Grocery Shopping 101

3 03 2009

I think my roommate and I have finally cracked the code on how to slice our grocery bill in half. This is quite a feat–because if you know anything about Khalilah and I, you know that we LOVE to eat!!! Just check the Adventures of Sadie and Bertha link to the right and you can see some of our eating escapades. It's been a minute since I've posted to that link, but believe me, Sadie and Bertha have not stopped eating.

Since we've been roomies we've been spending roughly about $200 +/month on groceries. I'm not sure what other people's grocery bills are like, but for two single females, we started to realize that maybe, just maybe, we are spending too much. Especially given the fact that we keep spending money on groceries even when technically we have plenty of food already in the fridge.

Part of our vice is that we love to eat, but we also love to snack. When I was growing up, it was customary for us to have a cabinet full of treats. We called it the "goody drawer" and there would always be all kinds of chips and cookies and sweets available to satisfy our munchies. My mom also kept her pantry full. It was not uncommon for us to complain that we didn't have any food in the house, when in actuality we had a whole cabinet full of canned goods, if nothing else. We did have food, it just wasn't food that we wanted.

And so I realized that I've continued this tradition. And thus spawns our magnanomous grocery bill. So this is what we did:

1)    Weekly Fix. First of all, we switched our shopping frequency from twice a month (to coincide with payday) to once a week. I learned this trick from my financial counselor a couple of years ago. This helps us to only spend money on the things we NEED, not the things we EXPECT TO NEED. The benefit of this for me is that I used to be good for buying things that I'd expect to run out of within the next couple weeks, but in actuality the product actually lasted us another month or two. So I was buying things a bit prematurely. Shopping once a week allows us to just focus on what is needed to get us through this week.

2)    What's For Dinner?  I also started planning our meals for the week. Since I am the cook of the house, I plan for 2 meals because we can usually eat off the leftovers for the rest of the time. On weekends we usually fend for ourselves or we go out to eat, so that takes care of our week. So since our meals are planned and we are only shopping by the week, I only buy the ingredients that I need for that meal (if I don't have them already). So if my two meals for this week are spaghetti and chicken casserole, the only things I need to buy from the grocery store this week is spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, chicken and cream of mushroom soup. Done.

I mentioned eating out…As a sidebar, since Khalilah and I love to eat, we also like to eat out. To save money in that area we have discovered, a website where you can get gift certificates to some great restaurants. They have sales all the time, and often, you can purchase a $25 (and sometimes $50) gift certificate for only $2. Many of the restaurants have a $35 minimum so if we order $35 worth of food, we only have to pay about $5 a piece. We started using these and it cuts down on our dining out budget. We took advantage of this last night and were able to go to a GREAT French restuarant in Atlanta called Petite Auberge.

3)    Weekly Cap.  Ok, so back to grocery shopping. We have limited our weekly budgt to $25 per week. It works out when we're only buying items that we NEED for that week. Not items that we EXPECT TO NEED. We've worked it where she pays for when week, then I pay for the next week, then she pays the next, then I the next. So we're each paying $50/month for our groceries.

5)    Shop Around.  Smokey had it right when he said "My Momma Told Me…You Betta Shop Around." The other way that we save money is by shopping around for good prices. We no longer do all of our shopping in one place. A lot of our dry goods we started getting from the $1 store. Too many people sleep on the $1 store!! Believe it or not, they have the best household cleansers. We get our garbage bags, sandwich bags, sponges, etc from there (but only when we NEED them). We've also started satisfying our munchies there. We go through snacks pretty quickly. One bag of potato chips would only last us about half a week. For the price of one bag of potato chips at a regular grocery store, we actually can buy three different types of chips. And most $1 stores have some of the same name brand chips as mainline grocery stores.

People also sleep on Whole Foods! A lot of people think that Whole Foods is too expensive to shop, which can be true at times. But if you really do your research, you'll find that some items are actually cheaper there than at other stores. For example, Khalilah and I eat salad like it's candy so we usually go through a couple of bags per week. Well, Whole Foods has the cheapest bags of salad out of all the grocery stores I've been to ($1.99 for Romaine lettuce blend). I also get my soap from WF. $1.99 for all natural, vegetable based oatmeal soap. Incidentally, WF also has cheaper milk, cheaper spaghetti sauce, cheaper olive oil and cheaper garbage bags than most stores.

So once we've gone to WF and to the $1 store, it really only leaves a couple of items on our list that we have to get from a regular grocery store. We usually do our shopping on Sunday or Monday, which is when the new sale week starts so we can catch our remaining items at a discount.

The drawback to shopping this way is that our cabinets look a little bare because we are only shopping for the week. My financial counselor warned me of this. So my kitchen doesn't look like the kitchen we had when we were growing up. But think about it, do you really use that excess food in your cabinet? I've got a couple of cans of soup in my cabinet, and that's the only excess that we have. Already that's two extra meals outside of my budgeted 2 meals for the week. We used to have food that stayed around for years and no one ever ate it because quite frankly we forgot it was even in the cabinet! If you have a limited amount of food in your pantry, you always know what's in there and it's less excessive and wasteful. What's good about this method is that we've always got snacks for the week and we've always got food to eat but we're not breaking our budgets. Isn't that the most important thing? Our grocery list is also much shorter now so we don't have to lug loads of groceries upstairs to our apartment.

Some people have already listed some other techniques like shopping at Trader Joe's and using They just opened up a Trader Joe's near my house so I'll be visiting there to compare their prices. And I just discovered couponmom so I will be clipping so coupons next week. These are great tools and we'll probably be incorporating some of these budget busters into our weekly routine as well. I'm not sure if this method would work for someone with a family. But it works great for two single, greedy females!! 🙂 All in all, I think it's important to realize what you spend the most money on and go from there.

But $25 a week works for us!!




2 responses

5 03 2009


5 03 2009

You are a blogging machine. I have a blog that it slowly dying.

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