|Comparison shopping pays off.|
Photo by Ambro
Okay, so we’ve established that I don’t rely on coupons to whittle my grocery bill down to nothing. However, I do make an active effort to get our food bill as low as I can. At the same time, I don’t want to eat beans and chicken soup every day.
I use a combination of several tactics to lower my grocery bill. I plan meals, shop the ads, shop different stores, use coupons WHEN PRACTICAL, and buy in bulk when I get a good deal. Here’s my weekly approach to shopping:
- Scan the ads. My go-to store is Fred Meyer. Not only is it practically in my back yard, it seems to have better sales and lower regular prices than Safeway or Albertsons. I can occasionally catch a really good meat deal at Albertsons and I’ll go for that, but as a general rule, if it isn’t on sale at Albertsons, it’s going to be more expensive than anywhere else. Unfortunately, Winco doesn’t have a weekly ad so I never know what the sales are going to be, although they do make a point of beating other sales. They also don’t have a great selection of lower-fat foods and their produce can sometimes be crummy, so we don’t go there all the time.
- Look for stock-up items. What am I looking for in the ads? Deals on the proteins that I’m going to build my meals around. I’m looking for really good meat sales. If I can spot a really good one, I plan to buy several pounds so that I can get a few meals out of it.
- Plan my meals. The goal is to always have enough meat for meals in the freezer (from previous stock-ups) that I can pull meals straight from the freezer and never have to buy meat that isn’t a good deal. I see no reason to ever pay more than $1.99 for chicken breasts. This doesn’t mean that I have to have 7 days’ worth of meat – we don’t have meat in every meal. To keep Gavin and the kids happy, though, we usually have it four to five days per week. Spaghetti nights or breakfast for dinner (pancakes and eggs) can fill in the blanks.
- Look for coupon deals. Once I’ve made my main meal list and built my grocery list around that, this is when I look for coupon deals. I go through the ad with my coupon binder and look for “matches.” This is the only way to use coupons. Combine them with a sale and you can get a really good deal, especially on stuff like bath wash, toothpaste, baby wipes and stuff like that. Normally I would also add detergent and household cleaners to that list, but I don’t know of any coupons that knock detergent down to a penny per load!
- Fill in the blanks. Some items we need pretty much every week: Milk, eggs, yogurt, veggies, fruit, bread… These are our regular staples. Occasionally we need some cereal, cheese, peanut butter and stuff like that. I try to catch bread when it’s on sale and stock it in the freezer. I need to get Gavin baking more bread!
What’s your shopping technique for keeping costs down?