How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

That saying, “There’s always too much month at the end of the money,” really rings true after the holiday buying frenzy dust has settled.

It seems like everyone wants to reign in their spending and get a good start on the new year.  Out with the old, in with the new. Groceries are a great place to save money, because most of us spend a pretty big chunk of our monthly budget on eating, and most of us unintentionally waste food.  By adjusting your grocery buying strategy just a bit, you can see immediate savings in your budget, without really sacrificing health or flavor.

Chicken-Casserole-with-Mashed-Potato-ToppingHere’s a couple more tips to help  you cut your grocery bill in 2014:

  1. Cook from scratch.  You pay for convenience plain and simple {in price and with your health}.  Processed foods contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc.  So, even if you can coupon yourself into rock bottom convenience food prices, you will pay for it in the rear with doctor visits, etc.apples
  2. Eat seasonally.  This one leads to HUGE savings.  Foods that are in season are at their lowest prices.  For example, if you browse through the ads, you may find grapes or strawberries “on sale” in January.  Be wary of the “sale” price.  They are still grossly marked up, because they have been shipped from who knows where to get to your plate.  You may end up paying $2.99/lb for grapes “on sale” in January, but if you wait until they are in season, you will get U.S. grown grapes for $.99/lb.  {I personally like to eat from my canned and frozen good reserve this time of year.  For veggies, choose items that can either easily be stored from the fall harvest {potatoes} or that can be grown throughout winter {kale and spinach}.Weekly Meal Plan - Menu Plan Ideas
  3. Make a plan.  This includes a list AND  a meal plan.  You already know that I am not great about meal planning, but that is because I am willing to cook from my freezer, not because I just go willy-nilly throwing things into my cart at the store.  I usually have a list when I go to the store–and when I don’t, I pay for it!  Also, meal plan with the ads in hand.  Plan all of your weekly consumption around what is on sale {assuming the sale is actually a good price–see #2}.costco butter
  4. Keep 10% of your monthly budget available for “stock-up items.”  If you plan on spending $300 a month, keep $30 available for stock up purchases that you can make when you see rock bottom prices.  For example, if you see butter on sale for $2.00/lb, it’s probably time to buy several pounds and freeze them.  Having money set aside in your budget to make those kind of unplanned purchases really saves money later on.
  5. Use coupons wisely.  Coupons for cheese, yogurt, etc. are great when you can pair them up with store sales.  This is just basic couponing 101.  Don’t use coupons just because you have them–use them when they make the price competitive and worthwhile.
  6. Minimize waste by USING WHAT YOU HAVE.  In the past, I have totally been guilty of wanting to try out a new recipe, even though I had food in the pantry/freezer that I could use.  Shopping at home is the fastest way to save money.  Plain and simple.freezer meals
  7. Make freezer meals.  These will take the place of convenience foods.  And, let’s be honest, there are just nights when you don’t feel like cooking.  Freezer meals are perfect for these sorts of things.  You make them when your actually motivated and cook them when  you’re not.  You don’t have to sacrifice your health by getting a pre-packaged meal, or totally blow your budget by going out.How to Save Money at the Grocery Store  Buy Spices from Bulk Bins
  8. Buy in bulk.  I love to buy spices in bulk from Winco.  You seriously pay pennies on the dollar.  I also buy my meat in bulk from Zaycon.   It is great quality offered at wholesale prices.  The catch is that I have to process and freeze most of it myself–but that actually works out okay, because I can make freezer meals as I go.  It saves TONS of money over the year.
  9. Shop alone.  I know this is sometimes impossible, but shopping without the kiddos really limits distractions {which leads to missed items and last minutes runs to the grocery store} and potentially throwing unplanned items into the cart.  If possible, go when you can leave them at home.  Or, if you are lucky enough to have a friend that would like to team up, arrange a kid swap on grocery days.
  10. Keep a designated use first area in your fridge.  Keep all of the items that won’t last much longer in one area.  Plan your weekly menu around these items first.

