Posts Tagged ‘Grocery Shopping’

35 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Budget

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

With grocery prices rising and package sizes shrinking, it can be difficult to stay within your grocery budget. Here are 35 steps towards improving your grocery budget and making the most of your money.

1. Buy the least expensive ground beef and rinse the meat instead to reduce the fat content.
2. Stop buying baby carrots and chop the carrots yourself.
3. Milk your milk budget by using powdered milk when the milk prices are too high.
4. Try making your own coffee syrups and coffee creamers to help save on your coffee expenses.
5. Dispose of the disposable items and switch to cloth napkins, washcloths, and and microfiber cloths to replace your paper napkins and disposable wipes.
6. Try making your own bread using a bread machine or making bread the good old-fashioned way.
7. Start keeping a price book to cash in on the best deals (you can download a free one here).
8. Take advantage of grocery delivery services or free in-store shopping services to help avoid impulse shopping.
9. Give wholesale club shopping a try for items that you use frequently, just be sure to use your price book to compare the prices.
10. Start making your own homemade cleaners.
11. Learn the art of stockpiling and create a system for storing your stockpile that works for your family.
12. Create a series of menu plans that you can rotate so you can make your grocery shopping easier and keep yourself under budget.
13. Try using coupons and utilizing free coupon services to help you score the best deals for your money.
14. Start gardening with simple foods that are easy to grow like tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, and squash.
15. Try canning items from your garden to help cut costs in the winter months.
16. Make your own baby food or find a way to buy it cheaper.
17. Give cloth diapering a shot! They have come a long way and can save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
18. Sign up for free samples of food and toiletry items. You will waste less money trying new items out and these samples can help get you by when times are more lean.
19. Make your own mixes instead of buying them.
20. Try shopping at a less expensive supermarket.
21. Bring your own grocery bags for a grocery bag credit at most supermarkets.
22. Shop at stores that will double your coupons.
23. Bring cash and a calculator instead of using your debit card. This will help you to stay on budget better.
24. Utilize a slow cooker so you can buy cheaper cuts of meats and use the slow cooker to tenderize them.
25. Try making your own condiments like pancake syrup, croutons, and salad dressings.
26. Take inventory in your fridge, pantry, and freezer before shopping to avoid buying repeat and unnecessary items.
27. Try replacing one evening meal with breakfast foods instead. Most brunch dishes are less expensive and you can omit or stretch meat in these dishes a lot further.
28. Instead of buying prepackaged bagged ingredients, try packaging your own ingredients once a week instead. It will help get dinner on the table faster and it will save you money in your grocery budget.
29. Make a homemade pizza instead of buying pizzas in the frozen section.
30. Schedule a day in your kitchen every week to make cooking easier and to help save on the cost of buying convenience foods.
31. Feed your freezer and/or give once-a-month cooking a try to save on time and money.
32. Eliminate meat or make one night a meat-free night.
33. Make snacks items convenient so you don’t have to buy the prepackaged goodies.
34. Buy and prepare whole chickens instead of buying
chicken breasts as a meal or shred this meat for your casseroles.
35. Buy your meat in bulk.

(Photo Credit: WhamBam Pam)

More Coffee Talk

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

It has been awhile since I had been to Sam’s Club, but after all the adventures in bread making that I had been doing, I had run out of a key ingredient for cooking… all-purpose flour.

I don’t know what it is about going to Sam’s Club, but it is like I have to give myself a pep talk for an entire week that I am going there. I think it is because it is so big and the lines are so long and walking the place takes so much time, but maybe that is just me? Usually I choose the Click ‘N Pull option, but our Sam’s is under construction so I thought it would be easier if I just ran in and got the stuff myself.

I usually run in and run right back out and rarely do I browse because, frankly, I end up spending money we don’t have. As I was making my beeline towards the flour, this shiny bag caught my eye and I was doing a little happy dance in the aisle.

Sam’s Club is carrying my FAVORITE coffee in the whole wide world- Folger’s Gourmet Vanilla Biscotti. I have been highly addicted to this coffee since the company sent me some samples to review and that, my friends, is why Freebie Friday might not really be free. I can’t tell you how many “free” things I have gotten suckered into buying and this coffee is no exception.

This is a killer deal though, $10.88 for two pounds of coffee! Don’t forget, Sam’s also carries Dunkin’ Donuts for cheap too!

What have you received for “free” that you are now hooked on? Tell me I am not the only one getting sucked in by free samples!

