Local Woman Changes Shopping Patterns
and Increases Family’s Cash Flow!
It all started last Thursday, March 17. I realized that my Friday was going to be too hectic to do my usual grocery shopping, so I switched it up and shopped on Thursday. I should also mention that there is no grocery store in the little village where we live. My normal weekly shopping trip was to drive to our hometown to the Super Wal-Mart store and I would typically spend between $125 -$150 per week. I’m ashamed to say, that does not include the “quick trip” to grab something “easy” when I hadn’t planned something to make and we were in a hurry or the occasional “let’s just grab some fast food”, for the same poor-planning reason. I didn’t use coupons because I had decided they were such a nuisance to find and then keep track of. I watched for what was on sale as I walked the aisles and usually bought the store brand of most products. I kept a list of basics I knew we were out of, and with any luck, I remembered to bring it with me when I shopped. That was it. Not the smartest of routines, I realize, but the honest truth of the matter.
Over the last several weeks, I have been on a journey to put $250-$300 into our family’s budget. Working outside our home is not an option because of homeschooling and the need to drive (We choose to only have one car.) to even the nearest small town, even if work were available. I do some freelance writing, but it doesn’t consistently bring in that level of income every month. The rest of our budget has been cut pretty much to the bone except for our cable/internet package. Eliminating that would prevent me from being able to “talk” with all of you and would make my favorite guy pretty cranky on game days, so that’s our splurge. We have eliminated them in the past when it was necessary, but we can save in a different way, now. Ü The only part of the budget that really wasn’t a fixed amount was groceries and while I didn’t believe there was much wiggle room left there, I decided if the “super shoppers” we always read about were actually right, it would be worth a try to clip a few coupons. As I started reading and understanding what it is that these savvy shoppers do, I began to think it just might work, but it involved a lot more than just clipping a few coupons.
The first thing I would have to do was get organized. I used to be that person. You know, the one that could spin all the plates, was always busy, but would take on another project if asked — kept a schedule, made lists, got things done. Then the loss of my two most time-consuming “occupations” and the onset of peri-menopause left me in a state of “suspended animation”, wondering exactly what my purpose was now, and kept me from remembering it for more than a few minutes at a time when I did hit on it. I finally understand that it was a period of depression, that coupled with the lack of focus from peri-menopause, must have driven my family crazy and left them wondering who I was, too. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go back to a focused, organized lifestyle. And I’m still not 100% convinced, but I’m definitely making strides in that direction. The first step is taking control of our grocery budget and deciding that groceries are the only place to really make an adjustment. The next step is cutting that area of the budget without sacrificing nutrition and taste. Those seem like two pretty overwhelming steps, but last week, I started the journey in earnest.
Recognizing that the most successful “super shopper” moms did more than clip a few coupons, I began reading as much on this subject as possible. I wanted the plan, the “formula” and I wanted to make it mine. I could see it had to do with planning menus, shopping once and saving as much as possible when on that one shopping trip. That also meant shopping at more than one store and buying only the least expensive items at each one. I read Frozen Assets, The $5 Dinner Mom, The Coupon Mom’s website and subscribed to the blogs of dozens of moms who had a system and were making it work. The first thing I realized is that these women were not paying for a huge percentage of their non-food items. Amazing! Was that really possible? I’ve discovered that it is. In these few short weeks, I have stock-piled shampoo, toothpaste, razors, eye drops, shower gel, lotion and other essential, but non-food items to last for nearly a year. I got them free or for pennies on the dollar at Walgreen’s, using a system of saving that these women shared with me. You can read about two of my Walgreen’s shopping trips here and here. There have been two or three others, but I haven’t gotten them blogged, yet. Once you remove the full-price non-food items from your shopping trip, you will be amazed at how the savings start stacking up.