You’ve probably heard/read all of these before, but have you tried all of them at once?  Commit to trying all of the them and I am totally convinced that you will watch your grocery bill drop dramatically.

Happy Saving,

Mavis

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Can Buying Beans in Bulk Save You Money at Costco?

mavis butterfield oh boy oberto

I made 2 trips to Costco this week…

The HH received a giant pack of beef sticks {barf!} in his stocking this year and when he went to open them up we noticed a tear in the package. All those poor, delicious beef sticks had mold on them, so I took them back to Costco to exchange them.

Costco has a great refund policy, they’ll pretty much take anything back {even moldy beef sticks!} and I love that.
costco milk jugs

While I was there I also picked up 2 gallons of milk. I don’t know about you, but I HATE THOSE JUGS! They are the worst invention ever. Yes, they store well, but pouring milk out of them is another story.

costco shopping trip pinto beans

On my second trip to Costco I picked up a 25 pound sack of beans, 2 giant jars of pasta sauce and a 6-pack of sweet peppers. If you have never carried a 25 pound sack of pinto beans in your backpack for 30 minutes before, you have no idea what you are missing. It’s the kind of thing that makes you realize you are in fact, a little off your rocker. And let’s be honest here, I probably won’t do it again without some sort of cart or something. Hitch hiking had never seemed so appealing before this…

chili

So you’re probably thinking… Mavis what the heck did you feed your family last week if all you bought was beans, milk, pasta sauce and peppers. Well, hang on, I’m going to tell you. 😉

For starters, I made a huge pot of chili with some of those pinto beans. I also used a couple of cans of stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, spices and two spinach burger patties from my pantry and freezer, and the homemade chili was DELICIOUS! Plus, because I made such a huge pot, there were a ton of leftovers.

crock pot spicy refried beans

I also made a 3 month supply of refried beans in my slow cooker. Canned refied beans cost about a buck at my local grocery store, but homemade? Crazy cheap. Plus, when you make a big batch, you’ll have enough on hand for 6 taco nights.

bulk pinto beans

Clearly I did not use all 25 pounds of beans last week. Ha! Nope, I still have 21.8 pounds left. So if you have any marvelous bean recipes you think I should try, please leave a recipe link in the comment section. :)blueberry crumb bars

Another delicious thing I made last week was blueberry bars. We still have a boatload of homegrown blueberries in our freezer from last summer so I’ve been on the hunt for blueberry recipes lately and came across on from Smitten Kitchen and they were delicious! I actually didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, so I had to modify the recipe a wee bit {I’ll try and post my version later this week}.

freezer meals

When you cook, double the recipe… and pop the extra portions in the freezer. Once you get the hang of doing this, you’ll never go back to cooking one meal at a time.

prego heat smart

In the past I would occasionally buy those giant jars of pasta at Costco thinking they were a good deal. But then I’d end up tossing out the last 1/3 of the jar because we wouldn’t use it in time before the sauce went bad. So now when I use those big bottles of pasta sauce I simply freeze the extra sauce. Seems like a no brainer, right? To make the sauce stretch even a little more I add in a few extras. My basic recipe is a giant bottle of sauce, 1 cup of water and a bag of shredded chicken or taco meat. I simply heat everything up, use a little for that night’s dinner, and then freeze the rest to use on a busy weeknight.
panera chicken cobb salad

My brother gave me a Panera gift card from Christmas so we also had take out one night last week. Have you tried their salads? The chicken cobb with avocado is my favorite. {The HH likes the Thai chicken salad}. We also had a breakfast dinner this week too. Because really, who doesn’t love pancakes and eggs for dinner? And homemade {frozen} lasagna too.

How about YOU, did you buy anything exciting this past week?

