Author Topic: What's your grocery strategy?  (Read 8549 times)

DebtFreeBy25

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What's your grocery strategy?
« on: January 24, 2016, 06:20:26 PM »
Cooking at home is one of the cornerstones of the Mustachian philosophy, and buying groceries is a non-negotiable essential (unless you happen to have your own self-sustaining commune). I think it would be interesting and valuable share our different approaches to buying food and other household essentials.

I shop approximately once a week at Kroger and Aldi's. We always make a list and try to determine where we should buy each item. My husband always shops with me, but I'm the one who determines the strategy. At Kroger, I almost exclusively buy items that are on-sale and/or have a corresponding coupon. I use digital coupons, coupons from the store's mailers, catalinas and the occasional coupon clipped from my grandma's paper. I use the KrogerKrazy site for inclusion lists and other research. My savings goal is 50%+ for each trip. The balance of our weekly shopping is done at Aldi's. Aldi's seems to have the overall best prices for those items that I can't coupon.

What's your grocery strategy? How often do you shop and where? Do you handle all of the shopping or do you have help? Do you use coupons or rebate sites? Do you have a set budget?

JAYSLOL

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2016, 06:40:36 PM »
This is an area I need to work on.  My current strategy has been - Step 1: Need food.  Step 2: Go buy food. 
I'll follow this thread and try to add a few steps, lol

Zikoris

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2016, 07:02:34 PM »
We bike or bus out to the local No Frills (Canadian discount grocer) once a week, and plan everything we're going to get ahead of time from sales. We pretty frequently have store credit to cash in as well, since our usual credit card pays out rewards in that form. We have to plan reasonably well ahead of time since we have to bring appropriate gear to carry our purchases, whether it be backpacks and a tote bag or the cat stroller to carry heavy/bulky things.

About twice a month we take the cat stroller for a walk out to Costco to get big, heavy items like sacks of flour or cases of soy milk. We have a list of like five things we buy there, so those trips are really fast.

Finally, we stop by the local Asian market every week or two for tofu, seasoned seitan, noodles, and sometimes produce.

We do most of our grocery shopping together, and it's a nice chance to go for a walk and chat. We're rarely inside a store for longer than 15 minutes. We don't use coupons, but scan the fliers online quickly before we go. There's no weekly budget since our spending fluctuates wildly on a weekly basis, but we prefer to keep our monthly bill under $240.

I think the biggest grocery money-saver actually has nothing to do with what happens in the store - it's shooting for zero food waste, which is quite do-able through meal planning.

tobitonic

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2016, 07:11:36 PM »
What's your grocery strategy? How often do you shop and where? Do you handle all of the shopping or do you have help? Do you use coupons or rebate sites? Do you have a set budget?

We typically plan a week in advance and alternate cooking nights. DW will usually shop once a week for everything on our list (at a store like Schnucks), and I'll make periodic trips to pick up milk (typically at Aldi or somewhere similar) and bread during the week as needed. No coupons, no budget. We eat super healthy and super cheaply by basically tailoring our eating patterns after those of long-lived people around the globe. Lots of plants, nothing processed, made at home.

I've also made a personal cookbook with recipes I've typed up, how long they take to prepare on average, changes I've made, and a list of each meal I make. I find it helps keep me organized when doing my half of meal planning. A great example of the benefits of eating peasant food and having an organizational system was this week when DW wanted a week off cooking, which meant I was planning for 6-7 nights. Decided on 3 meals (2 of which would produce substantial leftovers) and only needed 5 ingredients from the store because we already had everything else at home.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2016, 07:15:34 PM by tobitonic »

meyling

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2016, 07:38:18 PM »
On Friday, I plan out my meals based on what I currently have in my kitchen, what's on sale, and what I've been in the mood for lately. I do my grocery shopping on either Saturday or Sunday. I make a list and I only buy what's on my list. I first walk to Aldi, and get whatever I can there, and then I walk to Giant Eagle. Sometimes I also make a grocery trip to Aldi on Wednesday, because that is when they have their Special Meat Buy days.

Both Giant Eagle and Aldi have great sales/coupons on a recurring basis, so I always take advantage of that. I always buy meat when it's on sale, and in those larger value sized packages. I buy whatever produce is on sale, and if there's nothing I like, I might buy bananas, broccoli, and salad mix. I generally don't buy anything frozen or in a box.

I do use Ibotta, but it's just something I check before going shopping, and after my list is already made. I don't ever use it for planning purposes.

