Shake my Money Saver

With the economy being as wonky as it has been lately, I often find myself wondering how everyone else makes it. I’m going to be honest here, as it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of… we are on a very strict budget and I have had to majorly cut back on spending.  Pretty much every unnecessary thing (my beloved pedicures, hair touch-ups every 6 weeks, shoe shopping, etc.) has been put on pause.

We’ve come up with little tricks to save money and I’m actually really proud of how well we’re doing.  It’s pretty insane when you have to be thrifty… you realize how much money you were just throwing away without realizing it!

With that said, I’d like to give you all this opportunity to send me money for some new shoes.

Kiddiiiiiing.

Though I do strongly feel someone should give me a few gold stars and a cookie for all my hard work, the one thing I haven’t quite nailed down in the money saving department is grocery shopping. It is the bane of my existence, and quite honestly makes me want to stab myself in the eye. Nay, EYES. I seriously hate it.

No matter how much planning, list-making, and leftover-eating I do, I still feel like we waste so much of what we buy.

The one big lesson I’ve learned is this: Do NOT shop while you’re hungry. I’ve made this mistake so many times and it’s left me with the most random array of items in my fridge. (Pickled okra? TWO jars? SERIOUSLY?!)

So how do you all handle the hellish task of grocery shopping? How often do you go? How much do you spend a month, if you wish to share? Any other tips/tricks you’d care to share??

19 thoughts on “Shake my Money Saver

  1. okay, not eating out is a huge way to save money. I have forced myself to cut back on eating out. not only is it healthier, it is just more economical. When I’m in the car and I want to run through a drive thru I usually make myself keep on driving. Or if I am really hungry and think it’ll be easier to stop and eat something in the car while Levi is strapped in his car seat instead of flinging himself all over me trying to get a bite of food, I will stop at taco bell and just grab 1 chicken burrito for .89 cents. One can hold me over until I get home, and I don’t feel so bad spending only .89 cents. When grocery shopping, make a list and stick to it. make vegetarian meals, meat is expensive. Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Good luck.

  2. This is definitely been a hard one for us too! Our budget each month is supposed to be $500, but we’ve been consistently over for the past year or so.

    We are trying to get better though. Here’s my tips…

    I plan out a menu for the week. I plan around what is in season. However, eating organic, especially for certain items like milk for Bean and fruits/veggies that tend to have more pesticide content, is really important to me so I’m willing to spend a little more sometimes for quality.

    Most recipes make quantities that are impossible for my husband and I to consume (and Bean pretty much still eats baby food). Rather than have the leftovers sit in the fridge and be picked at all week before throwing most of it away because it goes bad or we are just sick of it, I freeze at least half and then defrost/reheat it again in a couple weeks when we are no longer sick of that meal.

    We just unsubscribed to our weekly veggie boxes because I decided that they were too expensive and too much of them was getting wasted (we just can’t eat 20 peaches in a single week!). This week I went to our local farmer’s market and got all the produce we will actually use this week for $6! It was fun going by all the different stands, seeing people and looking for bargains. One stand had green beans for $5.50/lb, another one had them for $1.50/lb. I don’t know what the difference was (both were certified organic and pesticide free), but I went with the cheaper ones. :) I don’t think I’ll always get all my produce for $6 though because I’m still trying to use up stuff from our last veggie box, but I do think I can do it for under $20, which is what our box was costing us.

    I usually grocery shop once a week and I go to more than one store. A majority of our stuff is purchased at Trader Joe’s. But they don’t always have everything I need or they don’t have it in quantities that I need (like if I don’t want to buy a whole bag of limes, just one) or their prices are ridiculous (like TP and other household items) so the remainder I do at Ralph’s to pick up the odds and ends foodwise that I can’t get at TJ’s and/or Target to get household items like cleaners, paper towels, etc.

    We’ve also decided in the last week to try and cut back on some stuff like paper towels and use cloth napkins at dinner and use wash cloths to clean Bean up after dinner (I was buying 1-2 packs of the Huggies Natural Care per week to keep in the kitchen for after meal cleanup).

    I have gone back to making Bean’s food in the last couple weeks, but that is seriously going over like a lead balloon (she only will eat yogurt, fruit and cereal now), so I just sent Stephen to the store to get some of the jar stuff. But if you can make your own food on the weekends and then freeze it into ice cubes to heat up throughout the week, it really is much cheaper than the jars.

