Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to plan a once a month grocery trip.

As I promised, here is a step by step illustrated guide to my version of once a month shopping. Get ready to save some money!
First, I read all the circulars. Even the ones for stores I don't typically shop at. I circle anything that looks like a good deal, making note of who has the best price on chicken, or avocados or whatever.
Then I get out cook books, my iPad, my recipie box and start brainstorming meal ideas. Typically I repeat each meal once. Cuts down on the work without too much repetition. (This is a picture of how messy my table is.)
These are meal idea cards. They have the name and reference of a main dish and a side dish with a list of main ingredients for each. They are a fun way to get ideas quickly and help me use my cook books more. (Otherwise I totally get in a rut.)
So here's my brainstorm list. I always start by checking to see what is leftover from last month. In this case I hade 5 fully prepped meals still in the freezer, a few sides, and pantry ingredients to make sauce. I also check my pantry for meal ideas, in this case I had everything but the lettuce and tomatoes to make taco salad, so it went on the list too.
Then I go through the recipes to make my shopping list. And organize it by department.
Then it is finally time to plan the trip itself. I go back to the circulars and plan what I will buy at each store. I start with a list of produce and staples at the store that typically has the lowest prices and will price match anything. Then lists for the other two stores I shop based on the circulars. The first two stores are discount grocery stores (like Aldi's) and the last one is a regular grocery that doubles coupons and takes all competitor coupons. I bring the circulars with me, I need them not only for price matching, but as I shop I check the circulars, if something is cheaper at the next store, I circle the item and buy it at the next place.
I also coupon, a bit. These are the coupons I used for this trip. Nothing extreme, but by asking for a price match then using my coupons, I got my frozen veggies down to $.29 per bag. The first store (Bottom Dollar) prints a lot of good coupons at the register (these are called Catalinas for some reason). I typically use these immediately at the next store (Good Cents) or the last store (Giant Eagle) because both stores accept competitor coupons and I want to be sure to use them before they expire. This time I got $3.50 off your next purchase of $20 or more, $2 off your next meat purchase of $10 or more, and a free loaf of bread with purchase of $10 or more. I used them same day at different stores for a savings of $6.29! Not too shabby. I didn't end up using the cuties or the gevalia coupons because I found better prices on other brands in the aisle. (I ended up giving away the coupons for free noodles and tuna to a woman buying the tuna. I was just going to pick them up for the food pantry, but it was nice to be that lady's coupon fairy for the day. She said it made her day, and that made me happy.)
While I am busy planning and shopping my hubby makes this happen:
Ahhhh clean countertops....
They don't last long. This is what a month's worth of food looks like. There was more, but the Hubster started putting it away before I got the picture taken.
So what did this all cost you ask? $235.14! I planned for four weeks, but found some good meat deals so it will probably last us more like five. We will have to stop for milk and bread, and I probably forgot something, so let's call it $260 for the month. That comes to $52 a week for the next five weeks! We used to spend $90-$120 per week. By spending an extra 2 hours planning the trip, I figure I saved my family somewhere between $190 and $340 over five weeks. That makes a big difference in our budget.
Next time I will walk you through the meal prep. It's easy. Honest.


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