My goal has generally been to spend less than $30 a week. It's usually closer to $25 a week. (For one person) I don't really think about this amount when I'm making a list. But I pretty much always stay under budget (:

vhalros

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2016, 07:45:06 PM »
I usually go to Market Basket (local in expensive grocery store), or Costco, depending on what we need. I go there by bike (possibly with a trailer, if we need a lot, but usually just two panniers) about once a week. Then I buy the stuff; I tend to buy the same staples most of the time. I check Aldi's "Produce Pick of the Week" to see if they have a sale on something I use a lot of, but don't end up going there that often.

MrsPete

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2016, 09:06:12 PM »
Keep a stocked pantry and freezer; we could probably eat well for a month without dipping into our beans, rice, and oatmeal stocks, which are our hard-core emergency foods.  We rarely plan more than a day in advance.

Stock up heavily when things are on sale. 
Buy reduced-for-quick-sale meat.

Store all food well so it will last.  A phrase I heard once that stuck with me: Completing the purchase. It means that when you bring in the bags of groceries, you're not done.  You open the beans and store them in mason jars to keep bugs out.  You toss the box in which the granola bars arrived and place them in the "school lunches" bin.  You write "2 beef roasts, 2 1-lb ground beef packages" on the white board on your freezer instead of just dumping them into oblivion.  You pour spices into your matching, alphabetized jars so they're easy to find.  Keeping your food stash organized and well-preserved not only saves money, it makes cooking easier -- meaning you're more likely to use the food you've bought. 

Learn to preserve foods:  To can, to dehydrate, to freeze. 

Most drinks add nothing nutritional to one's diet; drink lots of water and tea. 

Pay attention to brands: they're not all alike, and sub-standard food isn't worth buying.  For example, we like most brands of frozen pizza, but we hate Aldi's.  We like Aldi's chips, but we don't like Target's name brand. 

Buy few individual serving items (i.e., Lunchables, bags of chips, 100-calories snacks).  The packaging makes them so much more expensive.

Learn to use your leftovers; for example, tonight I made a roast.  I chopped up the leftovers, and tomorrow night I'll make roast beef hash -- it'll require 2 potatoes, a red pepper, and a couple poached eggs, and my husband LOVES it.

Pay attention to the cost of things you think you "have to have".  For example, cold cereal is one of the biggest money wasters on the planet.  Measure how many bowls you get in that $3 box -- and remember that teenagers can eat a box at a sitting.  It's incredibly expensive compared to oatmeal or eggs, and not nearly as healthy. 

Know each store's strength.  For example, we shop at Harris Teeter for the loss-leader sale items only.  We buy produce, chicken, eggs and milk at Aldi's.  Most canned goods come from Food Lion.  Bulk spices are cheap at an expensive health food store in the big city nearby.  We used to be part of a food co-op, but it raised its prices.  Salvage stores often have good stuff, though you never know what you're going to find.  You can't beat Walmart for basics like peanut butter or dried beans.  The farmer's market is a great place to get high-quality foods, but they aren't cheaper than the grocery store.  When you're new to figuring out each store's strengths, keep a food book; it'll take you about two years to get good at always buying the right items at the right stores AND to figure out the sale cycles ... but once you do, oh, once you do ... you'll easily pay less than half your current bill. 

YogiKitti

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2016, 09:57:46 PM »
In winter time I shop Friday after work and buy enough for a week. The only premade food we buy includes bread, minced garlic (because we eat so much garlic), tofu, and the occasional bag of frozen French fries.  I only go to the store closest to me.

In the summer time I'll bike to the store 2-3 times a week. I'm also willing to bike to the farmers markets and the other grocery store which has a few items for better prices.

I keep a list on my phone and I'll update it whenever I remember  something to buy or something runs out. I don't meal plan specific recipes. Instead I get the basics along with something we haven't eaten in a while (an example from this week is red cabbage) and then work the meals for the week from that. It's easier in the summer since I go more frequently.

redbird

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2016, 10:07:04 PM »
My strategy is to mostly buy things that are on sale and think on the fly while at the store what sorts of meals I could make with those sale items. I typically have a few recipes that I specifically want to make and have to buy ingredients for before I get to the store, but usually those things don't end up being on sale. If you are flexible enough to try to plan meals based on what's on sale, that can save money.

Also, don't waste food and be willing to eat leftovers. Some people HATE eating the same dinner more than once in a week. But making batch, larger meals is usually cheaper than buying smaller amounts of ingredients. If you're unwilling to eat the leftovers the next few days, then freeze it. But make sure to eat it at some point! Don't freeze it and forget it!