  3. I’m totally horrible at grocery shopping. I refuse to go alone, so our grocery shopping adventures include Cale and I wandering around the grocery store, often with some poorly written list. Wondering what in the world we’re going to throw together for dinners. Then Cale gets impatient about halfway through and decides he is READY TO GO. Which means I rush and end up forgetting things. So the last ten minutes of the trip are spent going from one side of the store to the other grabbing the spaghetti sauce we forgot to get earlier. And then oh yeah we need bread. You see how it goes.

    I find we spend a lot less at Trader Joes. But we alternate between that and Safeway. And we usually go once every 1-2 weeks, but whenever we haven’t been in two weeks, we eat out because we’re totally out of food! I’m trying to get our monthly budget to $300. But I think this last month it was $350. But we did eat out less this last month, so I guess that’s better, right?

  4. Do you cut coupons regularly? I’ve learned from the best (my mother) and I always look for coupons on the items that I use/eat the most. Also, if be on the lookout for double coupon days at your usual grocery store.

    And find out if your grocery store sends out weekly emails that notify you of weekly sales or if your frequently-bought items are on sale, that way you won’t have to put too much effort into saving.

  5. Ok, here is what has helped me:

    1. First, clean out your fridge and pantry and organize in a way where you know what you have an what goes where. I wasted so much money in the past buying things I THOUGHT I was out of but turned out I was not.

    2. Make a weekly dinner plan, and cook for 4, not two each night. This way, usually you can have a left over night at least once a week, and rather than tempt yourself to eat for 4 at night, immediately tupperware half for the next days lunches.

    3. I only assume I need to cook 5 nights a week, it’s inevitable we’ll have one crazy night where we eat leftovers or something basic like a grilled cheese sandwich or cereal or we end up eating at my parents’ or out for date night.

    4. Before you plan your meals, look at what ingredients you already have. If they lend themselves toward a meal, go with that one. The fewer new ingredients you have to buy, the cheaper your list.

    5. I only cook with meat 2-3 nights per week, this cuts costs and gets us to eat more veggies. I make a lot of cheese/pasta/veggie type meals.

    6. Once a week, on Sunday, I make my list of dinners and any other random items we need (milk for the little guy, toilet paper, etc.) and divide between the two stores I shop: Target and Trader Joe’s. You quickly learn what things are a better deal where. I can get pasta at Trader Joe’s but it’s cheaper at Target.. etc. etc. I look in the Sunday coupons for coupons that match my list. I DON’T buy coupon items if I don’t need them :-)

    7. Once a month (or every 6 weeks) I buy a big thing of chicken breasts and a big thing of ground beef or fish. That is ALL I buy at Costco.

    8. I stick to my lists, religiously.

    I typically spend $350 a month four our family of 3 including higher cost items like organic things or the good Parmesan cheese.

  6. All I can say is don’t shop at vons albertsons or ralphs. We shop at winco and if we have to staters. Fresh and easy is good too.but the truth is grocery rices are ridiculous and unreasonable right now.

  7. I’m with Natali. I adore going grocery shopping, so it’s easier for me, I honestly think it’s because of where I go. I shop at winco, they have MAJOR amounts of produce, which is really cheap, and an AMAZING bulk section, another MAJORLY cheap way to get goods.

    I get SO much in bulk everything from spices, to dog treats, to pasta, to trail mixes, and flour, sugar, you name it. This helps you only buy what you need in the amount you need it, and encourages more basic meals, with less preservatives, which ALWAYS cost more.

    And like Natali said, eat what you have, pull things that you already have in your cupboard and use those! You’ll be suprised how creative and fun you get when you have a great place with SUCH variety like win co, and a limited budget. Go morgan! keep me updated! I really would like to know how it all goes! Another I do, is buy those thick plastic or canvas bags, they sell them at trader joes, and most stores, they’re $1 and win co gives you money off when you bring in your own shopping bags!
    Blessings!

  8. This is the worst task ever. My plan is to stock up when things go on sale. I have figured out that Safeway puts their chicken on sale (for less than half the reg price) every 3 weeks. I buy enough for the 3 weeks, put 2 breast in every ziplock and freeze it. I stock up on all the regular things we eat, and usually buy the rest at Trader Joes. I feel like their prices are the best for organic produce and dairy. I also meal plan for one week every Sunday, so I am not constantly going to the store. The less I am there, the less I spend! I think we spend around $400/month right now.