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Normally, I am privileged to be included on the morning news for WSBT, but this time I made it to the evening news hour. WSBT is doing a Money Saving Mondays segment each Monday for the month of May and asked my thoughts on the rising grocery prices. This segment has lots of great tips and they compare the prices on the basics- bread, eggs, and milk in our area. Is it any surprise that good old Aldi made the cut?

I hope you can check it out and I thank Darla and the WSBT station for including me in this piece!

Sound Off: How are you dealing with the higher grocery prices? What is the biggest struggle for your family right now?

Incomplete Projects- The Grocery Game & Sewing Classes

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I have a couple little loose ends to wrap on a couple of blog projects that I was sharing on. I did manage to complete four sewing classes and this is my finished apron pictured here. I decided not to continue taking more classes because of the expense and the limited time that I have available. The good news is that I learned how to use my sewing machine and I can (sort of) sewing a straight line. My mother-in-law has offered additional classes for me (free of charge) and we plan to make a field trip to the fabric store so I can get over being intimidated by what types of fabrics I can use or what fabrics I shouldn’t use for certain projects.

The other project I had been working on was The Grocery Game and how much I could save my family using it.

Here is what I learned:

- My area had a limited amount of grocery stores listed and, honestly, they only offered one store near me that I was interested in really shopping at for the membership (our local Meijer)

- I found that I shopped more often and was spending more money than I typically would on my grocery budget. While I was able to score some great deals, I felt pressured to shop more than my typical bi-weekly or monthly shopping schedule.

- I did not see a big savings compared to my regular Aldi shopping and typical stockpiling of discounted items at stores. This is not to say that the savings weren’t there, but for someone who does make almost everything we eat and rarely buys convenience foods, the deals weren’t as great for what I needed and rarely beat the great prices at Aldi.

Despite not wanting to continue with the program, I will say that I am more aware of the coupons and am focusing more on my flier research and pricing. I had not been doing that as often and trying this grocery program helped me to get more focused on how much I was spending on foods and helped me get my price book up-to-date.

All in all, both were fun experiences and challenged me as a homemaker! I wouldn’t say I failed at the experiments, but I think my limited time really has started shedding light on where I really want to spend my time and focus my energies on.

Why Buy Milk? Let Me!

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Why buy milk when I could just give it to you for free? Hurry over to The MotherLoot for contest details on a giveaway for three containers of Horizon Organics Plus with DHA!

And while you are perusing our site, be sure to enter our Geek Squad Giveaway and check our latest review entries for fun children’s soaps and a great phone for work-at-home moms!

Sound Off: Let’s have a frank discussion about organic milk (without being mean or bullying anyone!) Do you buy organic milk or organic food products? Do you have a selective list of organic products you buy or do you go all the way with organic eating? How has this impacted your health or your grocery bill?

Testing The Grocery Game: Week One

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

This is my first week trying out the Grocery Game and really working towards building our stockpile through coupons and sale prices. I promised to chronicle my efforts here and I really appreciated all of your ideas and feedback on your coupon usage and what has been working for you.

Here we are in week one of my Grocery Game membership. Frankly, week one with this membership really stinks. I feel like I do when I go on other websites that offer a “free basic membership,” but then they only extend certain offers and the premium members get all of the good stuff. The reason is, of course, because I have none of the coupons that are listed for these good deals, not because I don’t have access to seeing the deal.

This week I diligently cut my coupons and then explored the official list of deals. The CVS listings were nothing new and were things that I could find elsewhere on the web. The deals for Kroger & Meijer did offer some insight into great deals that I could take advantage of…if I had coupons from January. I took note of some of the sale items that I had overlooked when I had flipped through my flier though, and decided to stock up on the items that were the best deals for the week.

A local supermarket (Martin’s Supermarket for the local folk!) had a 12 for $10 sale advertised this past week so I took advantage of that as well since I am trying to build my stockpile.

In the interim, I cleaned out my purse and gathered up all of the receipts from past grocery visits and put them into my price book (Side Note: We offer a free printable one here!) It had been awhile since this had been updated and I happened to have a few receipts from Aldi to input. I put these in, since ultimately this is about whether or not I do better with coupons or with Aldi.

For this week, I stocked up on:

Martin’s Supermarket:

(6) Aunt Millie’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread
(6) Store Brand Frozen Vegetables (baby peas, broccoli, corn)
Total Cost: $10

Meijer Supermarket:

10 pounds of apples- $4 (Side Note- This should have been six pounds, but I thought the bag I picked was the smaller bag and told them that the price was wrong. Oops! I ended up with an extra four pounds of apples for the advertised price. I was a little overzealous in my flier efforts, not attempting to be dishonest.)
13 pounds split chicken breasts bone on- $.99 per pound
Total Cost: $17

This first week I did not use coupons, but did take advantage of listed sales that I might not have seen as an amazing deal without the assistance of the list. The coupons that I could have used for this week were for items I would not typically buy (convenience foods, frozen foods, crap foods) and I plan to stick with what I feel is in the best interest of our family’s diet and what we would normally buy.