Okay, I keep saying “the first step”. There can only be one. – lol – So, the first step is “the plan”. This involved something I simply never do – buying the Wednesday and Sunday papers, from “the big city”. – lol – Lincoln is about the same distance in the opposite direction from where I usually drive to our hometown Wal-Mart. “Super shopping” definitely involved turning the car around and heading into Lincoln. Local grocery ads for our area come out on Wednesday (note: The Walgreens ad comes out on Sunday.) I looked at the grocery ads and determined I would be shopping at two of them, Super Saver and Hy-Vee, and also making a stop at Sam’s Club. I almost never do a “full-grocery shop” at Hy-Vee , because over all, their total price for my groceries is higher; however, their loss-leaders are always great! If you have a store like that in your area, discipline yourself to purchase only the loss-leader items from the front page of their ad and nothing else. It’s a great way to save money. Anyway, I studied the ads, planned some “rough” menus (I need to get much more disciplined at this skill.), “shopped” my pantry and freezer for what I already had on hand, made a list for each store and then matched my coupons to the items I would be buying. Matching coupons with sale prices is such a rush! – lol
At Super Saver I purchased:
- (2) boxes of Chocolate Cheerios @ $1.98 each and used .55 coupons for each one (Cereal for $1.44 is a great deal! I have a stockpile from a sale last month, though so only picked up two.)
- (5) pkgs DelMonte Fruit Chillers Cups @ $2.73 each and used $1 coupons for each one (This was a splurge item and @ $1.73 for each pkg of 4 cups a so-so deal. I probably wouldn’t buy them again.)
- (1) 12 pack of Angel Soft double-roll toilet paper @ $6.42 and used a .50 coupon
- (3) Era he Laundry detergent 50 oz (32 loads) @ $2.96 each
- (2) store brand lasagna noodles (1 lb each) @ $1.12 each
- (2) store brand 1 lb. bags dry black beans @ $1.28 each
- (2) store brand 1 lb. bags dry beans @ $1.17 each
- (2) store brand 1 lb. bags dry red beans @ $1.28 each
- (2) large cans (are they 40 oz ?) store brand diced tomatoes @ .98 each
- (2) 1 lb bags of store brand brown rice @ .97 each
- (2) 20 oz cans of store brand pineapple tidbits @ $1.22 each
- (2) loaves Sara Lee classic wheat bread @ $1.48 each ( I do bake a lot of our bread – probably about 50%, because it’s cheaper and healthier, but do always keep a few store-bought loaves in the freezer for when I am short on time.)
- (2) 1/2 gallon bottles of Old Orchard apple juice @ $1.77 each and used .50 coupon on each
- (20) lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts @ $1.67 / lb
- (2) heads of lettuce @ $1.24 each
- (1) bunch green onions @ .66 each
- (1) head of cabbage @ .37
- (1) 1.07 lb bunch of asparagus @ $1.58
- (15) Gala apples ( 6.05 lbs) @ $1.46 lb
- (1) 3.7 lb Spaghetti Squash @ $1.24/lb
- (1) bunch of fresh cilantro @ .60 each
- (1) bunch of fresh parsley @ .78 each
- (3) bunches of celery @ $1.32 each
- (5) lbs of carrots @ $3.48
- (15) lbs of red potatoes @ $2.46
- (1) 1 lb bag of fresh baby spinach @ $1.87
- (3) 1 lb containers of fresh strawberries @ $1.37 each
- (3) 8 oz bags shredded Italian Blend cheese @ $1.98 each
- (2) 8 oz bags shredded Monterey Jack cheese @ $1.98 each
- (5) 8 oz bags of shredded sharp cheddar cheese @ $1.98
- (6) 8 oz blocks of low-fat cream cheese @ .98 each
- (4) store brand 1 lb pkg of butter @ $1.95 each
- (2) store brand 18-packs of eggs @ $1.92 each
- (2) 1 lb cartons store brand cottage cheese @ $2.32 each
- (2) 1.5 lb cartons of lite sour cream @ $2.88 each
- (2) gallons of skim milk @ $2.48 each
- (1) gallon of chocolate milk @ $2.78
There is no sales tax on food in Nebraska, so the detergent and toilet paper cost $1.07 in sales tax, for a TOTAL of $175.57 at Super Saver.
