Author Topic: Help with Grocery Bills  (Read 6539 times)

RazorBurn

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Help with Grocery Bills
« on: January 04, 2015, 03:40:39 PM »
I'm just starting on this endeavor, but we have tried and tried to cut our grocery costs and have never had much luck.  We are a family of four living in Florida.  I have two daughters aged 11 and 14 and we are very active and athletic and so try to eat healthy.  We pack lunches for work and school.  Our grocery bill runs about 200-225 per week and I am in charge of the beer and wine purchases - a 12 Pack of domestic beer lasts 1-2 weeks and 1-2 bottles of  mid-priced wine per week, so probably around 30-40 dollars a week in alcohol. 

We shop at Publix - I'm really anti WalMart and my wife hates shopping there.  I've started clipping coupons online at Publix.com and joined Upromise to contribute to our 529 plan.

What techniques/strategies do you guys use to keep your costs so low?

mxt0133

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2015, 03:59:17 PM »
I'm going to admit that my grocery spending is worse that yours so take my advice with a grain of salt.  In my defense I cannot control my wife's preferences and I know where to cut down on.

I have been successful at cutting down certain things, like buying bulk and increasing the portion of staple foods vs meats.  So if my plate is mostly veggies, beans, and rice it really lowers the cost per meal.  Also watch out for drinks like fruit juices, soda, coffee, and yes even beer.  That can easily take up 20-30% of your food budget.  Avoid prepackaged foods, even salads and veggies.  For example one 12oz. bag of pre-made salad cost $3, while three heads of lettuces is around $2.60, you can basically make 2-3 times as much more food for the same price by making it yourself.


ltt

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2015, 06:25:14 PM »
Honestly, groceries are expensive.  And, unfortunately, it costs a lot to eat healthy.  Fruits and vegetables are pricey.  If you can cook up some rice--and the nice thing about rice is you will have plenty left over for another meal.  Chicken tends to be a more "inexpensive" meat, depending on where you buy it.  I think I would cut somewhere else, such as clothing, but keep eating as healthy as possible.  Do you shop at Costco?  You can buy in bulk there.

Hotstreak

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2015, 06:46:21 PM »
Fill up on cheap food.  I use coconut oil, rice, and potatoes to hit calorie needs when wanting to save.


Then eat as much expensive food as you need to hit nutrition requirements.  That means veggies, meats, fruits, etc.  If your stomachs can handle beans and peas for much of your protein have at it!


In practice this looks like.. some veg and chicken, with seasoned rice on the side.  Potatoes and veg with pork & beans on the side.  Cheapest in season fruit for snacks, lots of oil mixed in food for low cost calories.


It's easier if nobody in the family is athletic, as then you can cut many calories and much protein. 

mom2_3Hs

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2015, 06:49:00 PM »
Is there Aldis in Florida?  I literally save 25-33% just by shopping there (peppers are regularly $3/2, vs $2/1 at Kroger).

Go with more homemade and fewer prepackaged snacks.  Snickerdoodles are cheap and yummy.

mm1970

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2015, 06:59:31 PM »
Maybe cut your alcohol intake in half to start.

But otherwise, here are my methods:
1.  Figure out how to buy what you currently buy and get for cheaper.  So this means a price book.  For a month, check the flyers and shop at ALL the stores.  Mexican and Asian groceries, big box stores, every grocery store...all of them.  This gives you a feel for what is cheaper at each store (you may be shopping at more than one store at the end of it).  Also gives you feel for the sale prices.  It helps to keep track for a few months, actually.  If pasta goes on sale once every 4 months for half off, you'd figure that out and buy 4 months worth of pasta when it goes on sale.  If you eat a lot of plain chicken breasts, then figure out when they are on sale from $5 to $2 a pound (typical local prices), and buy a bunch.  If you eat local/ organic, then focus your efforts on buying in bulk where you can.

2.  Calculate the cost per meal for your regular meals.  Breakfast lunch and dinner.  And then increase the frequency of the cheaper meals.  More soups, more beans, less seafood.  More meatballs, less steak.  More carrots and cabbage and oranges, fewer baby greens and berries.

