Frugal Foodie Mama: Pancakes & Other Ways To Trim Your Grocery Budget

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pancakes & Other Ways To Trim Your Grocery Budget

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Over the past year I have learned A LOT about grocery budgeting.  The decision for me to stay at home and for us to become a single income family meant that we would have to find ways to trim our overall budget.  Groceries has somewhat become my area of expertise.

No, I am not an extreme couponer nor will I ever be.  I use coupons when I can, but I don't dedicate hours of my life every week searching online databases, and printing coupons, and buying 20 Sunday newspapers a week so I can clip all those coupons.  The time I would miss out spending with my family isn't really worth it to me, to be honest.  I have only watched that Extreme Couponing show a few times.  It was enough to induce some minor anxiety attacks in me. 

I have managed to find ways to buy our family's groceries on less than $50 a week.  There have even been a few times when I have successfully done it on less than $20 a week.  (Do you all remember My $15 Seven Day Grocery Budget Challenge from over the summer?)

So, here are my tried and true tips for trimming the proverbial fat from your grocery budget...

ALWAYS have a list.  ALWAYS. 
Going into the grocery store all willy-nilly with absolutely no game plan will mean 3 things= You will leave that store with a number of things you don't need, without things that you need, and with a larger receipt than you had planned.
You can keep a paper list if you want.  I used to. But I also used to forget it at home. Or misplaced it.
Now I use a list app on my cell.  I always have my list with me because I pretty much never leave my cell at home.  
Keep an ongoing shopping list on your cell and add things to it as you realize you need them.  
Personally I am big fan of the Out of Milk app.  It is super user friendly, and it has an option where you can text a list to someone else.  This comes in very handy when I have to send my husband to the store for a few things. ;)

Pick ONE store and read their Sunday flyer cover to cover.  Start your weekly meal planning there.
I have one local grocery store that I shop at each week for the essentials.  I check their flyer at the beginning of the week to see what they have on sale, and start my menu planning for the week from there.  They have chicken breasts on sale?  Then I plan a chicken dish for the week.  They have bell peppers for a good price?  Then I plan to make stuffed peppers.  (Also have your cell with your new awesome list app open on it as you are perusing the flyer so you can start your grocery list with the sale items.)
I don't hop around from store to store just to save 50 cents on a box of cereal or 75 cents on laundry detergent.  I place a larger value on my gas and my time.  Plus, it is not easy to drag an 11 month old into 3 stores in one afternoon.

Look in your pantry!  
Before you head to the store, take inventory of what is hiding in your pantry.  Have 6 cans of diced tomatoes in there?  How about planning to making chili or homemade pasta sauce that week?  (Looking for an easy and budget friendly homemade pasta sauce recipe? Check out my Easy One Pot Pasta Sauce.)  What do you have on hand that you can already use?  

Don't shy away from the discount rack at the grocery store.
Check the day old rack if your grocery store has a bakery inside.  I always check this first before heading to the bakery or bread aisles.  Most of the time I can find bakery hamburger buns or a loaf of French bread for just 99 cents!  I can't even tell you the last time that I paid full price for a loaf of the "fancy" bakery bread.
This can also apply to some produce.  Often grocery stores will reduce bagged salads if their sell by date is quickly approaching. You can snatch one of these up to add a salad to the dinner you already have planned for the evening or the next day.
The only discounted section I steer clear from is the meat department.  Those meats never look quite right to me.  At least not at my grocery store. 

Plan to have a weekly "breakfast for dinner" night.
Every Thursday evening in our house is pancake night.  The pancake mix I buy is less than $2 a box, and I can usually get 3 Thursdays worth of dinners out of that one box.  You do the math. ;)  (By the way, we use the Target brand complete pancake mix and it has by far been our favorite of all the boxed pancake mixes we have tried.)
You can do the same with eggs- a dozen of eggs is usually no more than $2, right?
Breakfast for dinner night is fun, budget friendly, and something the family can look forward to each and every week. :)

If you have a Crock Pot, don't shy away from the cheaper meats.
Cheaper meats tend to be tougher or more difficult to cook, but not if you have a slow cooker!  We LOVE chicken thighs in this house as long as I slow cook them in the Crock Pot all day.  In fact, one of my son's favorite dinners that I make is this Slow Cooker Coq au Vin recipe I found on Better Homes and Gardens.  My grocery store tends to have a sale on a big name's chicken thighs once a month.  I stock up my freezer each month then. ;)

I buy most of my meats at the bulk food store.
I do not have a Sam's Club membership presently, but my mother does.  About once a month, she takes me with her as a guest and I stock up on my family's ground hamburger, chicken breasts, and pork chops for the month.  I bring home the larger packages of meat and portion them out into individual freezer bags, label and date them, and then stack them in the freezer.  We save quite a bit on meat that way, and it makes meal planning easy.  I just take a peek in the freezer and see what I have left to use for the month.
I will say that I buy little else but meat there.  Yes, I realize that 30 pack of paper towels is cheaper per roll than what I am paying at Target, but where in the heck am I going to put all of those in my house? Right?

