the quantities you need at bulk prices. Specifically, instead of committing to a 20lb bag of high-quality whatnot at a place like CostCo, you could dole out what you anticipate needing, such as 3 lbs of high-quality whatnot but at the price which is still closer to wholesale and potentially less risk of waste from it going stale.
With your daughter being vegetarian, that is another favorable aspect. Perhaps it's time to consider joining her in that endeavour, at least for a few months to see how it goes for you? I think from my experiences and observances over the years that it is quite a "life-hack", generally associated with much lower costs, with respect to food and healthcare, in the long run.

(Edited for one misspelling and one clarification)
Last edited by AerialP on Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

J Dough
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by J Dough » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:26 am

One thing I do that helps is use Kroger's "Click-list" program. This is where you submit your grocery order online, then pull up in your car outside the store and a store employee brings it out to you and puts it in your car. I know some Wal-Marts have a similar service, and other grocery stores might as well.

It might seem counter-intuitive because you pay for the service. It costs $5 per order in my area. However, the online ordering system has coupons that only apply to the Click-list orders, and each time it has paid for itself or come close in those coupon savings. Also, because you aren't going in, you are forced to stick to your list. It eliminates the browsing-impulse purchases.

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camillus
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by camillus » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:29 am

One word: ALDI

jehovasfitness
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:29 am

I dunno, but past few months our grocery bill has ticked up $100-$150/mo without any changes to our routine.

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Watty
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Watty » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:33 am

Calico wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:54 am
Any additional money saving ideas for grocery shopping?
The American Express Blue Everyday card has a 3% rebate at supermarkets and it does not have an annual fee. You need to check the statement since some supermarkets are not coded as "supermarkets" in the credit card system since they sell other stuff too.

Some stores have an App that you can put on your phone and they have have sales and promotions that are only on the App.

One thing to watch out for is that tracking your food spending can be tricky since you may buy non-food items,drug prescriptions, and even gas at a supermarket or club store.

It is hard to quantify but I have noticed that the sales in the store flyers are not as good as they were a year or two ago. In my area Walmart opened a number of "Walmart Markets" that were grocery stores which increased the competition for a few years, but they closed most of them so there is less competition now.
Calico wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:54 am
In the past 12 months (August 2017-August 2018) I've spent $6,300 on groceries.
Did you by any chance count August of both years? That would be 13 months.

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Watty
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Watty » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:36 am

One other thing I just thought about. In my area we have a lot of grocery stores and I have noticed that the prices are often not the same at the same brand store that are only a couple of miles apart.

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Abe
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Abe » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:44 am

The nearest Aldi store to us is 50 miles, but we shop there about once a month for significant savings, especially on milk, eggs and produce. I buy whole boneless pork loins on sale, usually around $1.28 per pound. When I get home, I slice them in about one inch slices and then wrap two to a package and freeze them. Two one inch pork chops are enough for a meal for the two of us. Cost per serving is very low, much cheaper then buying chops already sliced.

Edited to add: You can do this with boston butt pork roast as well. I see a local store has them on sale right now for $1.07 per pound for a twin pack. I sometimes have the butcher slice them in about one inch slices leaving about half of one for a roast. When I get home I package them enough for one meal and freeze them.

Edited to add: It's usually cheaper to buy cleaning and paper products at the local dollar store rather than the grocery store. Our local Dollar General store usually has a coupon for $5 off on a $25 purchase on Saturdays. You have to go to their online site and do a short survey to get the coupon but it's worth it.
Last edited by Abe on Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:07 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Mike Scott
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Mike Scott » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:46 am

The "extra" is probably sitting in your pantry. After the initial investment, your ongoing budget should return to normal if you are still following your usual shopping pattern.

health teacher
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by health teacher » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:47 am

Meat is expensive.

Even if you don't make it much, try to go with chicken breast when it is on sale.

Drinks are expensive.

Water should be primary source of hydration.

We shop at Aldi. Family of 5 (3 kids under 6) and our budget is about $500 per month or $6,000 per year. Teen years are apparently going to be brutal on the food budget.

cpumechanic
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by cpumechanic » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:50 am

Depending on location if you can find a store called grocery outlet you can save a lot of money. Another poster suggested ALDI and that is a good choice as well.

