Friday, January 6, 2012

Weekly Grocery Shop

One of the challenges of managing a home kitchen is following a grocery budget.  It's very easy to go to the store and just start throwing things into the basket that look good.  Then you get to the checkout, and your bill is three times what you had planned on spending.  After you unload all kinds of food into your pantry,frig, and freezer, dinner time rolls around and you realize, "I have nothing to fix for dinner!"  or the kids complain "There's nothing to eat!"

Has this ever happened to you?  It has happened to me in the past.

Then I decided that as the Family Manager, it was up to me to try to get this part of our finances in control.  Yes, we have to eat.  Yes, we want a variety of real foods.  But we can bring down our food budget with careful planning.

With our family of 5, I budget to spend $100 a week for our food, household cleaners, and paper products.  About the only way that I can hit that $100 target is to study the weekly store circulars, coupon, menu plan, and most importantly - shop with a list!

I tend to do most of my shopping at Kroger, but I will look through the other store circulars on Sunday to see if any items are worth stopping in for.  Many other frugal moms keep a notebook of low prices, but I have been at this long enough that I just sort of know what a "good" price is.  My husband is good at remembering lines from movies.  I'm good at knowing what the bottom line price should be for chicken or canned tomatoes.  Weird, I know!

I like to shop at Kroger because of the proximity of the store to where I live.  Prior to our move this summer, the Kroger was just around the corner from our neighborhood.  I liked the meat department there, and the check out ladies always greeted me like we were old friends.  The kids have always liked the free cookie they get from the bakery while we shop.  Sometimes the prices at Kroger for non-sale items are outrageous, so I will also pop into Meijer or Giant Eagle or Aldi if I see something in the store circular that I need.

I do use coupons.  I have always cut them out of the Sunday paper, but I also use many of the online coupon sources available like,,, and e-coupons available for Kroger Plus Card members.  I also receive a daily blog update from which highlights several store deals and contains coupon links.  I would not consider myself an expert or an extreme couponer by any means.  I've watched that Extreme Couponing show on TLC, and I think some of those people border on the line of hoarders.  Who needs 100+ bottles of Sun Drop soda stashed in their guest room closet, even if you did get it for free?!  I just try to find deals that work for my family menu or items that I can get for pennies to donate to the local food pantry.

Having a menu plan is the best way for me to keep our grocery budget in check.  After looking through the store circulars and seeing what is on sale and what is in our pantry and freezer already, I start to put together a menu plan.  I keep an ongoing list of what meals I can prepare from what is in my pantry and freezer and also have a list of new recipes that I want to try.  Inspiration for what dishes to make come from all over.  I'm always thinking about food.  I know. . . another weird thing about me!

After I have the menu in place, I write my list out on a master grocery list.  I used to do just a straight list on a sheet of paper, but my 3 year old is somewhat of a distraction for me at the store. Now I use a preprinted list that has headings (Produce, Dairy, Meat, Canned Goods, etc). It helps me stay focused as I push the cart from aisle to aisle while trying to also keep her entertained.  It is much easier to shop without her in tow, but I don't like going to the store in the evenings or the weekends, so we make it work.  As I make my list, I pull the coupons out of my file and stick them in an envelope that I bring with me to the store. 

Once at the store, I try really hard to stick to the list.  I try to build in some wiggle room with the final total so that if I see some really good Manager Special deals I can pick them up.  I get so excited when I see those little yellow and orange Manager Special stickers waiting for me in the produce, meat, and bakery sections.  You may have even see me do a little happy dance in the aisles when I've found my favorites marked down.  Some of my favorite recipes have resulted in creations from my Manager Specials.   

As we have tried to pull in the financial reigns even more, I have gone to paying for groceries with cash.  I used to pay with the debit card, but I am finding that if I actually pay with real money, I do better at sticking to the list and thus sticking to our budget.  Because I am making my list with the help of the store circulars and the coupons, I have a good estimate of how much the bill will be at checkout.  When I pay with cash, I am forced to stick to that list or risk total embarrassment at the check out as I have to put things back. 

So, today was Pay Day, and I headed to the store with my cash in hand and my preschooler in tow.  We had two grocery store stops today - Meijer and Kroger.  She had her penny for the horse at Meijer and she requested the tv cart at the Kroger.  I also told her she could pick out something at Meijer if she was a good girl.  Read on. . . you'll laugh at what she picked out.

I had a short list for Meijer.  Stick to the list and you'll be out in less than 10 minutes! 
tomatoes, $1 x 2
carrots, $1 x 2
Aunt Millies Buns/Breads, B1G2
Colgate toothpaste and toothbrush, $1

I always keep my eyes open for additional bargains, but they have to be really good to make it into the basket!

And here's what we brought home for $10.01. . .
Do you see what the 3 year old picked out?

That's it right there on the in the middle . . . .

A jar of pickles!

That was the most expensive thing I bought! 
Picked up 32 cent Oreos on clearance and 2 pkg of blackberries for 50 cents each.

Total saved using coupons and store promotions:

 They were out of the $1 toothbrushes, but I got a rain check good for 1 month.

We made an afternoon impromptu trip to the zoo because it was sunny and near 50 (yes in Ohio in January, just 2 days after it was only 27 degrees), and then had to pick the girls up from school.  Our trip to Kroger was postponed until later Friday evening on the way to pick up the 8 year old from gymnastics.  I HATE going to Kroger on a Friday night, but I had a list and limited amount of time, so hopefully we could get in and get out without much trouble.

It was the Proctor and Gamble sale this week at Kroger, and we needed a few P&G products, so that was the main reason for stopping in Kroger this week.  That and the buy 4 cereals get free milk promotion they were running this week.  I also needed a little more produce, yogurt, and creamy peanut butter.  The 11 year old has been requesting smoothies.

Here's what we brought home for $54.
I replenished some of the cleaning supplies I needed including dishwasher tabs, rinse aid and dish soap. 

I also tossed in a $1 bag of frosted mini wheats for the Cereal Monster.

We still have some produce left from last week to make our salads and a few apples and oranges. 

Total saved with coupons and store promotions:

Grocery Total for this week: $64.01.  Gotta love my full freezer and well stocked pantry!  More on that one tomorrow!

What is your family's weekly grocery budget? 


  1. I am not a coupon or deal shopper. Cost of not doing so...$100-$200 each week. Eek! After reading your process, I am quite embarrassed.

  2. Don't be embarrassed, Damian! Be empowered to make a change if it's something that you want to change. Like I said in the post, I felt like the grocery budget was something that I could fully control with determination to make a plan and stick to it. I hate fighting about money, and with the rising costs of things I can't control (like gas), I needed to focus my energies instead of the things I can control (like food and household goods). It's been kind of a game with me during my tenure as the Family Manager to see just how much I can "save" each week. If you want to become a bit more deal savvy, pick just one area you want to concentrate on in your shopping and start with that. As you feel success in that one area, you'll be able to expand into other areas. Cereal coupons are widely available, and I NEVER pay more than $2 a box of cereal, so maybe start there if your boys eat a lot of cereal.