I am looking forward to week two on the program, and feel very good about updating my price book and starting our stockpile. I also am looking forward to making some great dishes with the chicken breasts. I have to also sheepishly admit that the apples look much better than my past couple of bags I have gotten from Aldi (which have went bad in just a couple of days). The kids kept saying, “They are so pretty and shiny!”

If you would like to join me in exploring the program, my referral id is!

Baby Steps Series: Storing Your Stockpile

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Awhile ago we had a fun discussion on what you consider to be a small space and it was a great glimpse into what everyone’s space challenges were and how much space each of us were taking up. I love to see how big people’s homes are in relation to their family size and also the satisfaction that they have with the space they already have.

Just to make the story a little more fun, I had mentioned that I thought our home was 1,800 square feet because that is what my husband kept telling me. When we would flip through the home catalogs everything was in comparison of what we had (“Oh, that house is only 2,000 square feet? Well, that is only 200 square feet bigger than what we already have”).

As we were working on our office organization though, we came across some paperwork from buying our house. My husband had a shocked look on his face as he flipped through the paperwork. “Our house isn’t 1,800 square feet….it is only 1,500 square feet.” Suddenly the walls were closing in on us and we huddled together in our teeny tiny office space in our teeny tiny shack of a house and shuddered in disbelief that all this time we only had this amount of space.

Of course, that is all melodramatic and I continued to pat ourselves on the back for making this amount of space work for us. No, we have no plans for moving into a bigger space, but I just wanted to use this point to illustrate that our house is not large, nor is it small. In this area of town, our house is considered on the small end. When we lived in Massachusetts, we would have felt VERY blessed to have a home of this size. Space is all relative!

Regardless of size, I have true storage dilemmas with my home, in general, due to the tri-level floor plan of this house. The house is broken into three levels and we also have a basement (in some parts of the country it is referred to as a quad). A broken floor plan like this leaves me with zero storage space and small rooms so stockpiling can be difficult in my space. I do have a basement and a garage though so feel that I am at an advantage compared to someone who might be renting a space or live in a home without these two luxuries. And yes, I do consider having my basement and garage to be a luxury as we have lived in spaces without either of these blessings.

I am going to share some ideas for ways to store your stockpile and am opening the floor up to you to share what your storage dilemmas have been and ways you have (if you have) overcome those dilemmas in a creative way. It should be a fun discussion and I am looking forward to sharing with you!

Today we are talking about how to store your stockpiled groceries. In future discussions, I would love to share about what to do with other stockpiles you might be storing in your house (children’s clothing, toiletries, etc…), but today we will focus on the grocery aspect.

Here are some ideas for ways to store your stockpile:

- First, begin by organizing your pantry and getting rid of the items you are not using. Too often, there is space for stockpiled items, but they are being used by items that are wasting your valuable space. I have found that grouping items in totes makes it easier for me to pull out what I need when I need it, keeping the like items together and preventing items from getting lost in the shuffle. Organize the space you have to create space for all that you want to stockpile.

- One of the first places to look is at the closets that you already have in your home. While not all of us are blessed with a closet in the kitchen, some closets that are not being used can be repurposed into a more usable space. Walk around in your house and really take a look at the closets that you have and see if they are being used to the best of their ability. Try and see if there is another place for the stuff in your closet (or get rid of items that you do not use) and measure the inside of it to see how many shelves you could fit into that space. If you head over to your local hardware store, you should be able to find wired shelving that can be cut to match the size of your closet. Durable wire shelving inserted into a rarely used closet can equal an affordable solution for storing your stockpile.

- Look at the doors to your closet as a place to also store items. Hardware stores offer units that can be mounted on the door for storing your canned goods. This space is rarely used, but is an excellent place for you to store items that you are stockpiling. Likewise, the dollar stores offer over-the-door storage with plastic pocketed units that can be great for storing spices, spice packets, trail mixes, nuts, etc…

- Basements and garages are ideal spaces for stockpile storage, particularly for families who are lacking space in their kitchen itself. Try to pick a space that is easy to get to so that you can make the most of your stockpile. In a basement, for example, putting your stockpile at the bottom of the stairs so items can be grabbed easily rather than a far off or less lit corner in your basement. For a garage, storing items closest to the kitchen instead of having to walk the length of the garage would be more ideal. You can use wired shelving in these spaces, bookshelves, mount 2×4’s- whatever is cheapest and easiest for you to use.

