I think I had my most successful grocery shopping experience ever today. For those of you experienced couponers this may not seem like much for you. This was huge for me, though. Check it out:I bought, 5 pounds of frozen chicken breasts, two butterflied porkchops, two pounds of ground chicken, 3 pounds of ground beef, a package of ground beef patties, a carton of eggs, 1/2 gallon of 2% milk, 1/2 gallon of whole milk, two 2 liters of soda, bagged salad, two cake mixes, 2 lbs of powdered sugar, muffin mix, cookie mix, 2 gerber microwavable meals, a bag of frozen peas, bread, hamburger buns, a can of campbells cream of celery, 2 wanchai ferry boxed meals, 2 macaroni grill boxed meals, 3 boxes of hamburger helper, 4 totinos pizzas, 2 cans of pillsbury cinnamon rolls, 2 gallons of apple juice, a large box of cinnamon toast crunch, a large box of Lucky Charms, Goldfish crackers, a bag of tortilla chips, a box of texas toast, margarine, and 2 pounds of lunch meat.
My total was $69.50, I saved 37% ($41.23)! I was totally excited about this. I actually wrote the blog below last night, as some people were asking about our budget etc... so I thought this was a great time to publish it:
You ever have those experiences where you wish you would have done something sooner? That's my life with a budget. I always thought a budget would restrict what and when we could buy what we wanted. Though it does dictate the "when" sometimes, I've found myself to be more liberated by our newly instituted budget, as opposed to bitter as I expected to be.
It's nice to know that when a bill comes the money already exists to pay for it. It's even nicer to see money go into our savings faithfully every month because it is written out in the budget to do so. What has been required of me is a little bit of time planning and figuring and a little bit of effort keeping on budget on our 'flexible expenses. I consider 'flexible expenses' to be those expenses that don't have a definite dollar amount. For example, our mortgage is exactly the same every month, it is not a flexible expense. Groceries, on the other hand, is a flexible expense. The amount of money I spend on groceries could become WAY out of hand (this has been proven, look at my last year's grocery bill... bleh) if I didn't set a maximum for myself. I set this maximum fairly low to make it challenging, yet attainable.
I've almost come to a place where I enjoy the challenge of grocery shopping. I'd be lying if I said there weren't times where I wished I could win a year of free groceries so I could buy whatever I wanted, but I make it work, and it works for us. Here are some things I've figured out:
1.) I grocery shop with cash. I take out bi-monthly a specific amount of money JUST for groceries. When the money runs out... we're out of luck until the next date to take money out. I can see the money leaving my hand this way, and it takes the guesswork out of using a debit card and having to 'keep track' of what is spent.
2.) Take note of this one folks, this is my number one tip. I meal plan. Before I grocery shop I make a trip to my kitchen with a spiral notebook. I look to see what I have on hand that allows me to make a meal with no purchase or a very small purchase. For example: I make a casserole out of a box of mac n' cheese, a can of cream of celery, peas, and a chicken breast. If I look and see that I have everything but the cream of celery, I add the cream of celery to my shopping list and I add chicken casserole to our meal plan. That meal then costs me out of pocket (for that two weeks worth of money) the cost of the soup. This prevents food from just sitting and going bad in our house, it frees up other money to buy "on sale" items to be used later (for a later meal plan), AND (and I love this one!), it makes deciding what to eat really, really easy. I look at my list through the next two weeks and see what I have to choose from. This is huge for me!
3.) I coupon. I'll be honest, growing up, coupons used to embarrass me. I hated when my mom used coupons. It made me feel poor. Now I realize poor people aren't the ones who use coupons, it's the ones who use their resources to try to gain wealth. I cut over $20 of coupons tonight, all of which I plan on using tomorrow. I'm going to save $20 on my grocery purchase just in printable coupons. (I have electronic coupons saved on my Kroger card.) Now, I'm not going to lie, I don't use coupons as often as I could. This set of coupons is way large for me. If I use one or two paper coupons a shopping trip it's big. But I save a great deal of money by:
4.) Shopping at Kroger (as opposed to Wal-Mart) and shopping the sale ad. My typical "Kroger savings" during each shopping trip is an average of 18%. I attain this by searching the sale ad, making a shopping list accordingly (that matches my meal plan), and sticking to it. I keep a running total in my head in the grocery store, and I have a maximum amount I'm allowed to spend while in there. (Which is about $30 less than the cash I have on hand. You always run into bread and milk kind of purchases that go bad or you run out of in the matter of two weeks.) When I reach my limit, I leave.
5.) I go alone. I make sure I ask Aaron if there is any particular meal he wants or any particular item to go on the list. He isn't so much the shopping problem. It is Bryton. If you see me in the store with Bryton, you'll know I'm not there for a big shopping trip. I have to be able to concentrate and focus and with a toddler aboard I can't do that as well. (He does get to go to the store, but to pick up a few things here and there. Milk, juice, bread, etc.) Also, he's figured out how to spot things he likes on the shelves and point and whine at them. That kills a shopping experience if I give in to him. When he's just a little older, I'll show him how to shop.
6.) I scour websites such as:
I usually find a lot of great deals on things besides just groceries. These resources have proven amazingly helpful for coupons and ideas. Several of these are blogs that put mine to shame!
7.) And lastly, I shop and look for coupons for other things besides just groceries. Just this week I:
-Saved 15% on Bryton's Easter outfit at Children's Place by finding a coupon on www.retailmenot.com. I saved $4.
-Saved $8.50 on admission at the Magic House in St. Louis by finding a coupon online for one free child's admission with a paid adult.
-Saved $3 off of our Red Lobster lunch on the same day with a coupon I'd found in the newspaper. (I paid the rest, including he tip, on a $25 gift card we had. The bill was $19.99 and the waitress earned a $5.01 tip!)
In one week I saved $15.50 on other items besides groceries!
So there you have it! I'm a long way from having this all figured out, but I can see that some things are working for me! This is just one (of hopefully many) perks I've already discovered from our plans of finishing the basement! (Which is leaking by the way. I guess a call to Woods is in order for tomorrow. Bleh.)