  9. I have definitely been sucking at this lately…I think it’s mostly because I’ve been getting extra money from work for overtime and such. I think we do pretty good at the grocery store, we really don’t spend much at all. And we also don’t spend much doing things for entertainment (tyvm TV addictions!). Buuut, I do splurge when I see stuff on line. WAAAAYY too easy to click click click, done! (Pickled okra? EW!) lol!!!!

    Do you use Mint.com? I used to track it a lot more but I haven’t had time to look at it much. If not, you should use it! We usually grocery shop probably 3 times a month…probably spend about $250-ish. We’ll eat out cheaply probably once or twice a week depending. Annnd I know you don’t have a Fresh & Easy but that’s the only place we shop. SO when you do get it..go directly to their clearance section…everything that’s about to shelf expire goes there for at least half off. It is pretty much the best ever!

  10. I really liked reading thru these comments for some good tips and ideas! I’m in rather an awkward stage when it comes to grocery shopping right now… it’s SO hard to go during the day, what with three kids and now school too, but our evenings have gotten so much busier lately, not to mention that I’m usually POOPED by dinner time and the last thing I want to do is go grocery shopping. hehe. So I’ve been using Vons.com and getting them delivered (if you spend $150 delivery is free, and I always spend that anyway when I do my “big” grocery shopping) and it actually helps me stay in budget since I can see my shopping cart total as I go along and there are no “impulse buys”. And I only get what is on sale, or buy the store brand.
    Then I’ll usually go to Sam’s Club for things like milk, bread, formula, fruit, cereal… the things we go thru SO quickly, since they’re cheaper there.
    And then I throw in a visit to Trader Joe’s once or twice a month to get the things I like there– and Trader Joe’s always inspires me to cook, which is an added benefit :)
    I’d say we spend about $400 a month on groceries… I’ve tried to cut that down, but every time I do I end up feeling like we have NOTHING to cook with. So. $400 it is. :)

  11. I meal plan. Sometimes it’s around coupons, sometimes not. But meal planning is what saves me.
    I’m pretty big on junk food too, lol, so to save costs there and not splurge on going out and eating ice cream, I plan my snacks too. They have to be good (re:brownies! rice krispy treats! cookies!) but I have to make them.
    I scour the ads and plan accordingly as well. If there is something super cheap that I don’t normally cook? I google it! (or refer to one of my many blogs- let me know if you need one. Theres one that is all about $5 meals)
    Leftovers aren’t a huge favorite here so if I make something big, I freeze half of it. Or remake it into something else. Roast is often remade by shredding it and simmering it in some BBQ sauce.
    And finally, since my oldest can’t eat table foods, most leftovers are pureed (with some leftover beef stock or can of soup) and he enjoys it. or I freeze that! I’m thinking I’ll do the same for Noah once we weed out any allergies.

  12. It’s so hard, I know! Once I have a basic idea of the kinds of things I need to buy, I try to give myself a budget to stay within (let’s say $100, which I know isn’t always enough depending on who all it’s feeding). Then as I go along I basically buy whatever’s on sale (no fun) and try to ballpark estimate where I’m at as I shop. It’s been pretty accurate for me, but I could see why other people wouldn’t want to bring math into grocery shopping…

    I also just try to remember that there will *hopefully* be a day in the not-terribly-distant future where I don’t have to stay within a crazy budget!

  13. we actually go once a month and we only spend 8o dollars when i shop i keep in mind health i want my family to be healthy we buy in bulk cause i can buy as little or as much of what i need and not have extra of what will just sit there and when i buy meat i package it into individual servings so i can count callories and it will go a longer distance cerial is a staple for the end of the month lol

  14. I get an email from Southern Savers with all the area stores weekly specials listed….and next to each item that currently has a coupon out there somewhere it either shows where the coupon was printed or includes a link to a printable one. And the best part is you can even mark the items you want and print out a shopping list for the store(s) you want to go to. They also include available deals at non-food stores, groupon deals, and online coupon codes, etc. And everyone comments and leaves tips on how to get the best deal with the coupons available.

  15. I used to shop all over the place and could not keep the monthly total under $500. Then I discovered grocery outlet. I will usually shop there first. whatever they don’t have, I will get at foodmaxx. I now have our monthly bill down to $300-350 for a family of 5 (three of which are tween boys who are hungry again before they’ve even finished their meal.)

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