Check out the clientele and ambiance of the grocery store you frequent. If you see lots of new cars, and well dressed people, and lots of kiosks for fresh baked goods, seafood, cold cuts, meat, and fresh pasta you are likely shopping in the wrong grocery store. All those specialized and exclusive kiosks cost money to maintain, and you as the consumer are paying for the privilege of these options even if you don't buy the overpriced merchandise ($5-6 for a fresh loaf of bread).

I shop where a lot of folks use EBT cards and are stretching a food budget to the max. People on tight budgets find the best grocery stores to frequent.

Shop sales for meat, and insist on rainchecks if they "run out" of something you will use . One local chain has a 30 day expire on all rainchecks, the second local chain has NO EXPIRATION on rainchecks.. so.. if they have Steak on sale for labor day, but run out late in the weekend insist on a raincheck, and use as you see fit.

Buy a small freezer and a vacuum sealer and vacuum seal fresh items (meat, cheese, others).. buy the seal-able bags on ebay or amazon for a discount . Stock up on fresh vegetables in late summer, and freeze. Fresh Sweet Corn frozen in the vacuum sealed bags tastes great in December.

Go to Sams club early in the day and look for meat in the coolers that is marked down for fast sale. Nearly every package of meat is large and $5 off or more.. Buy 10 packages of discounted (but still edible and safe)... meat at Sams club and you paid for your membership. I can often get 90% fat free hamburger for $2.50/lb or less using this method.

I have seen dozens of packages of chicken marked down from an already very competitive price per lb.

If you find a meat you like at Sams, marked down for fast sale, stock up, then use you vacuum bagger to freeze the meat when you get home.

Hope that helps provide some ideas.

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sport
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by sport » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:55 am

I would suggest a Costco membership. In addition to the grocery savings, there are real bargains on clothing and household goods. If the quantity of an item is too large, you just skip that one. There are plenty of others in reasonable sizes. You can also save on gasoline, and their free credit card has very good rebates (including 2% at Costco and 4% on gasoline).

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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by H-Town » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:00 am

Calico wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:54 am
Any additional money saving ideas for grocery shopping? I hope to trim the budget back down. Maybe not back to $3,400 (teen daughter is eating more now and prices have gone up a little) but certainly less than $6,300 a year.
A few tips:
1) Know what include in your groceries bill. I include all household items (cleaning supplies, dog food, shampoo, etc.) in groceries. So try to look at groceries and household budget side by side so that you can get a full picture. Just keep your tracking method consistent so that it will give you helpful data.

2) Watch out for overbuying groceries and have to throw away leftovers. This is a big waste.

3) Substitute beef with chicken every now and then.

4) Do not do your primary groceries shopping at Costco or Sam Club, unless it's household items that you can use them for the entire year. Their produce portion is oversize and expensive. And sometimes, you tend to buy more stuff than you need at Costco/Sam Club.

Other than those items, I would not put a cap on groceries. As long as it's not wasteful, being well fed and healthy is part of a happy life.

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GoldStar
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by GoldStar » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:12 am

Have you looked closely to see if there are bigger-items that might be blowing the budget this year?
When we were budgeting out all our categories what I found blew the Grocery Budget were some of the "Big" events.
For instance, years we would host a big 15-people Thanksgiving-Day meal would easily add a few hundred. Similar with other parties/gatherings.

Having children getting older does tend to make the grocery bills bigger (they eat more).

Some other ideas:
1) Look for less-expensive stores (Costco, cheaper-grocer-in-your-area, etc.)
2) make sure you are right about Farmer's Market prices being cheaper; in my area they are always more expensive (although we still buy for quality).
3) Look at the prices of items you are buying and consider alternative/cheaper items that provide the same nutritional value. For instance - if you buy "deli luncheon meat" you might find it cheaper (and healthier!) to cook chicken every few days, break it up, and use it in sandwiches instead of expensive deli products.

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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by bob60014 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:16 am

Sounds like you are on top of it but it may be as simple as, food prices have risen, packaging has gotten smaller.

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dm200
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:16 am

1. Consider health. Not a bargain if you save $10 on food and your health is harmed.

2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.

