Posts Tagged ‘Grocery Shopping’

Baby Steps Series: The Art of Stockpiling

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I decided that I would begin a series on our site sharing baby steps that you can take towards learning how to save money and I am answering your questions. If you have something that you would like to see featured on here, please drop me an email at or mention it by leaving a comment. This series will run as long as I have questions from all of you and I hope to provide lots of valuable information for ways to begin to save.

Money Saving Mom is offering a similar series, but focusing on creating and sticking to a budget. Read Crystal’s first post here and share with her your budgeting challenges.

As requested by our readers, I wanted to begin our series by tackling the topic of stockpiling. I hope that you will find this post helpful and I thank each of you for giving me an opportunity to share in this way. We will be adding these posts to our Money section of our site for future reference!

The Art of Stockpiling

There are many ways to begin tackling the grocery budget and one of the most popular ways is the art of stockpiling items when doing your grocery trips. This method, also known as the “pantry principle” by loyal Tightwad Gazette readers, is a method of shopping that is meant to give you the best bang for your buck.

Let’s begin by discussing the methods that are commonly used when people are trying to save money on their grocery shopping and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Planner- I feel that this is the first place to start when you begin learning how to save money on your groceries. This is for shoppers who are going from shopping whenever and for whatever they want, to accomplishing a more disciplined form of shopping for only what you need and shopping with a plan. This shopper sits down and menu plans for the amount of meals that they will need and makes a list of the ingredients needed to accomplish their task. The amount of meals planned depends on the amount of times they shop per month and they buy only what they need to accomplish their menu plan goals for the week. This is an excellent place to start and a great way to learn how to buy only what you need and to avoid impulse shopping. Being a planner myself, this method fit our lifestyle for a long time and served its purpose in helping our family save money. Unfortunately, planners focus more on the plan than the sale so this can sometimes be the most expensive option next to shopping without a plan at all. While this shopper has great meal ideas, they buy the ingredients possibly at premium prices and pay more to accomplish their plans then other types of shoppers.

The Flier Shopper- This method of shopping is the next step up and is another great way to save money. This shopper is excited when their weekly fliers and coupons arrive because this determines exactly what they will be eating for the week. Let’s say that chicken is at a bargain-basement price of $1.19 per pound. This shopper will plan a meal around everything they can make with that chicken and out of other ingredients that are featured in the flier. Their meals will consist of items made mostly from sale ingredients and they keep their grocery budget low by planning meals that fit with the sales advertisements and the items that they can get with their coupons. This shopper is still a planner, but their menu plans are created solely around sale ingredients.

The Stockpile Shopper- This way of shopping requires less initial planning and more planning after your food has already been bought. This shopper focuses on stockpiling their pantry with food purchased at the lowest possible price. Grocery shopping then becomes all about keeping your pantry stocked and not about a menu plan really at all. Let’s say that diced tomatoes are marked down to $.29 a can. This shopper would run out and buy twenty cans of diced tomatoes because they know that this is the lowest possible price based on their price book. This shopper has carefully tracked prices and they know that this deal only comes around every three months so they stock up until the next sale, calculated to happen three months later. This shopper looks at all the items that they have bought and figures that they can have a delicious spaghetti sauce, a pizza with a homemade red sauce, and the family’s favorite casserole…that all just happen to use diced tomatoes in their recipe.

Do you want to be a stockpile shopper? Here are some steps for beginning this process:

1. Sit down and make a list of the foods that you eat regularly. If you were formerly a planner, you should have some menu plans that you can take a look at. Write down these ingredients into a notebook and the prices that you normally pay for these items.

2. Cut coupons to go along with your items to gain even more savings to your stockpile. Utilize a free service like to learn when to use your coupons and to help you find the best deals to apply your coupons towards.

3. Next, begin tracking the ingredients in your sales fliers and begin stockpiling the items when they go on sale. Continue writing and tracking the prices as you go along and when you see a large dip in the pricing, stock up, and up, and up. Stockpile only as much as you can afford in the grocery budget to spend and what you really can eat. The first few weeks will be difficult and you may need to allocate some money to set aside for beginning your stockpile. Understand though that each week will get easier and allow for more breathing room in the budget. As the weeks progress, you will have built up the beginnings of a pantry and will need less and less ingredients, allowing for more room in the budget to stock up on future good deals.

