Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Saving Money on Groceries

These days I enjoy grocery shopping. It's fun to watch the register as it deducts savings after savings until finally settling at half off or more.

How do I save half off or more? By making the most of store club card savings, coupons, and competitor coupons. However, it isn't as simple as looking at the sales ads. I'm combining the sale price with manufacturer's coupons and/or special promotions and making sure that the price truly is a good price and not just a gimmick to lure shoppers into buying things that are not truly a good value. (Secret: I don't do the work of finding these sales; I pay for the information.) In addition to that, certain items are bought only at specific stores because I know their price will beat the other stores' sales prices. I'll save that post for another day.

I have three goals when I shop each week:

  1. To plan my weekly meals around the best sales each week. If whole chicken is on sale, we'll have rubber chicken that week. If beef roast is the big sale of the week, we'll have pot roast and beef burritos. If pasta sauce is a loss leader, we'll be having spaghetti.
  2. To stock up on frequently used items. My goal is to stock up enough of our most frequently used items so that we don't run out before the next big sale. If I do run out, I try my best to find alternative things to eat that are on sale rather than buy things at full price.
  3. To buy as few things at full price, or barely marked down prices, as I can.
Because I'm buying primarily only things that are on sale, my grocery carts look odd. It doesn't look like a cart of someone buying for this week's menu because this week's menu is not my goal. I shop with a longer term goal in mind. I'm thinking about the next twelve weeks. Each item in my cart is not likely to be on sale again, at least not at such a good price, for twelve more weeks. I'm not worried that much about this week because I can put together a menu using what I've already stocked up on, what I'm stocking up on this week, and a few extra items.

So, here's what my grocery list looked like this week. Items marked ** were bought for immediate needs and were not necessarily the best price available.

At store #1, I bought:
2 bags granulated sugar (5lbs) = $1.65 each
3 boxes Quaker Oat Squares (16oz) = $1.49 each
2 boxes Honey Bunches of Oats (19oz) = $1.99 each
2 snack sized candy packs (8 pack) = $1.50 each (these are stocking stuffers)
**2 English muffins (6 pack)= $1.00 each
**1 bag hot dog buns = $0.89 each
**1 bunch bananas = $0.89 lb (must buy for Josh)
2 bunches broccoli crowns = $0.99 lb

Total Shelf Price = $42.19
Price Paid = $20.31
Amount Saved = $21.88

At store #2, I bought:
10 half-gallons milk = $1 each ( I froze for later use)
**2 cans black beans (14.5oz) = $0.88 each
9 cans Hunts spaghetti sauce (26oz) = $0.66 each
6 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 oz) = $0.50 each
20 cans vegetables (14. 5oz) - $0.50 each
2 boxes stuffing mix = $1.00 each
**1 box Spanish rice = $1.00 each
10 packages of chicken breasts = $1.99 lb
2 beef bottom round roasts = $2.50 lb
6 boneless pork sirloin chops = $1.50 lb
**1 bunch bananas = $0.88 (again Josh won't leave store without them)
**1 large carrot = $0.89 lb
**1 bunch romaine lettuce = $1.69 each
2 bags potatoes = $1.50 each
2 4-roll packs cinnamon rolls = $1.19 each (a special treat)
**1 package 12 double-roll TP = $5.99 (not the best price but needed)

Total Shelf Price = $207.22
Price Paid = $102.92
Amount Saved = $104.85

I now have enough milk for the rest of the month. I simply opened each one up and poured a little into our open milk jug and then froze them. This will give them room to expand so they won't explode in my freezer. Then I froze them to use later.

I bought 20 meals worth of meat this week if I ration it the way I discussed on the chicken breast and whole chicken posts.

The canned vegetables are also enough for 20 meals. I'll also use fresh produce (like the broccoli) and frozen vegetables when they are on sale. These cans will probably last us about 6-8 weeks.

The spaghetti sauce will be saved to use in spaghetti, other pasta dishes, homemade pizza, and English muffin pizzas (lunch).

The canned tomatoes will cover about 4-6 meals depending on what I end up using them in.

So, the idea here is to have a long term focus. The $120 I just spent covers more than just this week.

**I mentioned above that I pay someone to track the sales for me. Well, that someone is actually a website called The Grocery Game. It runs me $15 every 8 weeks to get the information for both stores. Seeing that I saved $125 in one week, I think that paying someone $1.88 per week to give me this information worth it. Don't you?

If you are interested, you can sign up for a 4 week trial for only $1. I suggest signing up for all the stores in your area to see how each list looks and read the "game rules" for each one; the $1 trial includes them all. Before you are billed (the site clearly tells you the next billing date), remove the stores you don't want. If you do sign up, please consider giving me referral credit. Just this email address in the appropriate form: josemail at thewiredcity dot com.

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