Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grocery Shopping: an Update

One of my projects for this year was to change some things about the way I went grocery shopping. You can click here if you would like to read my original post about my goals and ideas.

I have to say that I'm not sure I have brought our grocery expenditures down much. However, they have not gone up, which is saying something with the way grocery prices have increased. Now don't get me wrong, they have gone down a little. But inflation has taken care of most of what I would have otherwise saved. Make sense?

So here is what I have learned about keeping the grocery bill down as low as possible. Of course, in a different town these might be different (for example, there is no Aldi's or Krogers here. We really only have one grocery store franchise and two supercenters in the whole town, along with a couple of health food grocers).

1. Coupons have definitely helped. However, they have made only a small impact on purely food items. I went shopping yesterday at Walmart (my big, once-a-month shop) and used about $12 in coupons, only one of which was printed online. That's not a huge amount, maybe. But it does "pay" for 12 weeks worth of Sunday papers! When I use food coupons, I only use them for things I would buy anyway. I don't buy something just because I have a coupon for it. Yesterday, I had a coupon for 75 cents off a tomato product from a particular brand. I calculated whether it was cheaper to get that or the Walmart store brand diced tomatoes I needed. This time, it was cheaper to get the coupon item, but that isn't always the case.

2. If you've read my blog much, you know that I love CVS! This is where the coupons have really paid off. This is also where I have seen the biggest decrease in spending. I used to spend anywhere from $20-$50 at Walmart every month on toiletries, cleaning items, over the counter medicines, and various household items. That has nearly disappeared from my monthly shopping list. Using coupons, ECBs, sales, CRTs, I get all of this for much less. A couple of days ago, I got a large package of Pampers, foundation, two lip glosses, a Gillette razor, a bottle of Dawn, and a blood glucose monitor for $6.40. I'll give the monitor to a family diabetic, and our family will use the rest.

3. Another area that I have changed is the way I buy meat. To tell the truth, I used to just buy it all from Sam's. Now I compare at Walmart, Sun Harvest, and especially at HEB. HEB runs some great sales at times (and is very close to my house). When they do, I stock up. I may buy more roasts than we'll actually use that month, but I'll buy enough to get us by until the next time they are on sale. So I have started stocking up on sale meats. This has saved us quite a bit as well.

4. I still buy ground meat in bulk from Sam's. I haven't found any other way that beats it. I noticed the last time I was there that they sell chicken breasts in bulk as well. Next trip, I want to inquire into the price for these. If you have a Sam's membership but don't have the budget or freezer space to buy a full case of a particular meat, you can split it with another family or families. I used to do this before our family grew a little more.

5. I have done a better job of comparing Sam's to other stores. I used to just buy x number of things there. Now I am doing better about making sure it is still a good deal. Not perfectly, mind you, but better. There are a few things that I could probably get a better deal on if I used coupons and stocked up on sales - like paper towels. However, I would have to get several more papers to get enough coupons because we go through way too many paper towels and toilet paper. So I keep those on the Sam's list, and supplement with deals from CVS or Walgreens when I can.

6. There are still some things I am brand name specific on. I have looked at each one to see if I should stay loyal, and kept to the things that really make a difference. For me some of these are:
Bounty or Brawny paper towels
Quilted Northern or Charmin. (And remember, we have girls. Many, many girls!)
Crisco (what little I use)
Ranch Style Beans
Barilla Plus pasta
KC Masterpiece
Wishbone Thousand Island Dressing (I don't touch any other 1000 Island.)
Quaker Chewy granola bars
Brummel and Brown

That's all I can think of. I do look for coupons for these things that I am picky about. Or buy them at Sam's.

7. One thing I haven't done is substantially change the way we eat. We already ate meat as an ingredient in most things, rather than a dish to itself. I already cooked nearly everything from scratch. We eat at home or take food all but a couple of meals every month. While I could introduce more beans and rice only meals, I haven't felt the need to yet. What I do want to do is start making more of our bread, but this is more from health and taste reasons than economy. :-)

Tomorrow I am going to talk about the big debate. No, not political. But whether to plan meals and shopping trips around sales and in-season items or to plan shopping trips around a meal plan.

What about you? What things are you brand specific about? What have you done, if anything, to adjust your grocery buying habits?

Picture courtesy of


walkmom said...

I'm brand specific about some things, too. But last week I tried a different toilet paper and a different brand of paper towels. I think it's back to Northern, and we haven't tried the paper towels yet. I used to only use JIF (I'm a choosy mother), but I have started using Walmart's peanut butter. I like it almost as well. I used to only buy Kleenex, but now I have decided I like Puffs better--don't tell my mom!

Crisco--when I buy it
Woody's--they make it again!
Dixon Ticonderoga pencils--OK it's not food, but..
Uncle Lee's Green Tea
Athenos Feta
Soft Scrub with Bleach

All the substitutes I have found for these things just don't taste as well or work as well.

We have kept our grocery spending fairly steady, even with the price increases. Now if we could only do the same for gas!

Tami said...

I've started buying the Walmart peanut butter to bake with. In sandwiches, etc. we use only Jif, but I can't tell a difference in cookies, and it is much cheaper.

Granny said...

I LOVE going to Sun Harvest on Wednesdays for their double ad day. The old week's and the new week's flyers both apply. Today I bought, all on sale, 14 ribeye steaks, 20 lbs of top sirloin, 10 pounds of boneless chicken breasts, and 20 lbs of bone-in chicken breasts. Also ripe pears for $.50 a pound, bananas 3 lbs for a dollar, gala apples for $.88 a pound....and lots of other produce on sale. Produce and meat are about all I buy there, along with occasional yummy breads from their bakery, but it's always worth the trip!

(And I didn't even know anyone still ate 1000 Island dressing!)

Jeanie said...

I am a friend of the Sabo's and LOVE this post as I am trying to cut corners lately. I see you put what brands you must buy, but what are some GOOD off brand items you get? My boys love the maple/brown sugar oatmeal and the Great Value they will eat. I was soo attached to Quaker, but to have over $1 a box seems worth it.

Tami said...


I live for 1000 Island. 1000 Island is my life. Unfortunately, in my quest to regain my girlish figure, I have to either eat the light stuff or eat something else. Sigh. I hope there is real 1000 Island in heaven.

And I love Sun Harvest meat counter! I wish I could make it there every Wednesday.

I have found GV brand (Walmart store brand) good for many things. I buy the HEB store brand cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup. They sell a healthy version with no MSG. I also buy the HEB brand milk (no hormones without having to buy organic). I also buy HEB brand tortilla chips and pretzels.

Jeanie said...

HEB milk, Hillcountry fare?

Tami said...

Jeanie, Yes, that's it!

Jeanie said...

Yay we get that from Wic : )