I don't bother to clip coupons though, and I just buy most of my food at Kroger. I occasionally go to my local Asian grocery stores too for produce and for other ingredients I can't buy at Kroger. The "international" section at all the Krogers in my area just sells Mexican food, and I cook a lot of Asian recipes. They tend to be pretty healthy and cheap. I shop once every 2 weeks or so, filling my cart completely up to the top. I tend to spend $100-$120 each time, so obviously this means I spend $200-240/month. Sometimes even less than that. This feeds 2 adults.

ETBen

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2016, 05:22:28 AM »
Like others, I plan for a week's meals. I also am much better at using leftovers.

But the biggest thing is what I plan. I love food and cooking. But I only make 1 complex meal per week. I had to be willing to eat a basic soup and salad some meals. Or vegetarian stir fry or pasta dish. (It turns out those do bring complex flavored for little time or $). With the kids, our weekday schedule is busy. I make easier meals, which are cheaper and result in less waste in their part too.

I buy more cheapo white bread. Two boys want to snack all of the time. Toast with peanut butter or butter makes a good snack as opposed to $2-4 per box snack foods (or worse for individual packages).

I also looked at meat. I eat much more vegetarian now and learned how to cook it well. In order to limit meat purchases, I looked at how many servings we needed in a mont for the three of us. I divided that out over how many servings were in a lb ground turkey, bag frozen chicken thighs, bag frozen shrimp, fish, etc. My knowledge of how much I need to buy is much better now.

aperture

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2016, 07:15:13 AM »
Wow - lots of great wisdom here - especially from tobitonic and MrsPete.  Thanks, Ap.

Fishindude

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2016, 07:33:41 AM »
If you have someplace to do it, growing even a small garden will provide tons of really good quality, healthy food while in season and excess can be canned or frozen to extend the availability of it.

Trudie

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2016, 08:10:44 AM »
We are two people, live in a small college town, where discount grocers (Aldi, Costco) are an hour away.

We have a local chain (Fareway) with a great meat counter.  I shop the sales and fill up our freezer with what's on sale.  When I bring home big batches of meat I try to do something with at least half of it right away so I have pre-prepared meals.  We have an excellent local co-op and I do use it for their bulk spice bins and raw ingredients, but am not much interested in giving them all my business.  I find them too pricey and I think their business philosophy is a bit "smoke and mirrors."   We buy a CSA market share each spring which we use at the farmer's market.  It's subsidized (as a wellness initiative) by my husband's employer.  We buy free range eggs from the people who fix our lawnmower ($2.00/dozen).  Although this might sound slightly horrific, I buy our milk at a statewide convenience store chain (I walk next door from my work to get it.)  Their milk is growth hormone free and you can buy it in plastic bags which you can dump into a glass bottle.  (I like my milk chilled this way).  It's cheaper too.

We save our Aldi and Costco runs for when we have other reasons to be driving through those areas, but I keep a running list of what we need.  When we walk through the stores if I see something that we don't need quite yet I mark it down on the list for "next time" to try to avoid over-buying.  There's another local chain we like to hit up for our wine when we go further afield.  We stock up and get case discounts.  It's not uncommon for us to get bottles of our favorites for $5-6 per bottle after case discounts and rebates.

We don't buy a lot of pre-prepared or convenience foods, and I'm gradually making the shift to more DIY.  I tackle new projects all the time to see what's worth it -- both in time and money.

drachma

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2016, 08:29:14 AM »
I really find couponing to be a frustrating expenditure of time; 95% of the coupons in the local weekly flyers are for processed foods I would rarely buy anyway, and often these foods are so much more expensive than basic staples that even with the coupon they are not a good cost-to-nutrition or even a good cost-to-calories ratio.

Now if they had coupons for rice, spinach, potatoes, and ground beef without having to sort through a sea of "buy one get one Twinkies" offers, I'd be all over it. But, they don't.

I avoid "fancy" grocery stores. I have market baskets near me which is great. I shop about once a week, sometimes twice to re-stock fresh veggies or 1 or 2 random ingredients i ran out of. I cook once a week and generally have a portion of meat, a simple carbohydrate source (rice, potato, DIY bread, pasta, etc), a cruciferous vegetable (spinach, cabbage, broccoli etc), and other veggies for taste. If combined with some kind of sauce a cheap and traditional meal can be had. I also love cheese.