3. Beans, lentils, etc. age good for you and inexpensive. Oatmeal for breakfast (with fruit and soy milk) is low cost and good for you.

4. Avoid eating out

5. Eliminate soft drinks and juice - except tomato juice

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dm200
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:17 am

My wife claims she saves a lot using discounts and coupons (both paper and online/electronic)

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tuningfork
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by tuningfork » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:21 am

Since you use Quicken, a different angle would be to make sure it categorized all your grocery expenses properly, both this year and last year. Maybe all your Home Depot trips this year were accidentally flagged as grocery, so you're not actually spending as much on groceries as you thought. Or a grocery store you used to shop at last year was put into a different category, so you spent more last year on groceries than Quicken thinks.

You could also look at the individual grocery transactions and see if you can spot any anomalies and try to explain them. Maybe you tend to shop once a week and usually spend $80-$100, but then one week there's a $250 shopping trip. Why was that particular week more expensive than the others? Or you find one week where you spent $100 three times instead of once. They might remind you of some unusual circumstances: that $100 gift card you bought, or that dinner party last spring. I'm guessing you'll spot an increase in spending after you finished the pantry shelving and bought the new freezer.

I'm a data geek, so I would put all the grocery transactions into a spreadsheet and plot a line chart for the past 2 or 3 years to show weekly spending over time. That would immediately show if your spending increased gradually over time, or if there were lots of "one time" splurges or mis-categorized transactions, or if spending suddenly increased one month and stayed high.

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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by stoptothink » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:31 am

dm200 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:16 am
2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.
Like clockwork. For all we know, OP may be vegan; they don't say.

Without going through your regular grocery list, it is really difficult to make any really relevant recommendations. General rules: have a plan and be willing to eat the same things on a regular basis and find out where to get those things cheapest (the cost on the same items can vary dramatically from store to store)...Family of 4, average monthly grocery spending $250-$275, and we eat a lot of meat (and I am a "health professional" with a PhD in a very related field, countless professional certifications, and peer-reviewed scientific publications in nutrition science...who is not going to be pulled into a nutrition/health debate).

tenkuky
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by tenkuky » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:47 am

bob60014 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:16 am
Sounds like you are on top of it but it may be as simple as, food prices have risen, packaging has gotten smaller.
Agreed. I first noticed the 64 oz juice become 59 oz juice but retain price and look "almost" identical if you are not reading labels.
Same with frozen veggies, 16 oz became 12 oz packages.
Now, I just buy looking at unit prices.

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BeerMoney
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by BeerMoney » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:51 am

camillus wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:29 am
One word: ALDI
This. Lots of stuff is half the price of a regular grocery store, sometimes even less. Store brand suppliers curated for quality. ALDI is the first stop, then we get the like 25% of items ALDI doesn't carry at the regular store on the way back home.

Also, recipes that are big on veggies, lentils, chicken, beans, and other low cost items instead of red meat.
Last edited by BeerMoney on Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

RickBoglehead
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by RickBoglehead » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:52 am

I'd suggest your comparison might be at fault for some of it. You're comparing all of 2017 with August 2017 - August 2018. That's a calendar year compared to 13 months that include 5 months of the calendar year in the first set of data.

I'd recommend you run a MONTHLY report for a longer period and actually look at each month. See when you added the shelving, and the freezer, and what your expenses did. It seems unlikely that you doubled your spending and didn't notice.

There have been various threads about how much people spend on groceries that you may want to review also.

WhiteMaxima
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by WhiteMaxima » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:53 am

buy less, buy fresh (in season, local farm), zero waste.

Chris K Jones
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Chris K Jones » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:54 am

Aldi is a good way to save money. I used to go there infrequently because it is quirky, but now most of my groceries come from there. If it is around, give it a try. I actually prefer to shop there.

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dm200
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:56 am

While nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.) may seem to be expensive (per pound) - unlike meat - there is very little water. So, really not that expensive for high nutrition.

Food waste can be a drain as well.

I grew up in the country (family farm) and my grandmother and mother never threw out uneaten food from one meal. We ate it at the next!

