Being a mother to three children has its perks. On holidays I get lots of cards, every morning I wake up to multiple kisses wishing me a good day and I get to see three little people grow into adults. However, there is a downside to having a family of 5, the rising grocery store bills. It used to be that every time I got paid (twice a month) I would go to my local supermarket and buy enough groceries for EVERYONE in our immeadite family (including a super hungry preteen boy) and I would walk out with about $300 damage to my debit card. I repeated this twice a month with a monthly grocery bill of over $600! Needless to say I was frustrated by the whole process. We did not have money to burn (especially with repeatedly having to buy new clothes for my growing kids) so I decided to try a couple of new strategies in my quest for a lower grocery bill. This is what I tried:
I tried using coupons but I could NEVER find any coupons for things we ate, plus there are rarely coupons for HEALTHY eating.
1.I tried buying all generic brands but I found some (if not most) of the products…nasty.
2.I tried shopping exclusively at bulk clubs like Sam’s, Costcos, or BJ’s but I found that I spent more and had ALOT of cans of green beans left over.
So what did I do? Well unknowningly I decided to STOP eating a lot of processed foods, I began eat clean and I incorporated the following five strategies to regain control over my grocery bill.
1. I cut out buying processed foods by 80% and instead I exculsively decided to buy fresh, real foods over their processed counterparts. With a family of five (including a husband who loves processed foods) it was to the point that the majority of our grocery cart was full of processed foods (instant soups, crackers, chips, cereal, spaghetti sauce,etc) and with that type of food came a high grocery bill. So over a year ago I decided to try this “thing” about eating better. I tried to buy fresh at my local supermarket but I was still spending a ton of money. So I decided to check out my local Farmer’s Market–the fruits and veggies were much cheaper.
For example, at the Farmer’s Market I could buy a huge head of lettuce for between .75 -$ 1.25 a head compared to 1.75at the Supermarket! I could buy a big bag of Idaho potatoes for $1.50 a bag compared to $2.50 a bag! If you add these up you will save a TON of money. I started off small and began to buy more fruits around the house. Then came more vegetables, before long EVERYTHING in my shopping cart was fresh–with the exceptions of a few items. Now with growing kids, I realize I can’t buy EVERYTHING fresh, so I will go to my local store and bag a box of chips or some instant spaghetti sauce when I am crunched for time.
2. I started to plan out my food shopping excursions. I used to go to the local supermarket and buy a ton of meat and a ton of sides and I was “set” for the remainder of the week but my pockets would still be “hurting”. So I decided to be strategic how I shopped. For example, I only buy meat once a month–yes I just said I only buy meat once a month. Here’s how I do it. Since I am on a healthy kick, I buy my meat from three places: direct from a local farm, the local Farmer’s Market or from a Shopping Club. When it is that time of the month to buy my meat, I buy a lot at a time ( and I may spend $100 at one time ) and I seperate and freeze everything. A couple of months ago I even found out about a service that buys meat from a local, organic farm for almost half the cost if I bought it in a Supermarket.
For example, I decided to buy a 40 pound box of chicken breasts for $1.69 a pound, which equaled up to roughly $67.60 a case. If I had bought it in the store, I would of paid $2.29 a pound for chicken that a. is not organic or range free b. not a good quality c. that is not fresh. The entire case of chicken lasted an entire month! So for $67 we ate some of the best chicken I had ever tasted! Sometimes I will go to the Farmer’s Market and get 10 pounds of leg quarters for 1.49 a pound and when I get home I will seperate 4 quarters out and wrap and freeze them for later use. I buy my vegetables, fruits and grains about 2 twice a month and I average about about $75 per trip. Since we use a TON of vegetables and fruit, I buy these more frequently but I only get what we will eat so I won’t be stuck with rotting food. Today, I went to the local Farmer’s Market and only spent $75.33 but my cart was full!
Even if you do not live near an awesome market like me, did you know that the local Amish in your community sell their meats and goods on Saturdays? Their prices are reasonable and all of their food is range and hormone free. In addition, in any area there are farms that will sell to individuals fresh meat! Cut out the “middle man” prices!
