The other day I was at the library to pick up a certain book. As I am wont to do, I grabbed a few other nearby books that looked interesting. One was about how to shop smart in order to reduce your grocery bill, so I thought I'd see if it could help us out a little. We don't spend very much on groceries, but spending less isn't usually a bad idea. Then I flipped through the book before reading it, and I realized that I did most of the things this woman advocated. I can't save any more money because I'm already following her "proven program for grocery savings". I don't know where I picked up all my shopping smarts, but I know at least some of them are from my Mom, and others from just being poor for the last 10 years of my adult life. Anyways, here are the things that the author thinks you should do, and what I do (although maybe it's just common sense and she doesn't realize that everyone does them):
1. Shop with a list and a weekly menu. Plan your menu based on what's on sale that week, as well as what you already have on hand. Shop at more than one store to take advantage of sales.
I totally do this--except lately I don't get the ad for Macey's in my mail, so I often end up shopping at Smiths because it's closer to my house and I know what's going to be on sale there. Maceys has better prices, so if I'm getting more than just a few things, I do try and go there. I don't usually make more than one trip, because we don't buy that many groceries and I'm not a super fanatical shopper.
2. Keep a well-stocked pantry and stock up on sale items. Eat from your pantry so you don't have to spend a lot of money on each weekly trip.
This is one of my favorite ways to save money. I love to hoard food, and probably about 80% of our shopping trips are just for milk, bread and produce. Every few months I stock up on canned goods and other stuff like that. I buy meat in bulk at Costco and freeze it, so I only buy meat every few months (well, things like hamburger or chicken--I do occasionally buy a roast or steaks on sale). I also love stocking up on nonfood things like toilet paper or toothpaste. Then you hardly ever have to go to the store. The last time I bought a pack of dryer sheets at Costco it lasted a year and a half! Stocking up is a great strategy right now while we have a small family, since we don't go through things very fast. Plus, if we have big expenses for one paycheck, I can cut the amount I spend at the grocery store and we still have plenty to eat.
3. Be aware of cost per serving and maximize your shopping dollars.
I actually don't stock up on everything at Costco, because their prices aren't really the best for everything. You can usually get store brand canned goods for a better price, especially on sale. But, I've also realized that I don't like the store brand of everything, so sometimes paying a little more for quality is better. We also really stretch our servings of meat and don't even eat it except for a few times a week. Like I always cut chicken breasts in half and count each half as a serving rather than an entire piece. It's more than enough meat, especially if you make extra veggies to go with it. I've often stopped myself from buying other things on sale because I've realized that the price per serving still isn't a great deal. That's also why I like to make my own yogurt or bread, because it is so much cheaper.
4. Don't buy convenience foods and make as much as you can yourself.
This is one I don't always follow either, it depends on what is going on in life. But, I do have to say that I skip most aisles in the grocery store. I pretty much never buy juice or soda, chips, cookies, candy, snacks, Rice-a-Roni, cake mix, spaghetti sauce, etc. Basic, fresh, homemade food is what I like and what feels healthier. It's a lot cheaper that way too. Even if you want things like little bags of chips to take with your lunch, you can buy the big bag and divide it up yourself. I'd much rather make my own cookies and muffins than buy them (except for Oreos, mmm...)
OK, so now I sound like one of those ladies who drives a beat-up station wagon and only wears thrift store clothes (OK the last part of that is mostly true). But, there's nothing wrong with saving money. And every year I'm grateful that I had a Mom who taught me how to cook my own food, how to save money at the store, and that soda, chips, and sugar cereals are evil. Thanks Mom.