Today, I’m just going to share a little insight into how I really shop and how I end up spending about $210 a month on groceries. I’ll call this “A Day in the Life of My Grocery Budget.”
The month of July was very tight for our grocery budget due to lots of festivities surrounding Independence Day, family coming, and having people over for meals. All of these wonderful things took a little toll on our budget, which resulted in no grocery shopping the last week of July. We stubbornly ate whatever was in the fridge, freezer, and pantry in order not to go over budget. Don’t get me wrong, we always have plenty to eat, especially meat and pantry items, but we could have used an extra head of lettuce and a gallon of milk.
So, August 1st was yesterday, and we went shopping. Let me remind you that I always meal-plan, check store ads, and clip coupons before heading to the grocery store. To learn more about that, check out my post, “Saving Money on Groceries Part. 1.”
I had looked over our cupboards, fridge, and freezer and realized that while I was pretty stocked on meat which I had purchased on sale, I was in need of dairy and produce. Ryan also let me know that he needed more peanut butter (which he eats every morning) and ice cream (need may not be the best word here).
When I grocery shop, I attempt to only purchase items on sale, never paying full price. A few tips to make this possible:
- Buy a month’s worth when an item goes on sale.
- Use coupons.
- Buy produce that is in season and on sale.
- Buy discounted meat and freeze it right away.
- Shop price clubs for items that don’t typically go on sale.
Armed with coupons and a grocery list on my phone, Ryan and I headed out to shop. First, we went to Sam’s club and purchased a few items that don’t typically go on sale or are always better quality for the price there. We also got gasoline at Sam’s for $1.68 per gallon. Nice.
- $1.99 Skim milk
- $2.93 18 Eggland’s Best eggs
- $1.39 8 large bananas
- $3.33 2 lbs of raw broccoli “trees”
- $3.98 3 lbs organic carrot sticks
- $2.28 1 qt. half & half (Land O Lakes)
- $7.48 23 oz. Hershey’s cocoa powder
- $23.35 Total
While shopping at a price club can save you money, be aware that you still pay for your membership (ours was $35 for a year). Bulk impulse buying gets expensive VERY quickly. Stick to your list.
Once we finished at Sam’s Club, it was off to Bi-Lo. I try to do all of my grocery shopping at those two places. Walmart is cheaper full-price, but the BOGO sales at Bi-Lo make it less expensive than Walmart. While ALDI has good deals on a few things we like, most of my sale deals at Bi-Lo and Sam’s club are cheaper than ALDI. Also, quite of few of ALDI brand foods taste funny to Ryan and me. If ALDI is your jam, great! It doesn’t meet our needs well, and I prefer to only shop two stores rather than a third.
So, Bi-Lo is coupon, BOGO, clearance land for us, and that definitely helps our grocery budget. I still think Ryan is convinced that coupons have magical powers. Really, we only use a few coupons each time, but I try to use them when the item is already on sale to increase savings even more. I probably spend 1.5 hours a month total on clipping coupons and matching them to deals, and for me it’s kind of a game.
I always encourage people to be flexible when they grocery shop. Did you think that item was on sale, but it isn’t? Then re-evaluate if you need it now or if it can wait. Did you find a killer clearance deal? Then see if you can squeeze it into the budget to save you money in the future. We did that with two items at Bi-Lo on this trip. Here is a breakdown of what we bought, it’s original retail price, and the price we paid.