3. We bought a deep freezer from a friend and began to freeze food. For a long time the only freezer we had in the house was the one beside the refrigerator. One day my husband’s friend was moving and he wanted to get rid of his deep freezer for cheap. We paid a cool $75 for it and ever since then I have been a freezing queen. All the meat I bought in bulk, I wrap in Saran and Reynold’s Wrap and then put in sealable Freezer Bags and when I thaw the meat it’s as good as new! You can find deep freezers on Craigslist or at local yard sale..they’re a great investment. At any given time, I have at least two weeks up of meat, frozen vegetables, frozen bread, etc in my deep freezer. There are times when I make too much of a certain dish and instead of throwing away the leftovers, I freeze them for a “rainy” day when I do not feel like cooking.
The deep freezer is small enough to fit into our garage but large enough so that I can store meat and anything else in it. Whenever I put new meat in it , I rotate the older meat to the top to make sure the food is being properly used.
4. I quit allowing my kids to snack all day on random snacks. When I would go to the grocery store I noticed that a lot of the items in the cart were snacks for the kids. Between Goldfish crackers, chips, snack cakes,etc my kids were increasingly becoming more and more dependent on snacking. ON Saturday and Sundays, I noticed that that is all they would do all day so that would cause for me to have to continually go to the grocery store.
So I decided to get smart with them and only buy 4 snacks for the entire month. Yes, that means only one box of Goldfish crackers, one box of chips, etc..this made them think if they really wanted to eat their snacks up in one month. So instead of them always reaching for their traditional snacks, they would have no choice but to choose the apples, oranges, grapes, strawberries, etc. available for them to eat on. I found that having a lot of fruit was not only cheaper but a lot healthier for my children. For a basket full of each fruit I would spend maybe $15 compared to the $25 I would spend on snacks.
5. I learned to cook–for real cook. Okay before everyone looks shocked, let me say this…I used to NEVER cook. No, really I was a “Take Out Queen” but that all changed when the toddlers came (respectively in 2008 and 2010). I had to begin cooking so I bought a couple of cook books (namely Oprah’s Cookbook) and began to follow a TON of food blogs and I pressed “play”. I started to try recipes and before long I as a “pro”. Naturally I needed more spices to season my veggies and meats so again I decided to go to the Farmer’s Market to buy their fresh spices. The cost of fresh spices was at least 80% cheaper than the store. For example, I would pay $1.20 for a container of Garlic Salt at the market but at the Supermarket it would cost $2.50!
Having all of these fresh spices, food and ideas all seemed to work together and I was a cook! I basically cook 3-5 times a week and when I don’t cook we are eating leftovers. Wasting food is a “bad word” in my house so all my kids know to eat–or else. Quite frankly, once I started to buy real food, I began to want to find ways to cook it so some nights I stay up late Googling, Pinteresting (I know this is not a word) or watching Food Network in search for a new recipe! Just the other night, I made crock pot enchiladas from a recipe I found on online!
6. I became strategic about the sales offered at my local supermarket. Now don’t get me wrong..all because I do not shop a lot at my local markets alot does not mean I do not research their weekly sales and take advantage of them. For example, Publix had a sale on Goldfish crackers for 1.00 a bag two weeks ago. I went into the store and got at least 10 bags..just for a rainy day. Then I noticed that jar of an expensive brand of Fettuccine Alfredo sauce was BOGO free with one retailing for $1.50..needless to say I bought a bunch of those. Whatever the sale is in the paper, I look to see if we eat the food and if it’s a “go” I buy it–even if I do not use it immediately.
All of these things allow me to have a super cheap grocery bill..Just today I went to the Farmer’s Market and spent $75 on a TON of vegetables and some meat! I have been using this method for about a year and ever since I started to do this my bill is cut in half!
Now what do you do to save money at the grocery store? Have you tried any of these methods? Do you own a deep freezer? Share with us your best tips.