Friday, February 8, 2008

Cutting costs... Groceries.

I saw this great message board post on Spark People recently on cutting corners on grocery costs. There were a lot of great tips on there, and I also realized I knew some good tips that others didn't know about. So I thought I'd give my rundown of money-saving tips on grocery shopping, since it's something we all gotta do. If you have any fabulous tips of your own, please share! This list is a combination of things I do plus a couple of things I probably should do (a.k.a. suggestions I stole from other people)...

1. Take advantage of places like Costco and Sam's. Y'all know by now that I'm a freaking poster child for Costco. When it comes to groceries, we use Costco for most of our meat. They sell lean ground beef in 6 lb packages for way cheaper than your standard grocery. We get it home and divide it up into 1 lb packages and freeze them. Same with their chicken breasts. They actually have them already packaged up and ready to freeze - 2 breasts in one freezer pack (perfect!). They also have really REALLY good prices on fish, but I don't really like the taste of fish after I've personally frozen it (but that's just me being weird)... So we buy fish there if we know we'll go through it fast enough. They also have tons of great deals on other items - it just depends on what you personally are after. A lot of stuff is not necessarily that much better of a deal, but a lof of it is. My spaghetti sauce... not a better deal there. But microwave popcorn - an insanely better deal there. And as a member you'll get coupons in the mail periodically. I have a love-hate relationship with coupons, but their coupons can be REALLY good - so pay attention.

2. Use local growers for veggies and fruit. One of my friends turned me on to this. You can get locally grown veggies direct from the growers. They're flash frozen and shipped right to your door! And the prices are great. I'm sure you can find one that delivers to your area by doing a web search. Here's one we use that has online ordering - Southwestern Produce - love it! They also have specials sometimes. We're big on frozen veggies in our house, so I love this. Plus, I like knowing where my produce is coming from. So much of the produce in stores comes from overseas - especially China - where they don't have the same regulations that we do. Um, scary!

3. Check out Amazon's new Suscribe & Save program. I mentioned this new discovery recently. Amazon is one of my favorite sites, for many reasons. But this program is just super cool. They have a lot of grocery items at Amazon, so if you have a constant on your list that you're always replenishing - see if Amazon has it. Their prices are competitive to begin with - but with the Subscribe & Save program, you save an additional 15% off every shipment - PLUS free shipping and no sales tax in most (if not all) states. And you set it up for automatic delivery, so you don't even have to think about it! You can choose how much you want and how often. And you can log on anytime and adjust your shipments. There's absolutely no catch to it - I love it. I use it for my Luna bars (which I typically eat everyday).

4. Plant an herb garden. Now I am no green thumb - nor do I really get into gardening type stuff (I leave that to the hub), but I love, love, love my little herb garden in the spring and summer. I'll pick up a small herb plant at Publix in the spring - they're seriously like $2.50 at the most. I get it home and transfer it to a bigger pot and set it up on our back deck. Basil is my favorite - and basil plants grow like MAD. After a few weeks our little mini basil plant blossoms into this ginormous bush of basil. It's awesome. I mean think about how much they charge at the grocery for a little bag of basil or cilantro or whatever... $2 or $3 and it goes bad in less than a week! So find your favorite herbs and start your own little garden - you'll save tons.

5. Ditch the bottled water. OK I really had a hard time with this at first, but the hub convinced me. We would always get huge crates of bottled water (another item on the Costco list). I'd grab one on my way out every morning and just refill it throughout the day at the office. But we have a filtered water tab in our fridge... and one at work too for my refills... so why do we really need to buy our water? Plus now they have all those studies out saying the bottles are like bacteria infested and bad for the environment. So in trying to be more green and save some cash in the process, we stopped buying bottled water. We just use our own reusable bottles and fill them up on our own. It's another step, but I'm getting used to it. And I don't really miss the bottles like I thought I would.

6. Avoid the center aisles at the grocery. This is a combo money-saving and healthy eating tip... I thought it was a good one. But I'm a must-go-down-every-aisle shopper, so this will be a challenge for me. The thing is that all of the processed foods are going to be in the center of the store - and all those impulse buys. So stick to the perimeter where the fresh produce and meats are, and only venture to the center aisles for specific items on your list.

7. Leave the husband and kids at home. OMG if this one isn't a money-saver, I don't know what is. Having company on a grocery run is fun, but we end up spending twice as much if the hub comes with me! He just throws all kinds of nonsense in the cart - not to mention running off with the damn cart, leaving me wandering the store with an armfull of random groceries trying to track him down. It's just never a good idea. I know the kid part can't be avoided at times - but I can only imagine the crap kids try to sneak in the cart!