3.  Stop wasting food!  (Everyone wastes food).

4.  Look for newer, cheaper foods to make.  Frozen veggies occasionally if they are cheaper.

5.  Look for ways to save on making things that you currently eat - make your own yogurt, hummus from dried beans, bread. 
« Last Edit: January 05, 2015, 10:49:08 AM by mm1970 »

Pooperman

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2015, 07:11:21 PM »
Here are the most basic tips I can give you. Our grocery bill runs about $60/wk for 2 people.

1) Always use a staple for large meals (potatoes, pasta, rice, etc). They are cheap, high calorie items.

2) Buy in season only (right now, citrus fruits)

3) Veggies are pretty cheap: carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, salad greens can all be had for under $2 and fill much more than the same amount of meat, which brings me to

4) Eat less meat. Try meatless meals 2x per week and you'll see the difference. That or think of meals like "rice with veggies and some meat" instead of "meat with rice and some veggies".

5) Lunch meats are REDICULOUSLY expensive (and a cut of last night's chicken on bread is far yummier too).

6) Buy in bulk on sale + internet coupons (Saving Star, iBotta, Checkout51, coupons.com, etc).

7) Buy meats more cheaply and ignore expensive meats in general

8) Pay attention to prices to know what it a good deal when you're buying something (last week, I was able to get 4 boxes of cereal for $5)

9) Speaking of cereal, oatmeal is by far the least expensive cereal (and probably far better for you than what most people buy).

10) Cheese is another killer.

11) Last one, promise. Save your grocery receipts over the nest month and then make a spreadsheet of everything that you buy. EVERYTHING. Price, quantity, category, etc. Looking at it will allow you to see where you can improve.

Hope all this helps.

Mrs. PoP

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2015, 07:18:56 PM »
We are also in FL and do $350/month on groceries for 2 very active adults, and the vast majority of that shopping is at Publix, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods.  Usually 1 6 pack of fancy beer/week, and other treat items take care of ~$100 of that and the rest buys items that we cook with.  I stay away from packaged mixes as much as possible, and am cooking from scratch and trying to avoid food waste these days. 

If there is a packaged food you like, chances are Publix does a BOGO on it fairly regularly. So save your coupons until the BOGO and stock up then.  Publix sales are also pretty predictable, but you can always check iHeartPublix to see the upcoming week's sale to make sure you're not buying something the day before it goes on sale.  (For instance this weekend I stocked up on Crystal Light since it was on BOGO and there was a Publix coupon available at the front of the store for $1 off each.  Also happened to be a $1 off manufacture's coupon in the paper this morning.  So major score!) 

Also, know that Publix accepts competitors coupons including on competitor's store brands (they apply it to Publix store brand), and for our Publix that includes Target and Winn Dixie.  That's pretty sweet because Target or Winn Dixie will often do a coupon on an item the same time when Publix has it on sale, so stacking those can work out nicely.  So even though I pretty much never buy groceries from those stores, I always glance through their ads in the paper to see if there are any coupons to snip and use at Publix. 

Our food spending is probably high compared to many on these forums, but this is basically how we manage it as a team:
http://www.plantingourpennies.com/reader-question-food-spending-rules-thumb/

RazorBurn

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2015, 05:39:59 AM »
Thanks all for the suggestions!  I am going to cut way back on our alcohol intake - healthier and cheaper, can't beat that.  I have also found Southern Savers, and we are going to join Costco and start coupon/sale shopping.  Will also try to incorporate better meal planning as suggested here. 

MayDay

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2015, 05:54:53 AM »
If Costco is an option, you can't beat their frozen veggies, raw carrots, and lettuce. Their fruit tends to be expensive here.

Check farm stands, csa's, and farmers markets. We were just in southern florida and saw a lot of agriculture. If you can find the right connections, I am guessing you'll be able to get large quantities of cheap stuff. Then freeze it. 

I know teenagers eat a ton, so I'm expecting our groceries will go up a lot in the next decade. My kids are 4 and 7 and already eat as much as H and I.

Villanelle

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2015, 06:33:26 AM »
The suggestion above to eat meatless a couple nights a week is wise.

Also, if you do meal planning have a staple of cheap meals, and plan at least one of those a week.  Red beans and rice, for example (and it also meets the meatless requirement!), if very cheap.

I am not organized enough, and no a good/creative enough cook to be able to base my meal planning on what is cheap.  So I make sure to add one or more of my very cheap meals every week, which keeps costs down for that dinner plus usually 2 days of lunches.  And I do stock up when staples are on sale. 

