Monday, October 26, 2009

Looking at the Grocery Budget in Questions

As I was doing some blog reading over the weekend, I came across the following questions at BerryMorins Bits and Tips. She posted the following questions in hopes of figuring out ways to lower her weekly grocery budget.  I have talked about living on a grocery budget before but these questions struck a cord with me in being a little more specific so I thought why not take the time to answer them for my readers. 

Do you shop every week?
Yes,  I shop every week as you can see from my weekly shopping savings posts. However, I do have a twist to my shopping methods in that I do a relatively big shopping trip on payday weeks(which is the weeks of the 15th and last day of the month) and then the other weeks I just get the essentials and only the deals that I can't live without.  I try on those other weeks shopping trips to keep my overall weekly total to under $100.  

Are you only going to one store to accomplish this?
NO, I accomplish my shopping by going to more than one store. However, I do not go to the drugstores (CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid) for any of my shopping.  I live in a suburb of a big city so I have access to several different grocery stores within a 5 mile radius of my house.  I have Aldi's and Save A Lot stores as my "corner grocery store" and then Meijer and another local grocery store are close as well. If I forget something in between my shopping trips, I will head to my corner grocery store. There is a local grocery store on another corner but sometimes their prices on things are a bit more so I go there more getting my WIC, sale deals and meats(esp. checking for manager's markdowns!).  

How do you decide which store you'll shop a per week?
I decide which stores to shop at based on the amount of deals that they are running for the week. IF I look at their sale ad and find that there is just a couple of items that are deals well those are a couple of deals that I am going to just live without this time that they are on sale.  The savings of those couple of deals is not worth the same as my time, gas and money just to get those few things. NOW if there is a store that has half dozen or more deals then that is the store that I am going to do the bulk of my shopping at for the week and then I will shop at Aldi's or Save A Lot to pick up the slack of what I might need for the week.  

Those of you with special diets ~ how do you stay within your tight budgets?
We do not have special diets as in someone being allergic to something but I do have a hubby who has high cholesterol and triglycerides so I am working at changing some of things I buy on a regular basis.  I have found that buying in bulk and buying more whole foods has helped us to stay within our budget. I am working at not buying so much processed foods and mixes, however, I still have the weakness for frozen pizzas, and breaded chicken nuggets to have on hand for quick meals.  

Do you always use coupons? If you do, do you purchase the Sunday newspaper, print from online websites, coupon swap?

Yes, I use coupons.  I get a Sunday newspaper every week and I print from online websites. That is extent of my coupons. I only clip the coupons that I know that I will use.  I have a expandable envelope that has dividers in it that is small enough to keep in my purse. I separate the coupons in different categories and have those that are going to expire first at the front of each category.  

Do you purchase paid memberships with Sam's ClubBJ's, etc? If so, how does this work into your budget?
Yes, I have a Sam's Club membership that I have had for over 10 years. I have found that the items that I purchase on regular basis from Sam's are items that I have to get brand specific or are cheaper at Sam's than in the stores.  I only go to Sam's once a month and many of the things I purchase last me more than just a month.  My advice about the warehouse clubs, take the time to make up a price book of items that you purchase on a regular basis from the grocery stores before you go into a warehouse club so you can make sure that you are getting the best deal buying the items in bulk.

What's a bargain price on ground beef and boneless chicken breasts?
Bargain prices on meats are going to be somewhat based on where you live. Bargain prices for ground beef will depend on how much fat you want in the ground beef. I usually buy ground chuck or ground round.  When I buy either of these the best bargain price that I look for is $1.99/lb or lower!  I find that during the summer months when there is a lot of grilling going on that ground beef will be lower than the $1.99/lb price. When it is around $1.69/lb(or lower), I will stock up my freezer with at least 20 lbs!  I take the time to divide the meat up into meal size portions for my family before I put the meat in my freezer. 

As for boneless chicken breasts, I normally will get these at Sam's Club for $1.97/lb or lower.  The fresh boneless chicken breasts at Sam's are big enough that I can butterfly cut them so it appears that I have two whole chicken breasts just a bit thinner and I am able to stretch the 6-7 breasts that are in one package into two meals for my family of seven.  If I run out of boneless chicken breasts from Sam's then I watch the grocery stores for a sale on the bags of individually frozen boneless chicken breasts and can get them for the same price of $1.97/lb or lower as the fresh chicken from Sam's.   I also am not afraid to watch the sales for bone in chicken breasts when they are 99¢/lb and getting a few packages to have on hand to cook for some of my dinner meals. 