4. Only stockpile what you truly can eat. Even if tuna is marked to a quarter a can, if you spend ten dollars on tuna and no one really likes tuna, you are wasting money and you are wasting space in your pantry. If you find you overbought on items, consider donating them to a food pantry or a shelter so the food is not wasted.

5. If you end up miscalculating how much of an ingredient you will need, you will have to plan your dinner around that missing ingredient. A Stockpile Shopper will refuse to buy spaghetti sauce, for example, unless their store runs that item on a buy-one-get-one free sale. If the shopper runs out of that ingredient, her family won’t eat spaghetti until the next sale or they will find a way to make sauce from other ingredients that have been stockpiled.

6. Some items just can’t be stockpiled like fresh fruits and vegetables. This is where I rely on my Flier Shopper instinct. If bananas are $.19 a pound, I would scoop up ten pounds for my family. I would eat them fresh until they got ripe and then mash the ripe ones for banana breads and muffins. Applying my good shopping instinct, I would pick the sale items and also pick fruits and vegetables that offer longevity over produce that only lasts a few days or could not be used past their duration (like in the bananas example). This is why I tend to gravitate towards carrots, celery, potatoes, bananas, and apples to fill the majority of our fresh fruit and vegetable quota. Once these run out, I would rely on my stockpile of dried fruits, canned fruits, and frozen vegetables to make up the difference until my next trip.

As you can se
e, stockpiling can really extend your grocery dollars and can be a fun way to approach grocery shopping.

Next week we will be discussing creative ways to store your stockpile! Many of us live in smaller spaces so we have to be more creative with storage.

Sound Off: Which type of shopper do you identify with? Do you stockpile?

Leaner Ground Beef for Less

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

This past month I stocked up on ground beef and chicken at our local market. While the pricing was lower on the chicken prices, the ground beef was still $1.79 per pound for 80% lean. Of course their best ground beef prices had the highest percentage of fat, but I figured that I would just drain the fat and prepare the dishes like usual.

When I did a little research and digging though, I realized that I could cut the percentage in half by simply giving my ground beef a good rinsing. With just a little effort on my part, I could have the same lean beef and pay a lot less for it.

First, if you are new to the idea, I would recommend reading this tutorial provided by Hillbilly Housewife. It explains exactly how to do it and how much fat you are shaving off by giving your beef a rinse.

The best way that I have found to rinse my ground beef is to cook the ground beef and then pull the cooked meat out of the pot and put it into a bowl or on a plate while I drain the fat from the pan. I usually can find an empty can in my recycling that I can pour the fat into and then I rinse out the skillet that I am cooking in. Next, I start running the water on my tap as hot as possible. I rest the colander in the sink and then pour my cooked meat into it. I run the hot water over the meat and give it a good rinsing. Once it has been rinsed, I let it rest in the colander until the water has completely drained. Finally, just pour the ground beef back into your skillet and proceed with your recipe.

Now my question is, if I drain the ground beef am I removing important nutrients from my diet? I happened upon this answer, from the American Cancer Association, that I found very helpful when researching this topic…

“The original fat level in ground meat makes a difference in the amount of fat that can be removed from it. With each reduction from regular ground beef to 20% fat, 15% fat and 10% fat, the content of a three-ounce portion is reduced by 3 grams. The leaner the meat, the smaller the effect that draining and rinsing can have on the meat’s fat content. Blotting a burger on paper towels (30 seconds on each side) can generally lower the fat by about 1 or 2 grams, while the fat content of drained crumbled meat (as for chili or pasta sauces) may drop by 4 or more grams. When you rinse crumbled ground beef in a fine strainer or colander, you can further reduce fat content in each three-ounce portion by at least 4 or 5 more grams. While draining and rinsing beef can dramatically affect the amount of fat it contains, studies show that protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12 content is not significantly affected.”