~Mavis

Total Spent This Week $36.36
Total Spent Year to Date $36.36

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This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Can Shopping at Costco Save You Money? The One Store, One Year Challenge

shopping at costco

If I had to sum up my theme for 2015 in one word it would be SIMPLIFY. Last year was crazy busy; my head’s still spinning. I like being busy. It’s pretty much all I know, but I’m ready for a little more calm this year. Well, a lot more calm if we’re being honest. I’ll still garden and take on projects or I’d lose my mind, but I’m really looking to tone things down this year.

Instead of a “traditional” gift this year, my parents gave me a $200 gift card to Costco for Christmas {you can see what I purchased with it below}. As I was walking around Costco for half an hour looking for something to spend it on… I realized there wasn’t really anything I wanted to buy with it other than food. After all, I want to simply this year, not waste a $200 gift card on a bunch of kitchen supplies I already have or a cashmere sweater that I’ll probably only wear once or twice in my life.

So  instead of spending the gift card on something I didn’t really need, I filled up my cart with groceries and went home.

Happy.

As I was unloading my groceries and talking about my desire to simplify this year, the HH had a brilliant idea. A crazy brilliant idea that brings new meaning to simplify.

Buy all our groceries from one store this year.

As in, I would only step foot into ONE grocery store all year. For all our food purchases. Because HELLO, Costco sells everything, right?

I thought long and hard about that, wondering if I could make it happen. It would take some adjustment, but I just so happen to have a Costco within walking distance of our new house. I could WALK to Costco and get just what I need {exercise AND groceries}. Walking would prevent me from going crazy in Costco and spending $300 without blinking, which is always a temptation there! I could buy in bulk and prepare meals in bulk like I love doing anyway. With a little planning, this just might be the most brilliant decision I’ve ever made. Not only would I be saving time, but I’d be saving money by not running around to a bunch of different stores trying to save a couple of dollars off here and there.

I’m all in and 100% committed. One store, one year. It has me pretty excited, but you probably have some questions.

one hundred fifty dollars

Will I be able to stay within a $100/month budget?

Possibly, but very doubtful. But maybe. Shopping at Costco {and their big portions} can be tricky, but this year, I’m hoping to find out if shopping at Costco can really save you money in the long run.

When the idea of $100/month was born, it was in the height of extreme couponing. I’m no longer an extreme couponer for a number of reasons, but mainly because I decided to try to feed my family a little healthier than the extreme couponing was limiting me too. With that said, I’m still very frugal and resourceful. I still plan on gardening to grow a bunch of our food myself, and I’m still committed to sticking as closely to the $100/month as possible. Of course, since I’ve never solely shopped at Costco before, I’m not exactly sure where my monthly budget will land, but I know I’ll do so much better than in years past {see below for proof!}.  If I had to estimate right now, I’m thinking somewhere around the $150/month range like I did last year. So at the beginning of each month, I’ll stick $150 in an envelope marked “grocery” and we’ll see what happens.

In 2008 I spent $9,768 on groceries.  An average of $814 a month.
In 2009 I spent $7,584 on groceries.  An average of $632 a month.
In 2010 I spent $5,004 on groceries.  An average of $417 a month.
In 2011 I spent $1,198.64 on groceries. An average of $100 a month.
In 2012 I spent $1,195.67 on groceries. An average of $100 a month.
In 2013 I spent $2192.32 on groceries. An average of $182.69 a month.
In 2014 I spent $1907.34 on groceries. An average of $158.95 a month.

Really only one store?

Yep. Really. Costco will be the only grocery store I’ll step foot in. I will still shop at roadside stands for produce, because HELLO, buying from farmer’s and backyard gardeners is just plain cool. And if I happen to rack up some credit from Zaycon, or Swagbucks {to use on Amazon Grocery} I will shop those places too. But those aside, Costco is it for 365 days.

mike's pastry box boston Massachusetts

Any exceptions?

Vacations. Like always. I never count the money spent on food while we travel because it comes out of a separate travel budget.

