The Ongoing Grocery Saga

>> Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The last time we wrote about lowering our grocery bills, we got A TON of great suggestions. But we did get quite a bit of pause from some readers who think our bar might be set too high (with a $50 number that seems too low for two people to live on). We're confident we can hit our target, or at least close to it, so we're forging forward with some new thoughts this week.

First, we wanted to share some of our favorite reader tips. These suggestions particularly speak to us:

  • Chelsea: "I shop bi-weekly and spend about $80 on average per trip. It's great :)"
  • Tracy: "I'm trying to cut back to every other week and think it really helps. It forces you to eat through what you have completely, and cuts back on impulse buys too!"
  • Sabina: "What's helped us is avoiding the grocery store (i.e., like your Wegmans) and shopping at the bread place, the butcher, the health food store, the fruit/veg store. The grocery store is so, so expensive compared to the independent stores."
  • Melinda: "I'm kind of crazy and I shop at like 5 different stores (Target, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Shop Rite) because certain stores have certain deals and brands I like."

  • Elaine: "We've saved so much money by going to grocery stores that offer bulk pantry items, only take debit/cash, and make you bag your own items."
  • Michaela: "I'm really big on eating simple foods, and I've found that has cut down my grocery bill a lot as well. A lot of the time, I'll just eat a banana with peanut butter for breakfast, toast with hummus and carrots for lunch, or steamed veggies and rice for dinner."

  • Elizabeth: "Best practices for our bill are constant meal planning (before shopping) to limit impulse buys and keep focused (I plan for 2-3 weeks at a time)."
  • Shruti: "I have a spreadsheet made up of my necessities and how often I can buy them."
  • Heather: "The only way I've been able to get my food budget down is by sticking with the cash system. If I've used up all my cash that week, then I've gotta wait or not get it at all. It's seriously been the only thing that has worked!"
  • Sarah: "Its maybe easier to think of it as averaging out to that amount ($50) per week over a month (so, about $200) in order to account for the weeks that you stock up on certain items or find a good deal on something special."

I've also been picking up advice from some unexpected sources. I have this new obsession with the Duggar family (Image source). Well, "obsession" isn't the word. Maybe "fascination" would be a better choice. I started watching the series from episode one on Netflix last week.

So far, I feel like I've learned a lot about stretching the grocery dollar.
  • Shopping big once a month. One episode featured the family stocking up on all their groceries for the month. I doubt we'd be able to shop only once monthly, but hitting the store less would definitely be worth trying.
  • Shopping at no-frills stores. Like Aldi. I haven't been to an Aldi since college, but I feel like it might be worth a gander. And this idea goes with what several readers mentioned about looking beyond Wegmans, trying new stores -- as well as utilizing CSA groups, farmers markets, and independent grocers.
  • Prepping large meals. They do this out of necessity, of course, but with freezing and other preservation methods, we could do much more with this area. I bought a fun book this weekend, so once I get my way through it, I'll be sure to share some ideas.
  • Simplifying. The Duggars eat well and healthfully, but they don't eat the most exotic foods. Thing is: We don't need to either. Of course we love to try new things, but sticking with the basics might be best for our budget.
  • Thinking outside the colorful boxes. Non-grocery items add up as well. Cleaners can be made at home! Making our own laundry detergent (again, OBSESSED with this thought!) is on the list of things to try.


When Clearly Fresh Bags heard about our quest to save, they also noted that we should pay more attention to the foods we DO have, instead of constantly focusing on what we plan to buy. I'm notorious for unintentionally letting foods to go waste -- especially apples and heads of broccoli hidden in our refrigerator's produce bins.

I tried these bags out on some of my beloved nectarines. I specifically kept one in there for an entire week, and it didn't get horribly mushy! In fact, it was still . . . fresh.

Basically, the bags keep fruits and vegetables fresher longer, thereby saving money by throwing away less. They are also re-closeable and recyclable, so that's cool. It's still too early to extract the $$$ impact these bags might have on our bills, but we'll continue to use the package they sent us and see if wasting less translates to a fuller wallet.

If you'd like to learn more about Clearly Fresh Bags and how they work, visit their website. (PS: We got some concern over adding this product review into the post. Rest assured we only got the bags to try and do not benefit from your clicks or purchases -- just something we've tried!)


As I mentioned in yesterday's post, this week's grocery bill was $63. Our Greek yogurt love is still getting the best of us at $10 of that total cost. (And, yes. We are looking into making our own, just haven't had the time yet.) Other items we bought included the basics . . . eggs, bread, strawberries, nectarines, bananas, collard greens, frozen cauliflower and broccoli, garbanzo beans, peanut butter, etc. Some treat items even made it onto the list, including Reed's Ginger Brew and Jala ice cream pops.

The hardest part is taking these simple ingredients and making them into balanced, filling meals More on what we're doing with these items soon! Now, I know some of you are own your own slashing missions -- how's it going? Just leave us a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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