DISCLAIMER: If you hate cooking and refuse to eat anything that’s not microwaveable then some of these just aren’t going to work for you. Part of how I save money is by making it myself just so you know.
Alrighty, now for the post. When Neal and I got married I was so excited to be able to cook! Growing up I always wanted to be a chef (until I worked in hospitality- hours + holidays = 😝). My mom would let me experiment and such but I was so excited to finally be in charge of the kitchen!!! I began grocery shopping and started menu planning.
I have always loved shopping for deals, so I tried to apply my same clothes shopping habits with groceries. I loved coming home after shopping and bragging to Neal about how little I spent. I felt so accomplished!
But I wanted to do more!
So I consulted Pinterest and discovered a whole world of couponing; a world that changes daily and is super confusing (to me). It’s filled with rebates and having to buy 15 bottles of shampoo just to get them half off. Ugh! Why is it so confusing?!
Each week I would search for the coupons and comparison shop via the newspapers and each week I would end up frustrated when I realized I did something wrong and didn’t qualify for the coupon. Grrr!!
So I went back to Pinterest and tried looking for non-coupon ways to save money. I researched quite a bit and as I did I found my sweet spot!
Here’s what I do.
1. Stock up on essentials. 2. Buy chicken. 3. Review grocery store ad. 4. Menu plan. 5. Comparison shop. 6. Meal prep.
Something to note is that if you are stocking up essentials or buying chicken you should plan on spending $10-$20 more that week because those items are the most expensive. You’ll make the money back in no time but just something to keep in mind 🙂
1. Stock up on non-perishable essentials
Neal and I eat rice. Like, loads of it. I used to buy a few pounds every couple of weeks until I saw the price of rice at Costco (we don’t have a Costco in Logan so Sam’s club is where I took the photos but they are pretty similar price wise)! So at my grocery store, the rice costs $11.49 for 10lbs of rice while the same kind of rice at Sam’s Club cost $11.23 for 25 lbs!!! Ummm, so you’re paying 26 cents less to get 15 more pounds of food!!! Yeah. So basically only buy rice at Costco or Sam’s Club! If you don’t have a membership ask a friend to buy some for you and pay them back.
So as far as pasta goes, buying in bulk vs. buying at the regular store seems to cost about the same ounce for ounce. The difference was only a couple of pennies. I try to buy my pasta when it goes on sale for 50 cents (most stores will have a great sale like this on pasta a few times a year).
Now for quinoa, get that in bulk as well unless your store is having a great sale. Rule of thumb- try to look for quinoa that costs no more than 25 cents/oz or $4/lb. I haven’t compared prices of beans or oatmeal yet. If you have any insights on other non-perishables let me know in the comments below!!
2. Buy chicken
Can I make a confession? The only meat I really use is chicken. We’ll occasionally have pork but 9 times out of 10 we eat chicken. Maybe that’s totally normal, I don’t know. But have ya ever noticed how expensive meat is? Pound for pound meat is one of the most expensive items we buy at the grocery store so we have to be strategic when we buy it. With chicken we buy it in bulk, but not at Costco or Sam’s club!
Here is the secret, wait for your local grocery store (or Walmart, we don’t have a target here so I really don’t know about their food prices) to have a sale where chicken is less than $2/lb. If chicken ever costs more than that try not to get it! When the sale happens you will want to stock up!
Lot’s of times when they are having a big sale they will sell the chicken in sets of 5lbs, 20lbs, or even 40lbs. All you have to do is thaw whatever chicken you’ll need at the beginning of the week and voila! You are good to go! Funny story, once there were two major chicken sales within a month of each other and so I purchased 80lbs of chicken! Haha, I went a little crazy! Our freezer was full of chicken and we survived off of it for like 10 months! You don’t need to be as crazy as me but look for a good sale.
Random tidbit, I have heard of this website. They go around and do deliveries of meat (it sounds fresh) and it is super inexpensive but you have to buy it in bulk. I haven’t tried them yet but I’m interested.
3. Check out that week’s newspaper
Most grocery stores put out a weekly ad that comes in the mail. I like to look at my local grocery stores ad because their produce is (usually) better than Walmart’s. Then I scan for the best deals on the food that Neal and I like (we live for sales on pineapple!).
4. Next, I menu plan and make grocery list
Based on what I find in the newspaper, I look for meals (on Pinterest usually) that include those ingredients (here is the app I use to make my grocery list- pretty basic and it’s free). The key here is to try to group the meals. For example, red bell peppers and soy sauce are on sale so we could make Thai Curry, Pad Thai, and Stir fry. Because we will be making multiple meals with the same ingredients we have to purchase less, therefore, we’re saving money.
Here is another example. Salad mix is on sale so you make some Buddha bowls, salad, and then you freeze a bunch of spinach for smoothies :). Different things are on sale every week so although we may eat a lot of Thai food this week we’ll eat Mexican food next week so we don’t get sick of any one genre.
5. Now we’re at the store
The big thing here is to not be in a rush (and don’t be hungry). Everything (I mean everything) about the grocery store is setup to get you to spend more so if you’re in too much of a hurry, you’ll fall for all their traps!
Now we start comparison shopping. You might think that the off brand would always be cheaper than the name brand but that’s not always the case! Check the price per oz or pound. You take the price and divide that by total amount (oz or pound) and that will tell you how much it costs per oz/pound. This is the best way to help you figure out the best deal.
Yes, that honey may be on sale, but it is almost 30 cents more per oz than the regular one. Or it might be cheaper to buy two small Nutella’s rather than one big one. Ya see? 🙂 You will only have to do this for anything that comes pre-packaged (bagged potatoes, cheese, peanut butter, pasta, etc.) since all fruits and veggies already tell you their price per pound :).
6. Now we’re home
So Mondays are my snack prep days and if I were super cool I would do meal prep too but I haven’t figured that one out with the tiny human yet! I try to make some things that Neal and I will be able to nibble on throughout the week so when we get hungry between meal times we have something to snack on. I’m pretty inconsistent with this one, I really want to get better.
This week I made granola. You might cut up veggies or fruits to eat with ranch or PB. You could make some yogurt and fruit popsicles, energy balls, protein cookies, or homemade salsa. You can be as fancy or as simple as you want but making your snacks vs. buying them is going to save you a ton of money and is pretty much always the healthier option!
Well, there you go! Those are my tips for saving big at the grocery store. If doing all of this feels overwhelming at first, just pick a few things to start trying. Thanks for reading! Please comment below with your thoughts, questions, or any other tips you might have!
Aubrea (the Noob)
Ps. Be sure to pin this if you want to remember these tips!