Going to college, I was absolutely shocked to find that it was "normal" for families to throw out anything not eaten at one meal.

jehovasfitness
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by jehovasfitness » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:59 am

stoptothink wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:31 am

2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.

as a health pro here, meat, fish and eggs/dairy are not bad for health.

in fact, on a cost basis eggs are quite cheap given how much nutrition a whole egg provides

vk_217
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by vk_217 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:08 am

Aldi, Trader Joes, Lotte Plaza (Asian grandmart),no coupons or waiting for sale. Our monthly grocery bill is < $150 for 2 adults.We cook at home,mostly italian,thai,mexican,mediterranean and indian cuisine. No soda,energy drinks and I have pretty much given up on alcohol.Once in 6 month I might have a glass of wine from Trader Joe's (La Finca Malbec).

My wife and me are vegetarians and introverts (little or no socializing and entertaining) so that helps.
Last edited by vk_217 on Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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MrBeaver
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by MrBeaver » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:12 am

Calico wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:54 am
The only thing I might have done, I got a pantry (shelving I put in the basement) and a deep freezer and stocked both over time with stuff that I usually buy that's on sale/when it's on sale. But now I don't buy the things I've stocked up on. I wait until I runs out. When it runs out I buy it as needed until it's on sale again.
It sounds like you are doing a lot of things right. Buying on sale in bulk can be a huge benefit long-term. One cubic foot of freezer space can hold 30-40 pounds of meat. For instance, a moderate to small sized 7 cubic foot freezer could hold as much as 210-280 pounds of meat. At an average 'on-sale' price of $2.50 per pound, that's $625. But it's also at least a $400 savings once you responsibly consume the food, assuming minimal waste.

One thing which has helped our family in the past is to compute a rough estimate of the cost of a meal when we meal plan, and then spread that out over the estimated person-meals it will supply (including leftovers). A rough estimate is fine, as the real value in this is finding the few meals you have gotten used to preparing which are not necessarily your favorites but are much more expensive than other meals you prepare. It will also highlight the meals that are really cheap, and assuming those meals are also healthy (legumes, whole grains, in-season cheap vegetables), it is usually wise to increase the frequency of those if one is trying to reduce the budget.

Without computing the cost of 'eating' a meal, all the other tricks are mostly changing 'shopping' habits rather than 'eating' habits in order to achieve one's goals (time, budget, health, enjoyment). Since it sounds like you are doing all the right things in the shopping category, I suspect there is more room for improvement in the 'choosing what to eat' category.

Good luck!

miles monroe
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by miles monroe » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:14 am

costco (as much as possible)
aldi
buy one get one at publix

Dottie57
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Dottie57 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:29 am

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:59 am
stoptothink wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:31 am

2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.

as a health pro here, meat, fish and eggs/dairy are not bad for health.

in fact, on a cost basis eggs are quite cheap given how much nutrition a whole egg provides
As someone who has trouble with anemia at times, I think red meat is important. You don’tneed to eat a lot. 8 oz hamburger tastes great, cooks fast and leaves room for lots of veggies on the side.

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dm200
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:41 am

jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:59 am
stoptothink wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:31 am

2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.

as a health pro here, meat, fish and eggs/dairy are not bad for health.

in fact, on a cost basis eggs are quite cheap given how much nutrition a whole egg provides
We disagree - follow the "science" -

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dm200
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:43 am

Not doing this now because of current circumstances, but you might save on certain large quantities at Costco by splitting large packages with others.

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dm200
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by dm200 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:43 am

Dottie57 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:29 am
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:59 am
stoptothink wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:31 am

2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.

as a health pro here, meat, fish and eggs/dairy are not bad for health.

in fact, on a cost basis eggs are quite cheap given how much nutrition a whole egg provides
As someone who has trouble with anemia at times, I think red meat is important. You don’tneed to eat a lot. 8 oz hamburger tastes great, cooks fast and leaves room for lots of veggies on the side.
We disagree. Follow the science.

RollTide31457
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by RollTide31457 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:48 am

We go Krogering for the best of everything - including the price.