My next stop was at Hy-Vee, where I purchased:
- 16.5 lbs (approximately) of center cut pork loin @ $1.68/lb
- I rounded up my ticket .71 for a donation to the local Red Cross
TOTAL for Hy-Vee shopping was $29.00.
My last stop was at Sam’s Club which is why I was giving the wrong totals for my trip. Somehow, I simply didn’t calculate it into my totals. In my defense some of the things I purchased will last over a several month span, but the out-of-pocket cost still comes out of this month’s grocery budget. At Sam’s Club I purchased:
- (6) lbs of beef stew meat @ $14.44
- (10.5) lbs (approx) 93% lean ground beef @ $2.88/lb
- (2) 4 lb bags of frozen brocolli @ $4.98 each
- (1) 5 lb. bag of frozen corn @ $4.48 each
- (1) 5 lb. bag of frozen peas @ $4.88 each
- (2) 3 lb. bags of breaded flounder (There are usually a dozen fillets in each bag.) @ $9.98 each
- (1) 2 lb. Hershey’s cocoa @ $6.17
- (1) bottle of 100 chicken bouillon cubes @ $4.87
- (1) pint of vanilla @ $6.88
- 1/2 gallon soy sauce @ $4.76
- (1) 4 lb box of salt (.98)
- (1) 13.5 oz bottle of crushed red pepper flakes (That’s about a quart.) @ $3.86
- (1) gallon of extra-virgin olive oil @ $16.98
TOTAL for Sam’s Club $148.22.
That makes my GRAND TOTAL for the shopping trip $352.79!
I have a month’s worth of main dishes (31 of them) and ingredients for vegetable sides, as well as ingredients for breakfasts and lunches. I only spent $352.79 and I will only need to purchase milk and some occasional produce through the month. If I spend $400 for the whole month, I will be saving $200 on groceries + the money we would have spent for our “extra trips” AND fast-food drive thru’s. There is no last minute, I don’t know what to fix, because it’s already prepared. Planning ahead definitely saves money!
So, what does that mean we will be eating this month? Here are the main dishes I have put in the freezer, so far. (I say so far, because I still have ingredients to make more and items in the freezer that I will probably add in for variety and carry some of these over into next month.)
- (4) Apple Dijon Pork Loins
- (2) Honey Dijon Pork Loins
- (2) Maple Glazed Pork Loins
- (4) Beef Stew
- (4) Spicy Chinese Chicken
- (2) Ginger Lemon Chicken
- (4) Crockpot Chicken with Cream Cheese and Black Beans
- (2) Cheeseburger Macaroni Casseroles
- (2) Stroganoff Casseroles
- (1) Spinach Lasagna
- (1) Spaghetti and Meatballs
- (2) Meatball Suppers
- (1) Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- 7 cups of pre-browned ground beef for tacos, burritos, chili or quick throw together meals
- 7 cups of precooked navy beans
- 7 cups of precooked black beans
- 16 cups of precooked rice
- 6 cups of pre-cooked chopped chicken for tacos, burritos, salads, enchiladas, etc.
- 22 cups of macaroni salad (It’s not in the freezer, but pre-made for the week.)
- Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries (Delish and easy! Not for the freezer, but great for a party or an indulgent snack.)
- Egg salad for lunch sandwiches this week. Again not in the freezer, but from our grocery-shopping bounty.
I’m still a newbie at all this, but it can only get better. I plan to continue to challenge myself to cut more and more out of the grocery budget and put money back into our family’s savings.
So now, the cooking sessions and recipes — those, along with tons of pictures, will be my next several blogs. I can’t wait for you to see them!