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?