Is it a challenge to include fresh fruit and vegetables in a tight budget?

Fresh fruits and veggies can be a challenge to purchase on a tight budget, however, I have found buying the fruits and veggies when they are "in season"  makes all the difference.  Like right now, apples, winter squash(butternut, acorn, etc), pears, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes are in season right now so these are more likely to be on hand at my house over strawberries which are in season during the summer months.  The in season fruits and veggies will cost less than those that are out of season. For those fruits and veggies that are out of season getting them when they are in season and freezing them helps to save on the budget as well. Right now, I have several containers of blueberries in my freezer to enjoy during the winter months.  I also have several bags of shredded zucchini to use as well during the winter months.  Also if you have space doing a garden or even teaming up with a neighbor and doing a garden will help with getting fruits and veggies in a tight budget. 

Overall, something that I have found to work for my family within our tight budget is using the buying ahead principle. Wondering exactly what is the buying ahead principle? Crystal, aka MoneySavingMom, does a great job in explaining this principle.  I have space in my house for a nice size pantry and I also have a stand alone deep freezer to use for being able to buy ahead and for my bulk purchases. 

Instead of worrying about trying to get to only $20 or $30 or $40 per week for groceries, I look at the big picture of my grocery spending. I keep track of my grocery spending on Quicken(program on my computer) and at the end of each month I take the time to work with the numbers.  I also take the time to see how much I have spent so far for the year in groceries. Here is the numbers for food only from when I did this at the end of September, beginning of October. After 41 weeks of the year, I spent $5102.34 for food only!  That averages out to $124.45 per week!  At the time I did these figures there had been 280 days, which means if I divide $5102.34 into 280 it equals $18.22!!!  So for $18.22 per day I feed my family of seven 3 meals and 2 snacks!  If I keep to under $20 per day throughout the year, I feel like I have accomplished my goal to feed my family frugally.  I have taken the time to compare my totals with what the USDA Food Plan Charts and find that I am way under the budget for food costs for my size of family. 

Keeping in mind that we are working to do what is best for our families, I would love to hear from you!!

  1. How are you doing on keeping your grocery budget?  
  2. Do you find that you have had to change it over the year due to price increases?
  3. How would you answer the above questions? 
  4. Other than eating only beans & rice, what ways have you found to work for you on small grocery budget?

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SnoWhite said...

Thanks! It's always helpful to learn what others do.

Rona's Home Page said...

I know lots of people are struggling these days with these questions. Thank you so much for responding to these questions.
It's a great help to many!

Judy said...

Loved the post. It was refreshing to read your post. I live in MA and food prices (from what I have noticed from others) is definitely higher here than other parts of the country. It can be discouraging to see others spend $40 a week for there large family when I am happy if in 1 week I spend $150! It makes me feel like I am doing "something" wrong.

You keep it real---and I LOVE IT! While I try to feed my family healthy and not spend a ton of money, it is not, at this point of my life, realistic to think I will make everything from scratch (a box of frozen waffles has been known to make for a happy mama in the morning : )

I have actually thought of the same goal of $20 a day. I am going to have to start tracking that (I think I do it but I have never checked). Question....when you track your numbers, am I reading it correctly, that this is JUST food? Does this number include toiletries, cleaning products, ect... I know myself, I do NOT include diapers and wipes in my total. I don't think our eating should depend on how many diapers the baby goes through.

Judy said...

Thanks for responding back to me. The "non-food groceries" catagory----what a GREAT idea!!! I think I am going to rework my numbers and actually put this category in.

Keli said...

thanks for stopping by! I enjoyed reading your post and I learned a few things too! I think I might start tracking my numbers like you do. Great idea.

pk said...

Wow! A lot of useful information here. Thanks for the tips!
pk @ Room Remix

klutzymama said...

When you purchase your ground beef in bulk, do you stick with leaner cuts or do you mainly go with what is on sale? Thanks!