March 11, 2010

Things I've Learned in My Quest for Cheap Eats

I've been doing the grocery shopping by myself (well, I drag my brother along for kid-wranglin') for almost 2 months solid now. I have to say, while I love having Ben with me, it's much easier to do it without him. I can focus better, and stick to my list since I won't tell him no if he wants something. He works hard for us and I won't keep him from things that make him happy. But even he has admitted it's better I go by myself because it's too easy for him to veer off the list. He's on board with keeping our groceries in check, it's just hard to do when you're in the store and it all looks so good. I've learned to not let my eyes and stomach lead me astray.

So, along with "Shop by yourself whenever possible", here are some other things I've learned.

Store Brand is your Friend - I know a lot of people are hooked on brand names - I used to be one of them. But when it got to the point that I was tired of paying $3+ more for something that I could get cheaper, I jumped the Brand Name ship. And you know what I found? Store brand is just as good, and sometimes better. I've found I like store brand mozzarella, green-can-parmesan, peanut butter, and breakfast sausage much better than the Brand Name counter parts we used to get. I prefer the cheapy store brand toilet paper and paper towels. And if it doesn't taste better it at least tastes the same. I tend to save 2 - 3 dollars or more per item just by buying store brand.

Pay Attention While at Checkout - Today was a good example of this. I found corned beef at Foodmaxx for $0.99 a pound, according to the sign. Since the next cheapest price I had seen was $1.38 a pound, I decided I would stock up while I was there. The package labels said 2.99/lb but I figured they knew that and would fix it at the register since meat is often marked down without changing the label. While the very-nice-checker was ringing me up I watched the screen and asked "That's at 99 cents a pound, right? That's what the sign said." He checked and no, it was ringing up at $2.99/lb. So he called up the meat department and had it taken back to be relabeled, while I stood up front and he rang up the other customers while we waited. That paying attention, speaking up and the extra 3 minutes of waiting saved me over $25. It might have been a little bit of a hassle, but I decided I wasn't going to pay $2.99 if it was clearly advertised at $0.99. Paying attention and being nice will save you lots when mistakes are made.

Know Your Prices - If you've tried at all to save money on groceries I'm sure you've heard to "use a price book". I can't agree more. I used to know the price of pasta at one store and that was about it. Once I started paying attention I realized I didn't like paying more for something I could get cheaper else where. I keep a small notebook in my purse in which I have listed the usual items we buy, with their price and size, per store. As I buy things or walk through the store I fill it out so I get a general idea of who has the better prices, and when a sale is a really good one. For example, I know that I can get flour and cheese cheaper at Foodmaxx, and milk and eggs are cheaper at Foodsco. Since I have one day that I plan each week for grocery shopping, I don't mind going to different stores. Although I won't go to a different store just to get one or two items cheaper. My rule is "3 items or more". Otherwise the gas it takes to get there will usually negate anything I saved on food.

Watch for Sale Schedules and Stock Up - I have been saving my grocery slips since November. I am now taking my price book one step further and plan to mark down the prices I've payed on each date I've shopped. This will allow me to track how the prices swing and see any pattern in when prices drop. I'm still waiting for whole chickens at $.67 a pound again. When I see a really good sale I can stock up enough (money permitting) to last us to the next sale.

Being Picky Will Save You Money - Since I know I can get cheaper, I try not to pay more than $2/pound and I refuse to pay over $3/pound for meat, and generally try not to pay over $1/pound for produce. This still leaves us with plenty of options for chicken and pork and a variety of fruits and veggies. What tends to be over $3/pound is beef, which I will wait to go on sale. Today I got a beef roast because it was $1.48 /lb. I saved just by being patient.

A few other short things are "Don't Shop When Hungry", because you will try to buy everything in the store. And, "Buy Less Meat" has been hard for me, but I'm forcing myself to stretch it by combining it with cheap items like rice, bread and potatoes.

By using these tricks and rules I've set for myself, and not giving in to laziness, we've done very well at cutting our grocery bill over the past few months. I still haven't had a month under $300, but I now range around $350 -400 rather than $600. And that makes me happy.

1 comment:

SunnyBunny said...

So I've been looking back on some of your old posts (while I recover from working in the garden...;) ) and ran across this little gem.

What a needed reminder for me this read was! Thank you for sharing. :) Honestly, what you wrote was not new to me, per se, but it was something I needed to remember-working hard at saving money to provide better for my family is worth it!

Be blessed, Meg. :)

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