I elaborated on my strategy some time ago in this thread: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/athletic-bodybuilding-diets-for-lt$200month/\

and i basically choose foods with a high calorie-per-dollar and a high protein-per-calorie. usually these foods end up being simple staples that are good for you anyway.

StarBright

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2016, 08:47:43 AM »
I love food threads and seeing all the different strategies people use. The key to our frugal meals is hardcore meal planning and an extensive collection of cheapish recipes. We are big meal planners and I do mostly scratch cooking (It has taken me about 10 years to "become" a scratch cook - it was totally an evolution).

I've been keeping a weekly menu on my google calendar for almost two years now and it has become a treasure trove of seasonal meal ideas. I love my google calendar so much! At first it was just a way to keep my husband and I organized with jobs, kids, grad school, life - but it has actually become a tool/database and I'm so glad I started doing it.

I sit down Saturday morning and make my menu. We always have at least one vegetarian meal and Fridays are always homemade pizza and movie night. I also always do at least two big meals that will create enough left overs for my husband and I to eat for lunch over the course of the week. One night is always a guaranteed kid favorite (One night of dinner time peace a week is a must for me) and I also try to make one new thing every week or two. With that as a guide I'm usually able to plan a menu and make a grocery list in about 30 minutes.

I broke down and started shopping at Aldi about 8 months ago and have been pleasantly surprised by their organic and hormone free offerings. I do the bulk of my shopping at Aldi and then go to Meijer or Kroger for the few things I can't get at Aldi.

I never allow myself to make more than one trip a week. I get it all on Saturday and if I run out of anything I just have to wait until the next shopping trip. Run out of eggs? Oatmeal for breakfast.  Running low on milk? We're all going to have water with dinner (kids gets plenty of milk at school for lunch and snacks so an evening without is not going to kill them).

We've recently upped our budget to allow for out of season fruit and veggies for health reasons and a bottle of good wine a week. After years of super frugal eating these two things feel downright luxurious.

Trudie

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2016, 08:53:11 AM »
I really find couponing to be a frustrating expenditure of time; 95% of the coupons in the local weekly flyers are for processed foods I would rarely buy anyway, and often these foods are so much more expensive than basic staples that even with the coupon they are not a good cost-to-nutrition or even a good cost-to-calories ratio.

Now if they had coupons for rice, spinach, potatoes, and ground beef without having to sort through a sea of "buy one get one Twinkies" offers, I'd be all over it. But, they don't.

I avoid "fancy" grocery stores. I have market baskets near me which is great. I shop about once a week, sometimes twice to re-stock fresh veggies or 1 or 2 random ingredients i ran out of. I cook once a week and generally have a portion of meat, a simple carbohydrate source (rice, potato, DIY bread, pasta, etc), a cruciferous vegetable (spinach, cabbage, broccoli etc), and other veggies for taste. If combined with some kind of sauce a cheap and traditional meal can be had. I also love cheese.

I elaborated on my strategy some time ago in this thread: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/athletic-bodybuilding-diets-for-lt$200month/\

and i basically choose foods with a high calorie-per-dollar and a high protein-per-calorie. usually these foods end up being simple staples that are good for you anyway.

I agree... couponing is a waste of time.  It's for pre-prepared foods.  One thing I haven't done (my memory is pretty good) is to keep a price book.  I may do this in the future.

Although kind of "nerdy" I do watch the TV show "Market to Market" once in awhile.  Since they talk about commodities prices I can get a sense of what will likely be going up or down in the near future.

Does anyone buy the gargantuan bags of rice and flour at Costco?  I've wondered about this, but have been too scared to take the leap.

Mermaid3011

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2016, 09:03:06 AM »
You guys have some amazing ideas here !!

@StarBright  I love the idea of keeping a google calendar for seasonal meals!

@Trudie you are right, most food coupons are for processed foods. Though I have used a ton of coupons for cereals, rice, laundry and dishwasher detergent, shampoo, etc. There are a few convenience foods out there that I am still buying for snacks at work, but only if they are on sale and I have a coupon (like Kashi cereal bars).

My own grocery saving strategy is to use flipp.com to review weekly flyers, they also tell me if there are printable coupons out there for a specific item on sale. Pretty awesome. I spend about 1-2 hrs Saturday morning to plan my weekly shopping trip.
Then I walk to No Frills (kinda like Aldi) and get most of my staples and brand name items there. Whatever I can't get there I try to buy at Shoppers Drugmart (awesome customer appreciation program) or Metro.