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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Dottie57 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:55 am

dm200 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:43 am
Dottie57 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:29 am
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:59 am
stoptothink wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:31 am

2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.

as a health pro here, meat, fish and eggs/dairy are not bad for health.

in fact, on a cost basis eggs are quite cheap given how much nutrition a whole egg provides
As someone who has trouble with anemia at times, I think red meat is important. You don’tneed to eat a lot. 8 oz hamburger tastes great, cooks fast and leaves room for lots of veggies on the side.
We disagree. Follow the science.
Yes we definitely disagree. And I find different internet sites disagree on “the science”.

Calico
Posts: 196
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Calico » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:56 am

Thanks for the replies! By the way, I loved the "tightwad" comment. My grandparents (who lived during the Great Depression) used to say I was out of that era I was so penny-pinching. Haha. Brought back fun memories.

I got some good information, although not what I expected. I am going to look at those Quicken reports again (and Quicken data). Also, maybe stocking the pantry was a factor (I suspected it was). Although I have noticed that I routinely spend over $100 a week on groceries now where I used to spend less than $100 (it's always been a kind of game for me to have that number under $100). So I am spending more. And I have noticed sizes are smaller and prices are the same. I am buying more of some things because of it.

I am a bit surprised that a lot of people are telling me to do things I explicitly said I did in my original post, but maybe they are just in a hurry and are just answering the question in the subject line. It is good advice, but that's exactly why I am confused and posted this, I do those things already.

Some things I didn't touch on that others did. I do shop at Costco. That's new within the last year. I joined after I got the deep freezer and shelves. Before that, I had no space to store things. Interestingly, some things a Costco aren't cheaper than my grocery store. I did price comparisons by weight and volume of items I commonly buy. Some things are cheaper, but a lot is the same price or, in some cases, actually a little more expensive.

There is an Aldi near me. It's a very small (it's in what used to be a hardware store). I've been there a few times and really can't find much that I buy there. The one near me seems to be a lot of pre-packaged/pre-made stuff. Same with Trader Joes near me. I used to wonder around it when my daughter was at her music lesson nearby. I saw interesting things, but not the staples I routinely buy and use in my recipes.

I already shop at the cheapest store in my area (aside from the Aldi), Giant. There is also a Whole Foods and a Wegmans (they seem to be pricier and it's a hassle to park there). There is no Walmart nearby. And of course there is the Costco that I go to.

frugalmama
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by frugalmama » Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:58 am

I get it. I was feeding my family of 12 on $600 a month and now I'm closer to $800... some months am close to $1200. That includes anything you buy at a grocery store. I live in a LCOL area but we travel to HCOL areas often and I used to work in the grocery business so I have a good idea of how stores, promotions etc. work in those areas. Prices have gone up all over the place and many of the discounts aren't as good as they used to be. I have seen more discounts on processed foods than base foods - oatmeal in my area is up almost 50% from the sale price and the non-sale price is way up too. Eating several lbs a day for breakfast has caused a huge price increase for just breakfast for us. I am currently looking to make some changes to keep it manageable as we don't have the extra $ either...it eats up savings. I'm a fan of the Tightwad Gazette which someone previously mentioned so if you haven't read it, check it out...it just gives you some additional things to think about. We waste very little, I cook from scratch, etc. etc. but I always enjoy rereading to brainstorm some new ideas...

A few thoughts....
Switch grocery stores - or shop at multiple stores. I keep a price book for a while and now know what is a good price per oz for just about everything. You don't have to go that far but it might help on the items you purchase most often. I wouldn't only hit Sams Club 1x a month or 1x every 2 months - I purchase things like cheese and flour there among other things. Same with Aldi - the few processed things I purchase I purchase there 1x every month or so. I shop the ads so one week I may hit Krogers while the next I hit Tom Thumb, etc. depending on what I need. In general, different stores specialize in different things as far as low prices and Krogers' prices have gone up a lot lately in most regions. By hitting different stores different weeks, you aren't really going to the store more often...just different stores. I only hit Winco every 2 months when I purchase 100 lbs of oats while I shop at Sprouts weekly for produce (because my Sprouts has the lowest produce prices usually). Also, check prices online - I can order whole wheat flour from Sams for much cheaper than I can at any store around (5 lb bags) and I get ebates on it.

Eat more beans - Add double the number of beans to every soup, etc. that calls for beans. I double the rice and barley as well. We have one of those at every meal, always.