I am always looking for ways to keep our grocery budget on track, but I am also constantly looking for ways to keep my family eating healthy. While we generally rely on ground turkey for most of our dishes, there are occasions where I prefer the ground beef. It is good to know that there are ways to reduce the fat content and still have a yummy dish!

Sound Off: Do you rinse your ground beef or do you just pay more for the leaner varieties? What is a reasonable price in your area for ground beef?

Worth Its Weight in Gold

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Last week I went to a local market to stock up on meat for the month. I have been really disappointed in the quality of the meat at our supermarkets in town so I decided to go to another town to stock up on meat there based on some great recommendations from my mom’s group. I ended up getting some really excellent deals for my money and the meat was a much better quality too.

I brought home ten pounds of chicken, ten pounds of ground beef, and two whole chickens. I broke out my FoodSaver, purchased from the thrift store, and one of my favorite kitchen tools…my postal scale.

I got my postal scale off of eBay and I use it often for shipping purposes. It has saved me a lot of time and hassle at the post office, but it also has been such a useful tool for me to weigh ingredients when cooking in bulk.

I divide my meat into one pound portions because that is the amount we typically use in a meal and it also thaws a lot quicker when it is in these smaller portions. Each one pound portion was vacuum-sealed and labeled for the freezer.

The whole chickens were rubbed with my Sticky Chicken dry rub and are all ready to go for a yummy meal one night. The chicken breasts were cleaned and trimmed, and then cubed for the various dishes I will be using them for.

With the grocery prices rising, this is one easy way that I can save my family money during the month.

Sound Off: Do you buy your meat in bulk or do you have store that you usually find good meat sales at? What would be a good price on meat in your area?

Ask the Frugal Momma: How Do You Do Your Menu Plans?

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Q: What is your experience and advice on planning a standing weekly dinner menu rather than planning out a month of meals? To save time, you pick either a meal or theme for each night of the week, and repeat it for the most part each week. This way you always know what you need to buy (in general) at the grocery store without spending much time planning each week. I would like to set one up for my family and right now we have Sunday – Something New, Monday – Mexican Fiesta Night, Tuesday – Leftovers, Wednesday – Italian Feast, Thursday – Leftovers, Friday – Breakfast for Dinner, Saturday – Homemade Pizza Night. I’m just playing with this idea and have only partially implemented it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

A: Menu planning, although it is a huge chore, is something that I really enjoy doing in our house. I really find a lot of pleasure in trying and implementing new dishes in our house. Sometimes the dishes are a roaring success, other times we find that a cold bowl of cereal would taste a lot better than my experiment.

Over the years, my menu plans have changed a lot depending on the needs of our family. Here are some ways that we have made our menu plans work for us and have saved our family a lot of money in the process.

1. Menu plan according to your family style- This might sound like a strange phrase, but I will try to explain. Generally, you probably have a style to your homemaking or the kind the of parenting that you do in your house. For example, some people live by a fly-by-the-seat of their pants mentality and may parent even in a similar way. For a family like this, expecting them to keep a rigid schedule would be awfully difficult because it just doesn’t fit with their general personality. Likewise, a person who cleans the floors on Monday, recycles on Tuesday, changes sheets on Wednesday, etc… will find going without a menu plan would be extremely difficult.

I am one of those weird people that falls somewhere in between. I would love to be more rigid with the things we do in our house and set up more days of scheduled activities, but I am laid back and constantly trying to fight the clutter over here. I like to menu plan and enjoy knowing what I am going to eat throughout the week, but I hate to feel like I have to do exactly what is planned because I often give into my cravings. That is where my menu planning style comes into play. I just plan out a month’s worth of meals and then pick from my twenty or so choices so that I always feel like I have lots of options. This gives me a game plan, but not a detailed game plan that I must stick to or else.

Think about your personality and what works best for you, but having a plan in mind will truly save your family a lot of cash. It is time-consuming, but it is only as time-consuming as you want to make it. If your family has simple tastes, don’t feel like you have to be a gourmet chef.

2. Get creative with your planning- I love to be creative with my menu plans and have found lots of great recipes to add to my collection by spending lots of time researching new recipes and constantly being open to trying new things. I utilize websites like Recipezaar, All Recipes, and Food Network.