The following apps and coupon sites make it easy to save some extra cash:

- flipp.com
- save.ca
- checkout51
- PC Plus Points
- Airmiles
- Shoppers Optimum
- Swagbucks


I am keeping a pantry, freezer and fridge list, to know what I have and not to buy double.
I am keeping a price comparison list that is updated regularly with the best price for a specific item that I like and buy often. This way I can tell right away if the sale is actually a good sale or not.

Weekends are cooking and prep days, making sure I have enough breakfasts and lunches ready to go for the next work week.

I need to get better though with not going shopping when I don't need anything and also with using more lentils and peas / beans in my dishes to bring down cost and get my fibre and nutrition intake up.

acroy

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2016, 09:19:58 AM »
We keep it pretty simple:
- One big trip every 3 weeks (working on pushing to 4)
- Stock up on sale items
- Kroger card / points / 6% Amex cash-back card.
- 'Used' bread store (day old bread store) Bread freezes fine.

We've experimented with coupons, shopping multiple stores to get certain items, and have found the time/gas is not worth it except for the bread store.

We are at about $700/mo for groceries (food+ all the other crap) for fam of 8. Not bad.

Mermaid3011

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2016, 10:06:28 AM »
We are at about $700/mo for groceries (food+ all the other crap) for fam of 8. Not bad.

WOW That's amazing! Cooking for 8 and for so little cash! Well done!

I am sure going shopping only once a month or every 3 weeks helps to cut down on the stuff that one really doesn't need! I am trying to go 10 days with one shopping trip... extending it slowly. :)

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2016, 10:23:01 AM »
Our strategy is fairly complex. We get our CSA box on Wednesdays, so I plan meals for the week then based on what veggies we'll be getting and what we have in the pantry. I make the shopping list based on what we need, and then my SO picks those up, usually at Trader Joes.

The pantry and freezer is stocked using a combination of trips to Grocery Outlet (1-2 couple times a month) and Costco (about 3 times a year). You just never know what Grocery Outlet is going to have, and we've found good wines in the $4-5 range, so that alone makes it worth a trip, but they usually have other things we need as well. Target occasionally has good sales on beer (like, 10$ for a 12 pack of things like Sierra Nevada), and frequently has the best price on baking stuff, so I also go there every so often to see what's what. And we have an excellent local specialty grocery store with good priced bulk bins and an amazing produce range and hard to find items for a splurgey meal.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2016, 10:53:38 AM »
Does anyone buy the gargantuan bags of rice and flour at Costco?  I've wondered about this, but have been too scared to take the leap.

I buy the giant (25lb) bags of jasmine rice. It gets pretty soft compared to some other jasmine I've had, but I like it. The basmati they carry is FANTASTIC though. I bought the 10 or 20lb bags of basmati for a long time and really enjoy it. DH prefers the jasmine, though, and it's cheaper, so we've been buying it.

Never done the flour, as we don't really use any.

I do a lot of Coscto shopping in general. Canned chickpeas (for quick snacks... for hummus I do from dry), cheese, milk, butter, eggs, salsa in the big tubs, frozen stir fry veggie mix, chicken stock, aforementioned rice, sometimes lamb... We recently started doing sour cream from there too since they stopped putting stabilizers in it so it's just cream now.

We also do our local albertsons for produce and some canned goods like canned pumpkin and canned roasted peppers. We also check the manager's special meats every time we're there, and if grass fed stuff is cheap enough, pick it up. Otherwise most of our meat comes from hunting (venison and elk).

We do trader joe's for things like cream and certain veggies that seem to be loss leaders- we get carrots, celery, green onion, romaine, broccoli, and brussel sprouts cheaper there than anywhere else.

We also have a local discount store named Grocery Outlet. They vary what they have a ton, but it's always the cheapest source of wine by far. Sometimes dark chocolate bars, sometimes cheeses. Always cheapest for dried chickpeas.

Our general strategy is to do Coscto once per month to get staples, and walk to the albertsons once a week or so (sometimes twice, depends on what we need). We do trader joe's/grocery outlet more often in the winter since we drive there, and the price difference is most dramatic this time of year.

I don't have an official "price book", but just keep it in my head.

Oh! We also do amazon subscribe and save for some stuff (15% off). I watch the coupons on there, and stock up accordingly. Tea, lara bars, seaweek snacks, supplements, etc.