Depending on what your kids eat for lunch, there may be huge opportunities for savings there, too. 

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2015, 06:38:03 AM »
We follow a meal schedule for simplicity's sake that also means we know about what to buy - if you're grocery-shopping like we used to, you might have $200 in groceries in your pantry at all times that aren't well-matched to make meals from.

Mesmoiselle

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2015, 07:15:28 AM »
If you can get a coupon for it, you aren't eating cheap food.

lifejoy

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2015, 08:15:35 AM »
Less cheese, less meat. Healthier and cheaper!

Skipper

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2015, 09:16:17 AM »
Look around your area for a store that sells discounted goods. There are chains, like Ocean State Job Lots or Big Lots, and there are smaller/independently owned ones. I make a run to my local discount once every 1-2 weeks to stock up. They sell a lot of junk food, but if you know what you're looking for, they sell a lot of good stuff, too.

The merchandise will vary, but I can almost always get huge supplies of olive oil, coconut oil, canned goods, pasta (often even gluten-free), oats, coffee, tea, soup, dressings and sauces, syrup/honey, and beverages, for 50%-90% off grocery-store price. They also have home accessories, cleaning supplies, and bath and body products. Don't be afraid of expired or damaged goods - that's how you get them cheap, and expiration dates are just a suggestion.

For anyone in the southern New Hampshire/Vermont area, I highly recommend the Mr. G's chain of discount stores (in West Brattleboro, VT and North Walpole, NH).

OSUBearCub

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #15 on: January 05, 2015, 10:25:47 AM »
Are you in Central Florida?  I'm here in Orlando and shop pretty exclusively at Aldi.  My grocery bill for one is about $100 per month, including beer and wine. 

Aldi is one of the world's largest discount grocers (9000 locations in 18 countries) and uses their massive buying power / tiny advertising budget  to lower their prices.  Also, Aldi is all about the house brands.  They choose the number one selling brand name item and then contract that factory to package the same stuff in Aldi's house brand packages.  If #1 won't contract with Aldi, they then move on to the #2 best selling option.  The quality of Aldi products is excellent - my only gripe is that certain seasonal produce can sell out quickly.  Also, their wine and beer selection seems pretty on-par with your tastes in mid-level selections.

ProTips for a first timer:
1. bring a quarter to unlock your shopping cart, you'll get it back when you lock it back up
2. bring your own bags or prepare to spend about a nickle per paper sack
- however these are the super nice, heavy paper sacks that make excellent textbook covers...if the kids are still doing that these days lol
3. everyone bags their own groceries at Aldi - I find I strange Zen in this lol

If anyone gives you side eye for shopping at Aldi (Aldi Sud), remind them that Trader Joe's (Aldi Nord) is owned by the same family. :-)

Pigeon

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #16 on: January 05, 2015, 10:36:07 AM »
I third the recommendation for Aldis.  They don't have everything.  I don't buy meat there.  Some of the produce is great and some is not good.  But they have a lot of staples at really great prices, even compared to store brands at regular grocery chains.   They are also great about refunding money for anything you don't like, no questions asked.

You really should start some sort of a price book.  No one  store is going to be cheaper on everything.  I hit Aldi every couple of weeks and stock up on things that I know I won't see for less.  Then I fill in with sale items from the other stores and the occasional trips to ethnic markets.

LiseE

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #17 on: January 05, 2015, 11:24:26 AM »
I have been struggling with this for the past year and have finally found something that works for me. 

  • Use a weekly budget
  • Meal planning and shopping for only the items necessary for that weeks meals
  • Shop only once a week for these items and do not go back to the store (this one is hard but it makes a HUGE Difference!) during the week.  If you need to borrow milk from a neighbor so be it!

Doing these things, I was able to hit our $550 monthly budget for the first time when our average monthly grocery spend had been over 900!

Good Luck!

(PS I also use BudgeBytes.com .. I pick 5 recipes .. double up few of them for lunch and leftovers and use BigOven for my shopping list.)

4alpacas

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Re: Help with Grocery Bills
« Reply #18 on: January 05, 2015, 01:49:29 PM »

(PS I also use BudgeBytes.com .. I pick 5 recipes .. double up few of them for lunch and leftovers and use BigOven for my shopping list.)
I love Budget Bytes too!  The website is a great resource because the organization is amazing.  The step by step pictures are also fantastic.