Change what you eat - It could be that particular things that you regularly eat have gone up in price and there are lower cost options out there. Lasagna noodles are an example for me...they went way up so we eat lasagna less and when we do, I cook it with other noodles. Maybe you don't need to drink as much milk as you do or in my family I see that favorite dinners are overeaten so I try to be aware of that and set limits and pull out lunch for tomorrow prior to letting everyone eat to control portion size a little more and get them to drink their water.

I have extra freezers/a 2nd pantry and only purchase at the lower price too. I also have a Use it Up Shelf....I start with what is on it each week as I plan my meals around what is on sale and try to use everything on that shelf.

Finally, calculate the cost per meal. Figure out a figure that you like and work towards that. Cooking from scratch is not the same across the board...some meals are definitely more expensive than others. So, if your cost per portion is too high for one, make a cheaper meal for the next day. Substitute if you can for expensive items that are not on sale - I've used teriyaki sauce instead of BBQ sauce, etc. before.

I don't know if you have space, but I garden and that has made a huge dent in my budget. Food prices are going up, coupons aren't as good, stores don't double/triple coupons any more...so it is more difficult. To figure out what is going on, just break down your budget some...track how much you are spending on each area.
HTH!

Calico
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Calico » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:01 pm

As the meat thing... since it seems to be a hot topic in this thread. It's like I said, my daughter is vegetarian so I buy very little meat at all. We eat mainly beans, nuts, and eggs for protein but she also likes those Morning star products. I am hit or miss with them. What meat I buy is just for me. So it doesn't make up much of my grocery bill. I usually get a package of chicken breasts when they are on sale (you can get 6 breast for $7, each individually wrapped) and a bag of fish from Costco (again, individually wrapped) and that will last me a month. I bought a box of "Bubba Burgers" in June and still am working my way though it (I might cook a real burger on the grill for me and a veggie burger on the grill for my daughter). I like chicken and fish more than red meat, so I really don't buy a lot of red meat. I think I might buy myself a steak once a quarter. Haha.
Last edited by Calico on Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ccf
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by ccf » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:03 pm

What state do you live in and how many people are you feeding?

$120 a week sounds pretty impressive to me!

(I'm in Massachusetts, not near a Costco, so I shop at Market Basket)
Last edited by ccf on Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Caduceus
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Caduceus » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:04 pm

Maybe you are spending more because you shop at Costco. It's not that counter-intuitive, because you have a small family and Costco really only works if you need massive amounts of anything.

For me and my partner, there was a lot of waste when shopping at Costco because we ended up with lots of fresh produce we couldn't finish in time.

Calico
Posts: 196
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Calico » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:07 pm

I live just outside Washington DC and I am feeding two people (me and my teen-aged daughter).

And I hear what you are saying about Costco. When I go there I usually only buy a few select things and it's all stuff I can freeze (because it would go bad otherwise) or it's stuff with a long shelf life. If my membership wasn't free, It wouln't be worth it for me to pay for it.

frugalmama
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by frugalmama » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:09 pm

Calico wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:01 pm
As the meat thing... since it seems to be a hot topic in this thread. It's like I said, my daughter is vegetarian so I buy very little meat at all. We eat mainly beans, nuts, and eggs for protein but she also likes those Morning star products. I am hit or miss with them. What meat I buy is just for me. So it doesn't make up much of my grocery bill. I usually get a package of chicken breasts when they are on sale (you can get 6 breast for $7, each individually wrapped) and a bag of fish from Costco (again, individually wrapped) and that will last me a month. I bought a box of "Bubba Burgers" in June and still am working my way though it (I might though a real burger on the grill for me and a veggie burger on the grill for my daughter).
One thing that I'd do is not purchase individual breasts, etc. They are more expensive that way when you are looking at price per oz. Even if you are not vegetarian, I recommend making meat a part of the meal, not the focus of the meal. $7 for a thing of 6 breasts is most likely a lot unless each of those breasts weigh almost a lb (which I doubt)...so your really aren't getting that much food per breast as I suspect they are pretty small. I wait until BS chicken breasts go on sale and then purchase several lbs, but even for my family of 12 we don't eat but MAYBE 3 lbs of chicken per meal..because the breast is in the meal (like a casserole), not the meal itself with sides. I shop per lb...separate into 1 lbs bags (probably more like 1/4 to 1/2 lb for you) cutting the breasts in half if needed and then cook with that. We in general do a lot of vegetarian or meatless meals. HTH!
Last edited by frugalmama on Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

stoptothink
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by stoptothink » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:10 pm

dm200 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:43 am
Dottie57 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:29 am
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:59 am
stoptothink wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:31 am