Okay, let's talk coupons for a minute.
I like coupons.  I use coupons.
For things I would already buy anyways.
I think this is where people tend to overspend when they have coupons- they buy things they wouldn't normally buy just because they can save 50 cents on it.
Occasionally I use a coupon for a new product that is out and would like to try... and not pay full price for it.   And usually coupons for new products are pretty good ones. ;)
Use coupons for items that normally appear on your grocery list.  Don't add things to your list just because you found a coupon for them.

What is your #1 tip for saving money on groceries?


  1. I use the Out of Milk app also. It has made grocery shopping a lot easier. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to the store and realized I didn't have my list.
    We have the same game plan for grocery shopping. I wish I could get mine down to $50. I usually spend between $70-80 each week.

  2. The only thing I would disagree with you is on the meats from Sam's/Costco. I've found they're much more expensive per pound than shopping sales at my local stores. Meat is one thing I refuse to buy at Costco. Maybe it depends on your area of the country? I rarely check the sale rack in the bakery. Maybe I ought to add that to my routine to score some deals! Thanks for a helpful post.

  3. Love this! I've always shyed away from the bakery sale rack because I wasn worried they would be stale. But it sounds like you have good luck there...definitely checking it out next time!

  4. What amazing tips - so impressed to think you could reduce your weekly shop bill that low - I definitely have to try some of your suggestions.

    I have just joined the Marvellous Mondays party, and am now following you via Twitter and e-mail.

    Looking forward to keeping up with your blog.

    Kate x

  5. Great List! I will have to check out Out of Milk. We use a different one on our iPod Touch, but I think the idea of being able to send the list as a text.

    Our closest and best grocery store is Safeway. I signed up for Just 4 U coupon program. It is electronic coupons automatically added to the shopper card. I really don't pay attention to the coupons but I just add all of them every week. They usually have a little sign on items that have a Just 4 U coupon that weekand by not looking I don't get into the "spending just because we have a coupon" habit.

  6. Great post! I just mentioned couponing in my post yesterday and will be covering the way we do it at some point this week. We are down to about $70/week for the 5 of us (I always say $80 because inevitably there is something forgotten or needed for school, etc). I love my coupons but, like you, I don't let it take over my life! You and I are on the same page, sister! :)

  7. I will be paying close attention to this when we become a one income coupling next year while I am looking for work in Germany next year. I already meal plan when I stay abroad with Andi as I don't have a massive weekly food budget (being given a main meal a day at school for FREE)and prefer to enjoy my limited budget being spent on activities together. Great post. xx

  8. I couldn't agree more about slow cookers! Not only does it let me take cheaper meats and make them fork-tender, but I can buy in larger qualities and have a nicely stock freezer with soups, stews, and chili.

  9. Great post, Carrie! I really need to get with saving money while grocery shopping. But I have a shopping addiction when it comes to the grocery store. I don't have a lot of food hoarded at my house - I just think of things I want to make and then I go to the grocery store on my lunch break or on the way to or from work. Ugh. And I make lists and always end up buying stuff that isn't on my list. I think I need grocery store rehab. LOL

  10. I love the discount rack too. Especially the one filled with bakery items. What great tips. Stopping for the SITS Sharefest.

  11. This is SUCH a helpful, and I am totally bookmarking it for future reference. I feel like the grocery store is my budget killer every week. UGH. I need to be better about using these kinds of tips!! Stopping by from SITS Sharefest on Twitter.

  12. My number one tip: don't buy it when you need it, buy it when it is cheapest and stock your pantry. It's better to reach into your own shelves for peanut butter that cost you 2.99 (that you bought a month ago) than to have to run to the store and pay 4.99! (Most sales cycle around every 3 months, so a 3-month supply of anything is good. I, for one, would never be an 'extreme couponer.' Who needs a 6-year supply of deodorant?)
    Oh! And if your store's site has a search feature, take your coupons and use it to match coupons with sales. This week I got $100 worth of groceries for $60--that's a 40% savings!
    And I just love my shopping list app!

  13. I always glance at the discount bread. Sometimes what I need is right there!

    Breakfast is the best go-to cheap meal! Pancakes and eggs, or you might have oatmeal and toast with fruit, yogurt, etc. I've found that I don't like oatmeal much but BAKED oatmeal...sign me up! :)


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