I also love to check out cookbooks and magazines from our local library to help inspire me in the kitchen. Many times I don’t necessarily want to make exactly what is in the book, but I can flip through the cookbooks and get general ideas for recipes I can search for on the internet.

One other place I love to hunt for ideas is by saving take-out menus from our favorite restaurants and using these to do my planning off of that. Since eating out was such a temptation for me, I could take those menu plans and use those to build a menu off of them. Let’s say that my favorite take-out food in the world is Chicken Lo Mein (which it truly is!) then I can take that menu description or dish idea and try and replicate it through a site like Recipezaar or Food Network.

When I began doing this something very strange started happening. I began to replace my cravings for food out with my own version. In a way it is really great because there are very few places that I really love to go out to eat at anymore, but in some twisted way it is a little disappointing because I don’t enjoy dining out anymore. I just have to keep in mind all of the money that we are saving and then it all seems worth it!

3. Theme it up- Themes are definitely a great way to being menu planning and I loved the theme ideas in this question. Themes make planning a lot easier for families because it takes some of the work out of the planning.

One way to make themes easier to implement in your house is by arranging your recipes by your theme night. My recipes are in a giant Word file and are set up by my themed days. My theme was a Brunch Sunday, Slow Cooker Monday, Chicken Tuesday, Italian Night Wednesday, Casserole/Comfort Food Thursday, Kid Food Night Friday (usually pizza, but they have other options too), & Seafood Saturday. Sunday night is also Seek-And-Ye-Shall-Find Night. This is just a fancy way of saying, “Momma ain’t cookin’.”

You can pick from any variety of themes and you can go to town with your theme or just keep it a general night. You can make it special or keep it super simple. What I hope my children walk away with isn’t just that their mom is the best darn cook in the world, but that they have fond memories of our family sitting around the dinner table being together.

4. Involve your children- Things just seem to go better if the family has some input into the week’s meals. My son is five now and he is at the stage where he loves to express his opinion and feel like he is contributing towards the family.

That is why each Friday is his day to pick what he wants and I try to come up with a few ideas for things we can eat. Pancakes, waffles, calzones, pizza- those are just a few of the options that I offer. We usually watch a movie with them and have a special snack like popcorn or hot cocoa to make the night completely about them. He looks forward to this evening a lot and we look forward to indulging in some of our favorite foods too.

He doesn’t get to pick the rest of the week, but I have made it a rule to only introduce one new thing at a time so that we can avoid the fights over the dinner table. I will always offer one thing that he is familiar with and likes, but I might introduce one new food in with the meal. My son is big on the routine and to hand him a plate of food that he doesn’t recognize can make for a really stressful dinner hour. I try to always plan the meals with them in mind, but also like to indulge in trying new dishes. This is a happy compromise that we can all live with.

5. Remember it doesn’t have to be all about the menu plan- There are so many elements to making the dinner hour enjoyable in your home. Is the kitchen table not cleared? Are you eating off of paper plates parked in front of the television? Is the baby is crying through the entire meal? I can picture all of these scenarios happening in our house at one point or another. Heck, it might even happen tonight.

Try and make the dinner hour at home fun because it curbs the temptation to want to go out to dinner. If you have an enjoyable dinner hour at home, there is just no need to go out and brave the crowds.

Now it doesn’t have t
o be all fine dining and elegant candlelight, but keeping the dinner table clear for eating can be a great start. My ideal dinner hour has nice dishes and soft music and no children crying or whining at the table. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but I try to make an effort so that we all want to be at our table instead of Steak & Shake’s table.

6. Visualize your choices- I feel very accomplished when I have our menu plans hanging on our refrigerator and it makes me feel good to see all of our choices neatly typed up and ready to go. If I prepare a dish from the list, I take a highlighter and swipe a line through it. Seeing all of the things we ate all neatly highlighted also proves to me that I did not go out to eat. It makes you feel good and it also gives you ideas for food you can look forward to in the coming weeks.

7. Grocery shop according to your family style- Just as I mentioned in the first part, you need to grocery shop according to your family style or finances. I love, love, love to menu plan, but I hate, hate, hate to grocery shop. This is why menu planning once for the entire month works best for me. It keeps me out of the place I hate and I only have to sit down once a month to do my plans and grocery list.