2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.

as a health pro here, meat, fish and eggs/dairy are not bad for health.

in fact, on a cost basis eggs are quite cheap given how much nutrition a whole egg provides
As someone who has trouble with anemia at times, I think red meat is important. You don’tneed to eat a lot. 8 oz hamburger tastes great, cooks fast and leaves room for lots of veggies on the side.
We disagree. Follow the science.
:oops: From a published scientific researcher in this field, you should probably take your own advice...and please stop saying this in every thread food/grocery thread. You have your opinion, and that is great, but when you share your opinions on nutrition/health in all of these threads, you are inevitably moving them in the direction of being locked up.

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GoldStar
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by GoldStar » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:13 pm

dm200 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:43 am
Dottie57 wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:29 am
jehovasfitness wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:59 am
stoptothink wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:31 am

2. Move away from meat, fish, eggs, dairy - on balance you will save money and improve health.

as a health pro here, meat, fish and eggs/dairy are not bad for health.

in fact, on a cost basis eggs are quite cheap given how much nutrition a whole egg provides
As someone who has trouble with anemia at times, I think red meat is important. You don’tneed to eat a lot. 8 oz hamburger tastes great, cooks fast and leaves room for lots of veggies on the side.
We disagree. Follow the science.
dm200 - A reference to your science would be nice here. Many doctors and scientists disagree.
Nothing fixes Iron Deficiency better than some good-old-fashioned red-meat. We are just biologically meant to eat it.
Last edited by GoldStar on Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JBTX
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by JBTX » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:14 pm

J Dough wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:26 am
One thing I do that helps is use Kroger's "Click-list" program. This is where you submit your grocery order online, then pull up in your car outside the store and a store employee brings it out to you and puts it in your car. I know some Wal-Marts have a similar service, and other grocery stores might as well.

It might seem counter-intuitive because you pay for the service. It costs $5 per order in my area. However, the online ordering system has coupons that only apply to the Click-list orders, and each time it has paid for itself or come close in those coupon savings. Also, because you aren't going in, you are forced to stick to your list. It eliminates the browsing-impulse purchases.
I've started doing this as well with kroger and walmart. It also mskes me more aware of their comparative prices. It seems like in general walmart is cheaper but the service level is a little more choppy.

I also use amex blue cash card with 6% off on groceries.

MrBeaver
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by MrBeaver » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:20 pm

frugalmama wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:58 am
Finally, calculate the cost per meal. Figure out a figure that you like and work towards that. Cooking from scratch is not the same across the board...some meals are definitely more expensive than others. So, if your cost per portion is too high for one, make a cheaper meal for the next day.
^^^ This.

I'm constantly surprised that on a board about investing and money, these grocery threads rarely have people suggesting people compute how much it is costing per meal, and instead suggest methods of changing how they buy. The decision of what to eat is a large driver in final cost. Once one has optimized the 'how to buy' methods with sales, best stores, bulk storage, etc., computing a cost per meal is the only knob left, and almost nobody does this.

Toadandfriends
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Re: How do you save money on groceries?

Post by Toadandfriends » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:22 pm

I keep working on this (for me seems to be a learning process with ups and downs ) My criteria are: cheap, healthy, relatively easy with few inexpensive ingredients, tasty. Most of my cost saving is in the meal planning. Currently I'm exploring recipes from Eat well on $4/Day Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown, 5 spices 50 dishes (Indian food! so yummy so far) and Simple Suppers (Moosewood Restaurant). My Overdrive has a surprising collection of cookbooks. I am mostly vegetarian so that helps. I am always on the lookout for recipes that fit my criteria. I also love baking own whole wheat bread, muffins, scones etc. That helps fill me up. Good luck!

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