- Under your beds can be a great storage spot for stockpiles. Although it certainly isn’t ideal, it is a more creative way to use space that is rarely used. If your bed is too low, you can purchase bed risers to raise the bed to give you more space underneath. You can purchase under-the-bed storage containers and fill these with canned goods or other items that you like to stockpile or tuck items in your rarely used suitcases or bags for a free storage solution.

- A freezer is a wise investment for anyone who is looking to stockpile their groceries. In some cases, such as rental space, a freezer might not be an option, but if it is, I have found it to be a very smart investment. If you do not think you have the space for a full-size chest freezer, Sears carries a model that is half the standard size and perfect for smaller spaces or for small families that would not need such a large freezer. We purchased this freezer for our small townhouse and we love it. Less seems to get lost in the bottom depths, but we are also able to keep it filled with stockpiled items that I have gotten from the grocery store. Consider buying one of these to help save your family money.

- In smaller spaces, it might be necessary to split your stockpiled items up in various areas around the house. A shelf in the basement, a little space in the garage, a corner in a closet, stuff under the bed…it can spell a recipe for disaster if you don’t have tight tabs on what you have stockpiled. Try keeping a list of all of the items that you have and tacking it on your refrigerator. Periodically, do an inventory of the items you have so you don’t end up repeatedly buying diced tomatoes, for example, when you already are storing forty cans. An inventory list can help decrease some of the confusion and be a great way to help you decide exactly what you will be eating in the coming weeks.

Sound Off: Where do you store your stockpiled groceries? What else would you like to see covered in our “Baby Steps” series? Help us keep this going!

WSBT-TV: The Art of Stockpiling

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Today on my Frugal Mom segment on WSBT, I wanted to chat a bit about my Baby Steps series and our first topic that we tackled… the art of stockpiling. I wanted to illustrate some of the ways that people can begin making progressive steps towards saving their family money in their weekly grocery budget. If you missed this first post in our series, you can read it here!

Continuing our written series here, tomorrow we will be discussing how and where you can store your stockpiled groceries. Be sure to check back for another riveting piece on groceries.

And if you aren’t tired enough of the grocery topic, we will also be watching a mom who hates to cut coupons, cutting coupons and attempting a fun four week trial of the grocery game.

Who needs television when you can have all that entertainment? And I also wonder out loud…does the topic of saving on groceries ever get old? I hope not!

Saturday Morning Treat: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Growing up, one of my favorite Saturday treats was a Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll. My mom would make these for us on Saturdays and we always fought over the ones that had the most frosting. Sadly, it was such a thrill when my dad worked in the mornings because that meant that there would be two extra rolls for us to fight over. Who could resist those rolls and the simple pleasure of having a sweet treat once a week?

I still love those cinnamon rolls, but at $1.69 a roll, they are an unnecessary addition to the grocery budget. What I do have though is flour and sugar, purchased in bulk, and a bread machine that can turn out cinnamon roll dough like nobody’s business. I figured I was on to something and decided to give it a shot and figure out if I could replicate my Saturday morning experience. It took a couple of Saturdays to tweak this recipe, but I finally am satisfied with the results. Lucky for me, my family didn’t mind being the guinea pigs so I have gotten this down pat for your dining pleasure!

To make my dough, I used the recipe from the homemade hamburger buns, except that I increased the sugar to 1/3 cup. I ran the dough cycle on my bread machine and when it beeped, I had the perfect dough for rolling.

I rolled the dough out into a 12×15 rectangle and then spread it with the following filling:

Cinnamon Roll Filling

1/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Spread the softened butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this all over the dough and then use your hands to gently press the filling in. Take the edge of the dough and begin rolling it up. Roll it tightly and slowly, being careful to keep all the filling inside. At this point you should have a long log that you can cut your rolls from. You can wrap the dough with plastic and store in the fridge overnight or you can slice your rolls (should make ten large rolls) and put them on your cookie sheet or pizza stone. Store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, pull the rolls out and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. When the oven reaches 400 degrees, immediately drop the temperature to 375 degrees and put the rolls in the oven. Cook these for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the rolls are cooking, I just make a frosting out of powdered sugar and water (I don’t measure this, but approximately 1/2 cup powdered sugar to 1-2 tablespoons water mixed together should do ya!) When the rolls are done, drizzle your frosting over the rolls and serve them warm or room temperature (although they are best warm)

Amy’s Notes-

- The first time I made these, I put them on a pizza stone and they cooked very evenly. The second time, I popped them in a 9×13″ pan and only the ones on the outside got done. I would recommend placing these either on a cookie sheet (with a nice lip) or on a pizza stone.