|Item||Retail Price||Sale Price Card Savings||Coupon||Price Paid||Percent Saved|
|2 JIF Naturals PB 28 oz. jar||$8.90||BOGO free||$4.45 for 2||50%|
|KRAFT Italian Dressing||$2.50||$2.00||$2.00||20%|
|Kikkoman Soy Sauce||$1.85||$1.85||0%|
|On the Border Tortilla Chips||$2.99||BOGO free||$2.50||16%|
|3 Keebler 8ct. Cracker Packs||$3.29||$2.50||buy 2, get 1 free||$5.00 for 3||49%|
|10 Pc Chicken Drumsticks||$7.72||$3.84||$2.00 off||$1.84||76%|
|Red Bell Pepper||$1.80||$1.00||$1.00||44%|
|3 Small Roma Tomatoes||$1.50 per lb||$0.88 per lb||$0.37 for 3||41%|
|2 packages White Sliced Mushrooms||$4.00||$1.00 off
|$2.00 for 2||50%|
|3pk Romaine Hearts||$3.50||$2.50||$2.50||29%|
|1 cup Sour Cream||$1.00||$1.00||0%|
|2 half gallons Blue Bunny Ice Cream||$11.98||BOGO free||$1.00 off 2||$4.99 for 2||58%|
|McCain Potato Fries||$3.49||$1.75||$0.75 off||$1.00||71%|
- Bi-Lo and Kroger (and I’m sure many other stores) have free customer discount cards. Setting one up takes minutes and using it allows you to have the lowest sale price. This particular trip, I saved over $15 just by using my store card. I typically just give my phone number instead of carrying the card with me.
- Bi-Lo, like many stores, runs BOGO sales, but the items scan as if they were 50% off so you don’t have to buy 2.
- Bi-Lo, like many stores, puts discount coupons on meat that must be used or frozen soon. We always look for these and stock up when we get crazy deals like 76% off chicken legs!
- Bi-Lo, like many stores, will take competitor coupons. The Keebler coupon was a Publix coupon. This is particularly awesome because you can combine one competitor coupon with a manufacturer coupon for extra savings.
- Bi-Lo occasionally puts coupon/clearance markings on produce that needs to be eaten soon. That’s how we got $2 off of our mushrooms, which will be cooked soon or frozen.
A couple of extra blessings at Bi-Lo are that they have a fuel perks program. Essentially, for every $50 I spend on groceries, I get 5 cents off per each gallon of gas when I fill up. This is nice, but I sort of ignore it until they build up. I don’t make extra purchases to earn fuel perks. Also, Bi-Lo often gives out $5 off your purchase coupons if you take the store survey. Personally, I take them because I’ll save an extra $5 on groceries, and I’m helping them improve their business.
Friends, this is not rocket-science, and I didn’t even consider this trip to be exceptionally high in savings. Typically, I only get excited if I save more than I spend. However, you can see how smart moves like shopping sales and using coupons pays off. You don’t have to spend a lot of time, maybe an hour a week checking flyers, writing a list, and clipping a few coupons offline or from the paper. I am not a crazy couponer, and I will not be on television anytime soon. But, I do save enough money to keep my monthly grocery bill under $210.
I hope this breakdown helped some of you visual learners see that this is real-life, doable saving. You will notice that I didn’t buy things like juice, pop, or candy. Ryan and I have quickly realized that these items are empty calories and we’d rather spend our money on better things. Now, we only buy items like that on special occasions. You’ll also notice that I didn’t buy any rice, beans, or pasta. I had those staple items stocked up already for this month.
So, combining Sam’s Club and Bi-Lo, we spent $57.77, and I have everything I need for the next 10 days of meals, plus we’re stocked up with extra chicken, mushrooms, Keebler snacks, and peanut butter. Woohoo! This leaves me with $152.23 for the rest of the month. Typically, I always tend to spend slightly more at the beginning of the month, in order not to go grocery shopping as often.
If I spent 1.5 hours a month on coupons and matching them to deals, and maybe 2 hours a month meal-planning, list making, and checking ads. That’s about 3.5 hours a month. Less than an hour a week. I saved almost $25 this week, and it wasn’t an exceptionally high savings week. So that is $25 for less than an hour of work? I’ll take it.
The bottom line is: you can do this. All you need to do is adjust how you view grocery shopping. Plan and execute the plan. No big deal. It becomes a game, and let me tell you that the savings make it SO worth a little extra time.
If you’d like to see the following week’s grocery budget (week 2), check out my next post: “A Day in the Life of My Grocery Budget: Part 2”
As always, I’d love your feedback, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.