We're still working on our grocery spending though, it's very much a work in progress. We eat like hippies, not really anything processed, cook every meal from scratch, do local and sustainable as much as possible, etc.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2016, 10:54:36 AM »
We keep it pretty simple:
- One big trip every 3 weeks (working on pushing to 4)
- Stock up on sale items
- Kroger card / points / 6% Amex cash-back card.
- 'Used' bread store (day old bread store) Bread freezes fine.

We've experimented with coupons, shopping multiple stores to get certain items, and have found the time/gas is not worth it except for the bread store.

We are at about $700/mo for groceries (food+ all the other crap) for fam of 8. Not bad.

Forgot to say, we also do the Amex cash back card and the Chase amazon for our subscribe and save. And we do Ibotta for rebates.

mm1970

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #22 on: January 25, 2016, 11:02:57 AM »
Honestly, it varies between planning it and winging it.

I keep a list of things that we are out of, or nearly out of.
I scour the grocery flyers each week to see what the "loss leaders" are, aka, cheapest prices.
Then I line the two up and decide what to buy.
Sometimes, I just don't feel it, so I don't buy it.  If we are out of cereal or milk, the kids can have oatmeal, toast, or yogurt for breakfast.

I plan meals anywhere from a week in advance to a few days, depending on how I feel.  I find it can be very tough depending on the week.  When trying to control weight, I need to buy and prep and eat a lot of veggies.

We've been members of a local CSA since 2001.  The drought was hard on it, so it has temporarily ended.  Thus, I am shopping for my produce.  I buy loss leaders, frozen produce, and whatever looks good.  It's hard though.  Part of me would rather just pay a little more to shop at the farmer's market - instead of buying stuff shipped in from Mexico or South America.  It's a challenge for me to navigate the "save money" vs. "eat local/ save the planet/ support local farmers", etc.  I tend to balance it by doing both.

Saturday is my main shopping day. I'll go to 3 places.  Mid-week I do Costco runs, because it's by work.

jeromedawg

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #23 on: January 25, 2016, 12:14:35 PM »
*If* we shop at the brand name stores (Albertsons, Ralphs, Stater Bros, Smart and Final, even Costco, etc) we'll usually shop by what's on sale in the ad. The only exceptions are:

1) Trader Joes (for guilty pleasures and pretty cheap bananas @ 19cents each)
2) Asian (specifically Korean) or Middle Eastern markets for primarily produce and sometimes meat. The Korean market down the street and Middle Eastern market a couple exits down the freeway have super-cheap produce (well, at least the non-organic stuff, if you don't care much). I would never buy meat or seafood a the Middle Eastern market simply because the lines get crazy long there. The Korean market sometimes has decent deals on meat but not often

For meat, I prefer either Smart and Final (for pre-packaged and larger cuts) and Stater Bros (they have an excellent butcher staff and selection of meats).

Otherwise, I've also used Zaycon to stock up on chicken breasts and salmon.

cats

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #24 on: January 25, 2016, 01:09:13 PM »
Our grocery shopping is an area that could use some improvement, but I definitely notice the money spent is less when we do the following:

-limit the number of stores we go to in any given week.  I put together a meal plan and then figure out what we need to buy.  If we are only going to store X for 1 or 2 things, I work on revising the meal plan so that we can just skip that store.  My rationale is that every visit to a store is an opportunity to impulse buy.  May only be to the tune of $2-5 per visit, but those do add up.

-Figure out about how much you expect the grocery bill to be BEFORE you go to the store.  If the amount gives you a heart attack, revise your meal plan to eliminate some of the higher cost ingredients.

-Use the freezer.  Both in the sense that we will buy things at a good price and freezer them, but also in that we make sure to USE those items.  Your freezer is not a museum!

-Beware of buying stuff just because it is a "good deal"--sometimes having a lot of something around can make you eat more of it (e.g., both my husband and I will snack on cheese if it is around...even on special, cheese is expensive and also not really the healthiest thing to snack on too often, so I'm increasingly hesitant to buy it in bulk quantities when it's available at a good price).

-Plan to have an empty/nearly empty fridge at the end of the week.  If fridge is still looking fairly full, push off the weekly grocery shop for a few days.  We often wind up just getting creative and making it through to the following Friday.

-In addition to making your own meals, also make your own snacks.  We make our own crackers, roast nuts, muffins/breads, etc. The other day I was out for a walk and stopped in at the drugstore to get some stuff we actually needed.  Thought about buying a snack there (what can I say, I'm 7.5 months pregnant and always wanting a snack....) and then realized that nothing would be as satisfying as toasting and buttering one of the muffins that was just a 20 minute walk away in my own home freezer.  Did not buy snack.  Toasted buttered muffin was indeed, delicious.