If you only want to eat fresh produce all week long, then you will need to go weekly or bi-weekly to make that happen. Whereas my style is to rely heavily on canned applesauce, frozen veggies, and potatoes towards the end of the month. I sacrifice the fresh stuff in favor of shopping once a month.

Family finances can also have an impact on when you do your shopping. When my husband was paid bi-weekly I was able to visit the grocery store twice a month. Now that we are working with a monthly check, I find that shopping once a month makes it easier for me to manage our family finances and also keeps me out of the grocery store so often.

8. Save your plans & rotate them- One of the best ways that I have found to save us time is to just keep copies of my past menu plans so that I can rotate them. If you come up with two month’s worth of meals, you can reuse those and rotate those dishes to make new planners for the future weeks. I do all of my plans on the computer and then save them so that I can look back on past ideas for inspiration.

I hope this gives you some more ideas on how we do the planning in our family! If you have a question you would like to ask me, just shoot me an email ( and put in the subject line, “Ask Frugal Momma.” I love to get your questions and it makes me feel like I am providing some truly useful content!

Some Related Readings:

Iron Chef Mom Challenge

Don’t Throw Out Those Take-Out Menus!
Saving on Groceries
Pretty Menu Plans
Ding-Dong: Did Someone Order Groceries?
Become a Coupon Queen or Not
Milking the Milk Budget
Aldi Fall/Winter Planner
One Month of Slow Cooking
Aldi Menu Planner
Grocery Shopping on a Budget
More Aldi Menu Planners & Grocery Lists (Click on titles to expand)
Latest Menu Plans

Sound Off: How do you do your menu plans and keep that family grocery budget on track?

Homemade Pancake Syrup

Monday, January 14th, 2008

This weekend I hit the supermarket and found a fancy loaf of bread that I could make our delicious French Toast out of. I decided this would be a great time to try making my own pancake syrup since it has been on my list of things to do for quite some time.

I found this great recipe, courtesy of Hillbilly Housewife, and decided to give it a try. The syrup was delicious and I don’t think we will ever go back to the commercial stuff, especially since this was so easy to make. It was a little thinner than the commercial version, but it had a much better flavor than the store-bought variety.

I hope you can enjoy some of this in your house too!

Homemade Pancake Syrup

2 cups warm tap water
4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons molasses
1-1/2 teaspoons maple flavoring

1/4 teaspoon butter flavoring (optional)

In a three-quart saucepan combine the water, sugar and molasses. Put the pan on the stove over medium heat. Stir every now and then until the syrup comes to a rolling boil. Watch the syrup carefully because it has a tendency to foam and will boil over if your pan is too small. If this starts to happen, remove the pan from the heat and turn the heat down. After the syrup boils, cover the pot and simmer it for ten minutes over a low flame. Do not stir it for this ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Take off the lid and let it cool on the counter for about 15 minutes. Stir in the maple flavoring (and butter flavoring if you’re using it). Store the syrup in a clean quart canning jar.

Are Baby Carrots a Convenience Food?

Monday, January 14th, 2008

I had never really thought about baby carrots being a convenience food until I did my grocery shopping at Target a couple of weeks ago. At Aldi, I am able to get baby carrots for $.78 a bag and it doesn’t *seem* like much more than the carrots that are not processed.

When I shopped at Target though, I noticed a considerable difference because the unprocessed carrots were on sale for $2 for 5 pounds of carrots, while the 1 pound bag of baby carrots was almost $2 per pound. Have I been buying a convenience food? And exactly what have I been paying for?

I happened upon this excellent article from Wise Bread on what exactly is up with those baby carrots. If you don’t feel like reading the entire piece, the premises of the article is that baby carrots are not a frugal choice for families. Not only are they not frugal, but you are actually paying MORE for a product that is of a LESSER quality. What? Did I read that right?

Baby carrots only have 70% of the beta carotene compared to the unprocessed variety and they actually have less flavor because they are produced in a different way than the regular old carrots we grew up on.