8. Pay attention to sales and use coupons. I really struggle with the coupon thing - I know people swear by them, but I think I'm just lazy. And the times when I have sat down and cut out a bunch, I end up at the counter forgetting to pull them out or I've left them at home... hence my love-hate feelings toward them. Plus, we don't get the paper, so... But I do pay attention to sales. If something I get a lot is buy-one-get-one-free, I totally stock up. Publix had my Crystal Light On-the-go packs on sale last week and I wiped out half their stock. And I do compare prices. I have to say Wal-mart has great grocery prices - sometimes substantially better. You do have to pay attention to their packaging though. Wal-mart has such control over the market - I can tell that certain things are packaged just for them. So while the price may be lower, make sure you're buying the same size box, etc that you normally buy - look closely. They also will price-match (not just on groceries) at Wal-mart. You can bring in any store's coupon and they'll honor it. Plus - and this is more for non-food items I guess - they will also honor mail-in rebates from other stores but will give it to you instantly. I'm generally not a big fan of Wally World, as bestest calls it, but I can't deny the savings. Plus they just opened up a new one right by our house that is a lot less ghetto than the other one nearby.

9. Pay attention when checking out. Keep your eye on the screen at the register instead of reading tabloid covers or gawking at the cart contents of the weird chick behind you. It's not too uncommon for items to ring up at the wrong price - but you gotta catch it because the cashier won't. They probably do this at most stores, but I know Publix will give you the item free if it rings up incorrectly and you call them out on it.

10. Pay with cash. I've mentioned our cash system we use. It just makes you watch your spending in general, but I really notice it at the grocery. Make a list, set a budget, and stick to it. When I use my debit card, I just don't pay attention to what I'm spending. I swipe my card and forget about it. But I sure as hell am paying attention if I'm counting bills to hand over. It's psychological - it just hurts more. It works.

There you go - my ingenius grocery shopping tips. I have to laugh at myself though because as much as I try to cut corners in one area, I succumb to pricy marketing scams in others... for instance, the 100 calorie packs that have taken over grocery aisles. I am a total sucker for these. I can just picture the original idea being presented in a staff meeting... "OK what if we took our same product, divided it up into smaller packages, market it as a *healthy* snack, and charge more for it?!" Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?


Debbie said...

This morning I bought a smmoothie/ vitamin drink and pick that specific one becasue it was on sale. Well by the time I was in the car I realized they charged me ful price, darn grocery store!

Also be careful of Costco meats, they are packed with hormones. Those chicken breasts are almost 3x the size of a normal breast.

I don't mean to offend, just a thought, especially with trying to get pregnant.

LSU Melanie said...

Thanks for the tips...I too am an "envelope" user. I love Dave fact I have the financial peace university and whenever i need a refresher i listen to it on the way to envelope system is a tiny bit different than his...i would never be able to carry around 100 envelopes, so i put all of my cash in a pouch wallet and on post it notes i write how much i have for each catagory on the top, then subtract the amount on the post it, until it hits 0. This may sound a tad bit strange, but i have been doing this for about 6 months and it seems to be working. and i must admit, I spend alot less paying for everything in cash.

Buford Betty said...

Good tip, Debbie - those chicken breast are definitely honkin' huge and that's my one complaint about them. I really like the Perdue ones that come in single serving packs too... much better portion size - and I think they are big on no fillers/hormones, etc - not sure though. I'll have to look more closely.

Melanie - Dave Ramsey is totally my financial hero. That's a good idea w/ the post-it notes. The envelopes are kinda hard to keep up with.

tulipmom said...

Great tips here. I definitely need to check out Amazon's Subscribe and Save Program.

As for kids tossing stuff in the cart, it's amazing some of the things I remove and have to quickly get rid of/give back to the cashier once I reach the checkout.

Britt said...

We've been trying to cut back on groceries too, I liked reading all your tips!

We've discovered a new Wal-Mart store called Meijer which has a generic line And an organic generic line...saves money using the off brand names too.

I'm bad about coupons too! I've looked at a couple websites for printing off coupons, but I just don't find that the offers are what we use. And I agree, sticking to the produce/proteins (aka the perimeter of the store) helps save money and is healthy. I think trying to save $ money at the store forces us to eat more healthy b/c we avoid the over priced boxed items.

Midwest Prep said...

All good tips! My husband and I have been thinking about joining Costso. With the ammount of olive oil we go though- we need a much larger container of it. Just discovered your blog and I enjoy reading!

Chris & Deb said...

Thanks for all the great shopping tips. Number 6 is a great one.....never thought of it this way....but how true!

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Best tip every kids....FARMERS MARKETS! All the produce and meats are organic (so produce is not a "pretty" as the hormone filled grocery store stuff shipped in from Chile) and you are buying it from the men and women who grow/raise it. It is often picked from the field the morning your actually purchase it. Both the prices and the products are by far better than any chain grocery market. Plus it is just plain fun to meander thru markets on a Saturday morning.

Buford Betty said...

Oh I know bestest... I wish we had a good farmer's mkt nearby. *Sigh*

Lori said...

Thanks for sharing all these tips! You are so right about shopping w/family~ we always get so much more when we're together! We're cutting back on bottled waters too, it's such a waste.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Belle-ah said...

I am guessing you are talking of the newest Wally World just north of you (or have I missed the opening of yet another???) is south of me but you are soooo right - it is actually nice and I can't wait for Sams to open up there as well. I do NOT shop at my local one as it is just yucky!!!! I do shop at the current Sams (around the corner from new Wmart)a lot. Don't do Costcos as it just isn't really convenient for me. :-(

BTW, we are sticking diligently to our envelope system and so far so good!!! WhoooHOOO!

Have a wonder filled day.