Mermaid3011

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #25 on: January 25, 2016, 02:24:55 PM »
Our grocery shopping is an area that could use some improvement, but I definitely notice the money spent is less when we do the following:

-limit the number of stores we go to in any given week.  I put together a meal plan and then figure out what we need to buy.  If we are only going to store X for 1 or 2 things, I work on revising the meal plan so that we can just skip that store.  My rationale is that every visit to a store is an opportunity to impulse buy.  May only be to the tune of $2-5 per visit, but those do add up.

-Figure out about how much you expect the grocery bill to be BEFORE you go to the store.  If the amount gives you a heart attack, revise your meal plan to eliminate some of the higher cost ingredients.

-Use the freezer.  Both in the sense that we will buy things at a good price and freezer them, but also in that we make sure to USE those items.  Your freezer is not a museum!

-Beware of buying stuff just because it is a "good deal"--sometimes having a lot of something around can make you eat more of it (e.g., both my husband and I will snack on cheese if it is around...even on special, cheese is expensive and also not really the healthiest thing to snack on too often, so I'm increasingly hesitant to buy it in bulk quantities when it's available at a good price).

-Plan to have an empty/nearly empty fridge at the end of the week.  If fridge is still looking fairly full, push off the weekly grocery shop for a few days.  We often wind up just getting creative and making it through to the following Friday.

-In addition to making your own meals, also make your own snacks.  We make our own crackers, roast nuts, muffins/breads, etc. The other day I was out for a walk and stopped in at the drugstore to get some stuff we actually needed.  Thought about buying a snack there (what can I say, I'm 7.5 months pregnant and always wanting a snack....) and then realized that nothing would be as satisfying as toasting and buttering one of the muffins that was just a 20 minute walk away in my own home freezer.  Did not buy snack.  Toasted buttered muffin was indeed, delicious.

THIS!! So true! I often end up planning 5 dishes, only making 3 and if I use up the fresh veggies and fruit right away, I can often get through another week by clearing fridge/freezer or just buying a minimal of milk/juice/fruit+veg.

I really believe that going shopping less often saves money in the long run. No idea why, but it does for me.

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #26 on: January 25, 2016, 07:03:48 PM »
I really believe that going shopping less often saves money in the long run. No idea why, but it does for me.

This is completely true in my experience. We used to live in a super rural area where it wasn't feasible to grocery shop more than once a week, so we got on a schedule. I am convinced that we spend less as ~ 3-4 times/month family than those who shop multiple times a week. Grocery shopping is in no way fun for me so I'd like to reduce the number of trips even further. Unfortunately going more than 10 days between trips doesn't work if you want to eat fresh produce.

cats

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #27 on: January 25, 2016, 07:12:32 PM »
I really believe that going shopping less often saves money in the long run. No idea why, but it does for me.

This is completely true in my experience. We used to live in a super rural area where it wasn't feasible to grocery shop more than once a week, so we got on a schedule. I am convinced that we spend less as ~ 3-4 times/month family than those who shop multiple times a week. Grocery shopping is in no way fun for me so I'd like to reduce the number of trips even further. Unfortunately going more than 10 days between trips doesn't work if you want to eat fresh produce.

2 things that I think explain it:

-even for people who are very good about using up all food/reducing food waste, the fact is that if your supply of food is more limited, you are more likely to eat all of it, and therefore reduce your spending.  I know also that when we get to the "creative" meals on Thurs/Fri, we tend to be using more of the cheap items in our pantry (e.g., legumes) or hardier vegetables that, coincidentally, are also cheaper (cabbage, carrots, etc.).

-when I go to the grocery store, I am quite good about shopping from a list, but there is still always something that's a "good deal", or that we "could use", so it's quite easy for me to inadvertently spend $5-10 on things I didn't initially plan on buying.  This happens pretty much no matter how often I go to the store.  I could work on being more diligent about only shopping from the list, OR I can just limit the number of opportunities I have to engage in this stupidity by visiting the store less often.  If I can avoid, say, 3 store visits each month, that's easily $15-$30 saved...adds up over time!


Sylly

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #28 on: January 25, 2016, 10:28:07 PM »
We're fortunate to have multiple chains of grocery stores relatively close, so we almost always buy meat & fish on sale. Non-perishable we also mostly buy on sale, by stocking up when they're on sale, or buy in bulk at Costco. Fruits we typically follow sales, which generally follow seasons. We buy bulk goods and spices when possible.

