Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Years, Goals, and a New Project

I've had a post in mind for New Years for quite a while, but with being out of town on New Year's Eve and Day, and Kelly's surgery almost as soon as we got home, I haven't had time to do so.

I do not make New Year's Resolutions. They are meant to be broken, and I don't like things that are broken - it just goes against my neat-nick, OCD nature. However, I am very goal and project oriented, too much so at times. So I do have on going lists of long term goals, and short term projects to accomplish those. And there are natural times that I reevaluate them. Back in October and November, I realized I need to do something about our grocery budget, but with illnesses, funerals, holidays, and musicals, I knew that I could not start until after Christmas.

So my newest project in my ongoing goal of being a wise housewife - I have half-joked before that Kelly's job is to make the money and mine is to stretch it - is to address the grocery budget. With the cost of gas which has caused groceries to skyrocket, our grocery bill lately has seen an alarming jump. In fact, in spite of a yearly raise, it seems we actually have less disposable income because we are paying so much in gas and groceries. So I decided there must be more I could do about it.

Not that I have been doing nothing about it. I have spent considerable time and energy in the last several years concentrating on my cooking skills, because the most frugal way to save money on food is to (a) cook it yourself and (b) cook it from scratch. So I have been learning to bake and cook using few to no convenience food, and that does help tremendously. However, after we got out of the military and I started shopping at Walmart and HEB - places that have store brands - rather than the commissary, I let couponing go. I figured I could save as much just buying the store brands. I have also bought staples in bulk, and utilized a great bread store here in San Antonio for any store bought bread and a fraction of grocery store costs.

Well, I have been convicted that I have gotten a little lazy in comparison shopping and coupon usage, so I am back on the bandwagon. One of the things that got me back on was a realization that a large part of our "grocery budget" was going to toiletries, over the counter medications, vitamins, and household items. And these are the very items that often have alot of coupons, and are often on sale as well. If I can save money just on those items, I can see a significant savings. But I am also hoping to save on food items as well by more carefully matching coupons with sales. That's the plan anyway.

So here's some of what I am doing:

  • I bought a couple of papers today to start my coupon stash back up. There were several inserts today, so I got quite a good start.
  • I have been reading a great website my friend Aubrey told me about, called Money Saving Mom. She has some great articles on there about how to best utilize the deals at CVS and Walgreens. These are places I am hoping will save me alot on many of these non-food grocery items, as well as a few grocery deals here and there. She also has links to many online coupon sites, as well as other articles on saving money on groceries, where you can print off coupons, something that was unavailable years ago when I was clipping coupons.
  • I am going to be price comparing more, so I am going to be resurrecting my price book. Click here if you have no idea what that is. Mainly I am hoping this will let me know if deals are better at Sam's or at the grocery store. The prices at Sam's have gone up as well, so there may be things that aren't the best deal from there, even though they used to be.
  • In order to price compare, I am going to be paying more attention, not only to the fliers that come in the mail, but to a couple of website. Target has their specials and web coupons online for their SuperTargets, so I will check that once a week. I have also found another website thanks to my friend Cathi, called My Grocery Deals. This site compares current sales from most of your local stores - for me it is Walmart, HEB, SuperTarget, Whole Foods, CVS, and Walgreens. I noticed some good deals on meat today at HEB when I was looking.
  • I am thinking about trying out The Grocery Game. A friend of mine recommended it to me, saying it saves her well over the cost. The trial is only $1, so I think I might at least give it a four week trial.
  • There are also a few meat markets in town that I intend to drop by and price their items as well, as I've read that many time they are cheaper than the grocery store. I'll enter that info into my price book, and we'll see. A few years ago we used to order sides of beef, and that was really nice, but it is a big expenditure at once. I'd love to look into that again, but not sure it is feasible.
So this weekend I started my project. Like I said, I bought two papers today, and got my new coupon box set up, those coupons clipped and sorted. Yesterday I did my first CVS shopping trip, with the sales, coupons, and ECB's in mind. I bought 4 bottles of vitamins - two of Vitamin C's for Kelly and two of my pregnancy herbs - a box of Zantac and deodorant for less than $10 (the vitamins normally retail for $8-9 a bottle) plus I got back $6 in EBC's for my next visit. I'm already making my lists for CVS and Walgreens this week as they have some great deals this week.

So, anybody have any more helpful hints? Has anyone else tried The Grocery Game? Is it worth the money?


walkmom said...

I would add Sun Harvest to your list. Yes, they are out of the way, but when they have meat on sale it is worth the extra gas money because they almost always have their vegies and fruit as cheap (when lumped together)anyone else(and they are always nice). I also buy bulk items there: whole wheat pastry flour,rye, dahl, green lentils, yellow split peas,and lots of spices. I also will occasionally buy yogurt covered pretzels when they are on sale and I'm going anyway--or sesame stix. This week they had boneless chicken breasts for $1.97, but I have so much chicken in my freezer from them in the last couple of months(for less)that I decided not to go the extra mile. They fairly often have vitamins, etc on sale, too. I don't buy canned products there or dairy because they are too high. So I always have to swing by Walmart. I tried watching HEB's or Target's fliers, but I ALWAYS come out cheaper at Walmart; so my biggest job is watching to see if Sam's is a better deal. We do make an extra trip for HEB's meal deal sometimes--like this week, for the fajita meal. But I will not get my other groceries there. I coupon clip for things when I won't use store brands--like JIF(I'm a choosy mother!!). My cleaning stuff and paper products are still cheaper at Sam's (except diapers. I spent about $120 at Sam's and Walmart this week (not including gas) and only about 70-80is for this week's consumption alone. One "secret" that I have is that we eat vegetarian meals at night 3-4 times per week--by choice because we like them--Indian, Italian, Chinese, soups. Hope you can glean some helpful ideas in all of my rambling.

Tami said...

I had forgotten Sun Harvest - I don't get their fliers, but they are online, right?

And believe me, I get the majority of my groceries from Wal-mart and Sam's, and I don't think that will change too much. But I do have a few things I get at HEB regularly because Walmart doesn't carry them or HEB is actually cheaper. Like dry milk - I used to buy it at Sams' Then they quit carrying it. Then a few months ago Walmart's price for the bog box jumped from about $8.80 to over $13! I checked HEB, and theirs was still about $10. So I now add dry milk to the HEB list. Also the HEB store brand has cream of mushroom soup with no MSG in it, while Walmart doesn't. That's the kind of thing I get at HEB. The Sam's huge bag of AP flour has nearly doubled in the past few months, and I don't know if it is cheaper elsewhere because I haven't been good about checking around.

Mainly I just think I could spend a little bit of extra time and effort to shop around - mostly online! - to take advantage of the deals in town.

And while we love Chinese, Italian, soups, etc., we don't do meatless very often. My husband likes meat, so I can't do meatless too much, at least at supper as we already don't eat much meat the rest of the day. Thanks, Vickie!

Kristen & Dave said...

I have the same ongoing project...

I did the grocery game for a few months. I have to say that if I still lived near an HEB, I'd use it again in a heartbeat. But out here, out of the myriad of grocery chains, the GG only used 2 that were somewhat closeby, and they are on the expensive end. So after I followed the list and clipped coupons, I did save a heck of a lot over what the store "said" was retail, but maybe only pennies over the Walmart price. For example, one trip at Giant, I bought $80 worth of food/stuff, and w/ sales and coupons I paid $40. I figured later that the Walmart total would have been about $45. And I so detest grocery shopping at Walmart, but don't have much choice out here. I'd recommend trying it, since its not a huge investment. Good luck!