When I got my carrots home, I did a little taste test and I definitely could taste a major difference between the carrots I cut myself versus the carrots that were processed for me. The carrots that I cut just tasted more flavorful and fresher while the baby carrots just didn’t have much flavor at all.

To speed the cutting process up, I reused one of those plastic grocery bags and rested that on top of my cutting board so that I could scoop and dump all of the peelings in one fell swoop. I chopped the carrots up for the week while I caught up on my television shows in the kitchen. It was a quick and easy way to make some snacks for the week that would save me time during our lunches.

I just want to say that I am not discouraging anyone from eating healthy. If baby carrots are worth the convenience and are an ideal way to get some nutrition in your family’s day, then by all means, buy them. I just wanted to point out that from a frugal perspective, that I didn’t want to pay more for the convenience especially now that I know how great a fresh cut carrot really can taste and I know that my kid’s would benefit nutritionally from me cutting the carrots myself.

Sound Off: Going along with the discussion on baby carrots, are there convenience foods you buy to get your kids to eat healthy? Is there a convenience food that you are willing to splurge on to make sure they get all their nutrition in for the day? Please share!

December ’07 Menu Planner

Monday, January 7th, 2008

I did not get to make a lot of the dishes that I planned to due to the holidays and us all being sick over those past couple of weeks. I did want to share my ideas though and hope that you can use some of them for your menu plans in the future!

December Menu Choices:

1. Gingerbread Waffles and Christmas Caramel Rolls

2. Basil Cream Chicken Over Pasta

3. Pizza Night

4. Chicken Caesar Wraps With Tortilla Chips

5. Eggnog Baked French Toast

6. Cheeseburger Pasta with Homemade Bread

7. Funky Chicken With Sesame Noodles

8. Italian Chops Over Pasta

9. Turkey Burgers With Oven Fries

10. Chicken Tacos With Tortilla Chips

11. Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs

12. Herb Baked Tilapia, Rice, & Sweet Cornbread

13. Pizza Night

14. Yeast Waffles & Turkey Bacon

15. Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole (Scroll towards the bottom) Over Egg Noodles

16. Bread Machine Calzones

17. Sloppy Joe Turnovers with Oven Fries

18. Chicken Italiano Over Orzo

19. Chicken & Broccoli Lo Mein With Sticky Rice

20. Roasted Chicken, Rice, & Herb Buttered Corn

21. Harvest Grain & Nut Pancakes

22. Lazy Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken & Noodle Soup with Homemade Bread

23. BBQ Chicken Sandwiches & Shoestring Fries

24. Sloppy Giuseppes (Scroll down to Meal #8) With Oven Fries

Snacks/Desserts: Oreo Biscotti, Cookie Dough Dip, Panettone Bread for the Bread Machine

**Please visit I’m An Organizing Junkie for more menu planning ideas!**

WSBT-TV: Is Buying in Bulk a Better Deal?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Today on WSBT, I shared tips for shopping wholesale. Be sure to visit my wholesale club shopping article and print out our free price book sheet for figuring out all of those prices.

Don’t have price book? Check our Price Book 101 article for tips on getting started.

Hope you guys enjoy the segments!

Frugal Hacks: Entertaining Instead of Grocery Shopping

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Today on Frugal Hacks, I share a few ways that you can bypass time at the grocery store and spend it getting ready for all of those holiday guests.

Now if only I could find a way to bypass all of the cleaning that needs to be done too!

PS- Our last family member, my dear husband, has been struck with the stomach flu. Now that we have all had it, hopefully we can enjoy the rest of the holidays without illness. Fingers crossed for quick recoveries!

Ding Dong- Did Someone Order Groceries?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Grocery deliveries have become very popular as people have become more & more busy. I know when I was working, the last thing that I wanted to do was brave the grocery store after a long day at work. Couple that with a few children in tow, and I don’t know if I would ever make it to the store at all!

One of my working friends has had that dilemma and recently ran across a grocery delivery program which has finally become an option in our area. Not being from a big city, we often don’t have the luxuries of services like Peapod or other grocery delivery programs. Recently though, recently was added as a service to our small town and I am hearing the praises of how wonderful this option is.

