Sunday, June 4, 2017

Grocery Store Strategies

I'm still, nearly 30 years after being married, trying to manage my grocery budget. Add the managing the budget to managing my new preferred diet, DH and DD2's preferences, and it could spiral out of control. While I ambitiously challenge myself to stay at $350 for household necessities and food, my targeted budget is really $400. I've gone over some months, and grossly under others, and have had quite a few months, where that $350 was actually in the ball park. 

I'm not a good deal stacker and couponer. If the Sunday paper inserts match the ads on health, beauty and cleaning, I take advantage of them, but I have no filing system. I try and stock up to a small extent on things we regularly use and don't want to run out of and be caught off guard and pay full price, like toilet paper, laundry soap, female products, toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner and deodorant. I rely on several pantry staples to squeeze my budget and stretch my trips to the grocery store as long as possible. This has been harder for my personal eating since limiting rice, white flour, and pasta from what I eat, but still works for the others-I just skip those items or greatly reduce my portion. Low cost beans and oatmeal are used heavily in my cooking lately to bulk up the dish on the cheap, yet provide a boost of protein as I try and reduce pricey meat portions. This has meant simple, perhaps  mundane meals, but as the weather is nice, we all just want to be fed and get on with our days and evenings.  

I'm shopping at Aldi's more, and picking up things at the Dollar Tree that are cheaper than Target, drug stores, or the grocery stores. I can't justify spending $3 or more on a bag of Doritos or bag of potato chips for summer gatherings and snacking by my family when I can buy, in moderation, for less than 1/2. I'm not just changing my families habits. I've reduced the amount of coffee-just the two cups usually now in the morning, and drink more tea, which gives me several cups from a single tea bag. I've cut at least $20 a month, perhaps more, since giving up my Diet Coke compulsion and drink just water or Dollar Store packets of Wylers lemonade.  

My strategies are small, and nothing earth shattering. If I had more time, took more time, I could maximize the budget a bit more. I found this table, a few years old from 2015, interesting. The USDA Official Plan recommends that for my family, a thrifty food budget (food only) would be $502.10. I spend at least 20% less than that and am not a super shopper. However, I can cook and have storage to buy bigger quantities of items at a better price. I am also brand neutral, going for the lower cost version on most things, a few exceptions, as long as it is still good.I still use several convenience foods.If I had to walk home from the store or rely on public transportation, I'd buy smaller sizes and shop more often. I'm sure my costs would increase then as I find just entering a store more than once a week impacts my budget.

7 comments:

  1. I found out my brother has a good plan for buying paper products while I was in VA. He only buys TP, paper towels, napkins at Big Lots and only during one of their 3-4 times a year they have a 20% off Friends and Family weekend Sale. He buys what they'll go through in 3-4 months and is done for that quarter. He isn't brand loyal obviously and this plan doesn't involve couponing either plus it's done on a regular basis so you aren't waiting for a sale somewhere to pop up. lolz

    It's amazing how much you can shave off of household spending when you do everything available to cut costs. But most people just aren't motivated enough or are too busy to do them all.

    I have always found those US Food Plan numbers a joke since I've been following them in 2008. The lowest, Thrifty Plan, says I should be spending $680.50 for 4 adults(2 women, 2 men, ages from 21-59)per month. If I spent that most months we'd be eating steak on a regular basis. lolz

    The Liberal Plan indicates $1339.10 on food spent for my family. Who is spending that?!? Other than the very rich, who can afford to spend that per month on just food? Heck, I aim to spend that(or less)for THREE MONTHS of food shopping. 8-)

    I can honestly say that most middle class families waste so much money on household goods by not strategically shopping and not eating leftovers. It's different if you are living in a food dessert(inner city)and have limited access to transportation and grocers.

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    1. My BIL' s family, four kids and dad who insists on top of line butcher meat, 4 kids,and boys with holes in their stomachs spend over $250 week, but I think they are not the norm.

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  2. I can't imagine spending $1300 on groceries! The boys have definitely started to eat more, so our spending goes through phases. They are recently into a huge greek yogurt phase as a snack. They only like the flavored kind. I could make my own (& should), but don't. We do meal plan, and do our best, but our grocery numbers are around $600-650. That includes a lot of fruits & vegetables.

    As for paper products, we try to reduce our consumption. We have cloth napkins, and I haven't bought paper napkins in years. I'm trying to decide if I should bring some to our vacation house as well. We could use them except for the last night, where people are typically scrambling to get all of the laundry done.

    We also try not to use paper towels - they are a rare use case, mostly when draining beef fat.

    Other tips/tricks: we rarely buy snacks. To be honest, that's changing a smidge as the boys get older, and I'll add something like one trail mix into the shopping list per week. We also don't buy any drinks (other than alcohol, but that's an entirely separate category where we most definitely splurge). M & I gave up our soda habit years back, and I occasionally have a sparkling water, but enjoy that at work, so I get it for free.

    We are by no means frugal in this category, but really do monitor costs & try to keep things under control.

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    1. Paper Towels are the bane of my existence as everyone else here wants to use them but I don't. They are a necessity however when you have pets. ;-)

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    2. I need to reduce paper product waste in my home. Next splurge on new towels will allow me to make rags out of old.

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  3. I'm fairly frugal in most areas, except food. And eating out... I really need to work on this.

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    Replies
    1. It is a hard category to economize if you work full time.

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