What do I think I’ll gain from this?

Strong legs {from frequently walking to Costco} and strong arms {from hauling groceries back home}.

Time. And we all know time = money. Think about how much time, money, gas, and standing in line I’ll save this year by just shopping at one store.  I try to reserve time to exercise anyway, so now I’ll use that exercise time and kill two birds with one stone.

Am I really going to walk to Costco and haul my groceries back every time?

As often as I can. Ideally I’d like to be able to walk to Costco every time I do my shopping, but let’s be realistic. I am not the post office. If there is rain, sleet or snow and we need food, I’m taking the car. I might find a few other fun sources of transportation from time to time. Stay tuned for that.

costco shopping trip

Does Costco have everything I need?

Only time will tell! But I really think I can make do!

I know this idea is out there and might sounds nuts, but I’ve got some crazy cool stuff planned for this year that I’ll be sharing in the next few weeks. I think this is one epic journey you’re going to want to follow.

Here’s to 2015: the year of simplifying {and Costco!}.

Do you think I’m nuts? Do you think it’s a dumb idea? Do you think I’ll really save money, time and energy by just shopping at one store all year? What doesn’t Costco sell that you think I’ll miss?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How I Feed My Family for $100 a Month – Week 50 of 52

winco bulk foods

Winco $36.15

The Girl and I were running errands over by Winco so we decided to stop in and stock up on some bulk spices and other stuff like lentils, shredded coconut, rice mixes and beans. We were there around noon and let me tell you Bob, I have never seen Winco so deserted. It seemed like there were only about 20 people in the entire store. Cool, but weird.

famous chocolate wafers

Fred Meyer $8.58

The HH stopped by Fred Meyer’s on his way home to grab a couple of boxes of Famous Chocolate Wafers for me {what a nice guy}. I plan on making Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate peanut butter cheesecake for one of my {many} Christmas desserts. Have you tried it? Oh my word it looks delicious. Peanut butter, chocolate and cheesecake, does it get any better than that?

Also, a  few random items were left behind after the freezer meal party last Monday. Not pictured are 1 1/2 gallons of milk, 6 onions, 4 heads of garlic and 2 bunches of parsley. So between our stock up trip to Costco last week, I think we’re set for a while.

How did you do this week? Score any hot deals at the grocery store or online?

~Mavis

Total Spent This Week $44.73
Total Spent Year to Date $1907.34 {Yikes!}

Go HERE to read more Shopping Trip Stories.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How I Feed My Family for $100 a Month – Week 49 of 52

costco shopping trip

Costco $95.42

Costco has some great deals happening right now so I decided to grab a cart and get the bulk of my holiday grocery shopping done. I don’t know about you but I just can’t shop in grocery stores {actually stores in general} around the holidays. I’d rather get it all done in one big swoop then to have to go back each week for a few items. I don’t know, maybe I’m weird like that.

Some of my favorite Costco deals were 4 pounds of butter for $8.99, Pretzel Chips $4.39, Pom Juice $6.29, and a 6-Pack of Lubby’s Pumpkin Puree for $3.79. Saweeet!

albertsons shopping trip

Albertsons $32.61

Holiday baking season, it’s a killer isn’t it? BUT WAIT TIL YOU SEE THE RECIPES…. oh my word!!! Blowing my budget this week for a couple of convenience pizzas was totally worth it. 😉 If you’re an Albertsons shopper be sure and use the $1.59 coupon in the Albertsons Flyer to snag Nestle chocolate chips for $1.59 a bag as well as 4 pounds of sugar for $1.59 as well. {Side note: one of the recipes I made last week had 4 pounds of sugar alone in it!!!} No wonder I have problems with my teeth. Ha!

How did you do this week? Score any hot deals at the grocery store or online?

~Mavis

Total Spent This Week $128.03
Total Spent Year to Date $1862.61 {Yikes!}

Go HERE to read more Shopping Trip Stories.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.