Today I browsed some of the pricing that was available on the grocery items. Like a grocery flier, the delivery programs do offer sale items. If you can focus your grocery shopping in that direction, you can come away with some surprisingly good deals. Here are some from this week’s flier:

Jiff Creamy Peanut Butter- $.99
Eggs- $.99
1 gallon Skim Milk- $1.99
Secret Deodorant- $.99
Colgate Toothpaste- $.99
Broccoli Crowns (1#)- $1.89

Of course, when you browse many of the other items, they are not as good of prices. While some items are offered as a store-brand, other items are brand-name only so the pricing can be higher than making a trip the store yourself.

Here are a few tips for shopping grocery delivery websites:

1. Make sure you understand the fees that are involved with your shopping. Some may offer free grocery delivery, but they might charge something called a “bagging fee.” The website for our area states that they charge a $3.99 fee for each delivery. Other sites do charge a service fee of $10 or more so acquaint yourself with all the fees before jumping in with your shopping.

2. When you receive your groceries, tips are appreciated and encouraged. This is another one of those small fees that needs to be considered when factoring in the costs of grocery delivery.

3. When you have totaled up all of your fees for grocery delivery, figure out how much you would actually save by using this. There are many fees that are involved with you going out and getting your own groceries too- time, gas, mileage on your car, and all of the extra browsing you might be suckered into at the superstores. If you are having a hard time being disciplined at the grocery store (or always forget your grocery list!) there might be some savings by using a service like this.

4. Coupon moms would not benefit from a service like this because coupons can’t be factored in. Cherry-picking from various stores could not be done either, but grocery delivery services do offer sale items that shoppers can take advantage of.

5. Grocery delivery services are usually only offered with a minimum order. Read the fine print on how much you have to spend. If you are spending money just to get the delivery, it might not be worth the trouble.

6. Some grocery delivery programs offer perks to their loyal customers. The website for our area, for example, offers a $5 credit for every 5 orders (of $50 or more) you place with their site. With 5 orders of $100 or more, you can get a $10 credit.

7. A true advantage to online ordering is the ability to save your grocery lists. If you typically get the same things every single week, your grocery shopping can be done in a matter of minutes!

8. Check on the company’s page if there are membership fees involved and the ability to cancel your membership. Some companies do charge a membership fee for their services so factor this into your cost too! Once you have factored in all the costs, see if the $1.99 milk is still $1.99- maybe it is $6, when it is all said and done.

9. Each state is different on this, but check and see if there is an additional fee involved for liquor delivery. One page I visited contained a $7 fee. That $4 wine might be a $20 bottle when the fees are all factored. Ouch!

10. Remember that you need to be home to receive the groceries or be subjected to a hefty fee. While there is flexibility with ordering, there is not flexibility with being home for delivery. Be sure you understand when you need to be home to accept your order.

11. If you want to try online grocery shopping, most sites offer a nice credit to get you started on your first shopping experience with them. They are trying to hook you in with their services, so maybe take advantage of it once and then see if it is worth the money and your experience with it. If it isn’t positive or you can’t justify the cost, at least you got a smoking deal on your first attempt!

12. Find out about referral programs. Friend referrals are big with companies and they need the business. You can often get a $5 (or more) credit on future orders if you refer your friends. Name dropping is definitely a good thing when it comes to your grocery budget!

Here are a listing of Grocery Delivery Sites:

Peapod (Connecticut, New York, Rhode island, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, the rest of the New England coast, Chicago and Milwaukee)
Amazon Grocery (free delivery and savings for repeat ordering)
Sam’s Club Click N Pull (not technically a delivery, but they do put together all of your groceries for you for free)
Schwan’s (Frozen Food Shopping)
Simon Delivers (Twin Cities Shoppers)
Grocery Run, LLC (Michigan Shoppers)
Food Express (Florida Shoppers)
Roche Brothers (Massachusetts Shoppers)
Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (Seattle Shoppers for organic foods)
Indiana Groceries (Indiana Shoppers)

If you are an online grocer and would like to be added, just leave your web address and the area(s) you are available to in the comment box. I know this would help our readers out greatly.

Sound Off: Have you used a grocery delivery service before? What has been your experience?