We usually get flyers on Mondays, and the grocery stores price period goes from Wednesday to Tuesday (some to Wednesday for double-ad days!). I don't have a fixed schedule, but I generally go over what's on sale, and try to plan meals until the new grocery week rolls around. Then we shop when it makes sense, to avoid storing things in the fridge too long. Since the stores aren't really far, we often go shopping multiple times a week (generally to different chains), or sometimes multiple stores on one trip.

We cook almost every night. Leftovers are for lunch. My meal planning is more often driven by the protein on sale than the produce, and since I'm not a really 'wing it' kind of cook, that generally means we're less sensitive to produce pricing -- except for highly seasonal stuff. So there's room for improvement there. We also don't always go to the best store for the produce or canned stuff if there's no significant sale and we don't really need other things from the better priced store. That's a choice we make for convenience. When nothing on sale sounds good, we figure out what we feel like eating and haven't had in awhile, and pull out the corresponding protein (except fish, we don't freeze fish) from the freezer (that was purchased when they were on sale). We have some quick & easy meals for when we don't have a plan and just need something quick, generally made of things we typically have in the pantry that we stock up on during sales.

We have the club cards for the grocery stores that use them, use the digital deals from one of the chain, but other than that don't really use coupons. I don't find too many useful coupons in the small booklet that gets mailed to us.

I don't stray from the list when grocery shopping, except for maybe an unplanned (on sale) fruit purchase, but unfortunately can't say the same about Costco trips...
« Last Edit: January 25, 2016, 10:29:45 PM by Sylly »

icemodeled

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #29 on: January 26, 2016, 01:45:39 AM »
We shop together,  just 2 of us and normally everyother week. Our set budget is $200 and we have never exceeded it, usually well below! We also shop at krogers as well as meijers and walmart for certain items. 70% of what we buy is whats on sale and rest is normal staples. If an item we like is not on sale and is considered to pricey for us, we wont get it and instead check another store. We have a small grocery store also that will have good sales at times. Im vegetarian but hubby isnt, however he is trying to stick with chicken instead of red meats so this actually has helped us spend less. We get a lot of fruits, veggies and chicken mostly. We each get a couple snacks we like which must be on sale. We also like to buy extra when somethings on sale if we know we will use it.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #30 on: January 26, 2016, 06:36:38 AM »
I'll go to the fruit and vegetable shop for most of my fruit and vegies, Aldi for most of the canned/packaged stuff (including milk and some of the meat), and Coles or Woolies for the rest (Woolies is closer but I sometimes prefer the Coles ten minutes drive away).

If I have the time, I'll go to the market on Saturday and get heaps of cheap meat/fruit/veg. Sometimes I'll get meat from the local butchers instead of the supermarket.

No coupons (or even a budget), but if something is priced higher than normal, I'll reconsider whether to get it.

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Teacherstache

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #31 on: January 27, 2016, 08:59:43 PM »
We meal plan for one to two weeks at a time based on what we already have on hand so that waste is minimal. Our fridge, freezer, and pantry are generally pretty bare because not wasting food is a big deal to us and has a huge impact on our grocery bill. We cook simply and mostly from recipes I just know. We either eat or freeze leftovers right away. Even if it is a very small amount, it gets stored and eventually made into "freezer soup". We just had this tonight, actually.

Our meal plan is made by Friday night in order to let me create a list of the remaining items needed to make our meals. I also look at the store's ad quickly to see if any basic items that we could use within the next couple of weeks happen to be a great deal and add them to the list. Both the list of meals and the grocery list are kept in an app that DH and I both have access to and can edit. That way either of us can shop.  The list is also arranged in the order that you find items in the store in order to make the trip more efficient. Fewer trips and less time in the store equals a smaller chance for impulse purchases.

Mermaid3011

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Re: What's your grocery strategy?
« Reply #32 on: January 28, 2016, 07:16:17 AM »
Not sure if I mentioned it, but since Canada doesn't allow stacking coupons etc. I am using Price Matching more often.

This weekend for example I have a few items from different stores that are on sale and instead of trecking to all of them (by public transport...) I am going to Food Basics and will try to pricematch the items that are on sale at Walmart / No Frills / etc.

I know these are only cents or dollars at a time, but since doing this and coupons I have saved about 200$ already (in two months).
Since I don't have a side hustle that would bring in more money per hour I am happy to have an easy and fun way to reduce cost and save more.