- When you slice the cinnamon rolls, you can slice them with a knife or you can use dental floss and cut them that way. I find the dental floss to be a little more tedious so I stuck to slicing with the knife and reshaping the dough afterwards.

- The best part about making these cinnamon rolls is that you can vary the sizes and I can make mini-versions of the rolls for the little kids and tuck these in the center of the batch so that they don’t get overdone. The kids love these mini versions and I control the amount of sugar they are getting. Just give them a teeny drizzle of frosting and they will be set!

- You can reheat these in the microwave for a nice snack in the evening or for breakfast the next day. Place on a microwave-safe plate and zap for about twenty seconds. Makes a great mommy snack with a cup of coffee!

Sound Off: What is a favorite Saturday morning treat in your house?

Don’t forget to enter our Ann Taylor LOFT Giveaway on The Motherloot! One lucky winner will win a beautiful maternity outfit of her choice. Please enter our giveaway by letting us know what your favorite outfit is by Monday, March 3rd at 8PM. Make sure that you provide a valid email address so you can be contacted. Much luck to everyone!

Testing the Grocery Game

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Our discussion on stockpiling really got me thinking about ways that I could continue to save our family money on our grocery budget. I had been wanting to test the Grocery Game program out ever since I read a story on it in a Mary Hunt publication years ago, and what better time than now to test it?

The Grocery Game is a paid membership to receive a weekly list of groceries to buy, combining rock-bottom sale prices with your coupon cutting from your weekly newspaper. “Terri’s List” has a list of everything you should be stockpiling and her personal software tracks the trends of sales for each grocery store, alerting you when you should be stockpiling certain items. They offer a weekly list that tells you all of the advertised and unadvertised sales that are occurring within your local stores. This paid membership supposedly makes it easier for you to track the deals and cash in your coupons at the absolute best time.

I think it is important for me to be honest about what I am going into this program with though so here are a few known truths about Amy:

- I am not a coupon-clipper, except for the occasional CVS trip, and prefer living my life without cutting coupons. For me, I have not seen the value in it because I do so well with our money without coupons.

- Coupons, in the past, have lead me down some destructive paths and have actually ended up costing me more money than saving me. I would see a coupon for, “Hamburger Helper,” for example, and then buy it…even though we didn’t normally buy this product or really have a need for it in our pantry. What was supposed to save me money, actually ended up costing me more money and I came home with products that I would not typically buy.

- I am an Aldi shopper. Most of my regulars know this, but I thought I would mention it. This would mean that I would have to venture out of my safety zone and excuses that you can’t beat their prices, and actually explore some other supermarkets. Aldi does not take coupons so I have never felt the urge to clip.

Now that you know what I am going into the program with, you will understand that I have some low expectations for how well I will do, but I thought it would be some great entertainment to see me struggling with my coupons and lists, trying to buy groceries practically for nothing.

I began by signing up for my membership. They offer a $1 trial program for four weeks so I signed up for that (Referral ID should-you-so-chose is I was a little worried how many stores they would offer in our area, but they did have listed Kroger, Meijer, Walgreens, & CVS. I signed up for those stores and got all of my information plugged in to begin my account.

The cost for a membership after the $1 deal is broken down by the amount of lists you would sign up for. The pricing is, $10 every 8 weeks for the first store list you choose, and $5 every 8 weeks for each additional store list (if more than one store list is available in your area). Example: 1 store list: $10 every 8 weeks, 2 store lists: $15 every 8 weeks, 3 store lists: $20 every 8 weeks.

It begins with an introduction to the program and basically states that it will take approximately 12 weeks for you to really build your initial stockpile. It also will take 12 weeks for you to be able to cash in on all of the coupon deals because they will be referring to coupon packets from the months previous, so when you begin you don’t really get the full benefits of the program. You are just supposed to keep clipping and clipping each week and stockpiling what you can through those initial weeks until your coupon file is as fat as it needs to be and you can really begin cashing in on the program.

I plan to primarily shop at Meijer and CVS because our Kroger was shut down. There is one nearby, but it would require more of an effort on my part. My new list will be published on Tuesday so today I clip all of my coupons, in preparation of my first list.

I am dusting off the old coupon organizer and getting my trusty scissors out- let the games begin!

Edited to Add My Updates:
Grocery Game Week One
The Grocery Game Conclusions

Sound Off: Do you have any experience using a program like this? Do you coupon?