In the summer of 2009, I was averaging about $1500-$1800 a month just in grocery expense. That means I was spending $375-$450 per week or $47-$56 per person per week. Now if you figure that we ate out 2 meals a week, then each person ate 19 meals per week at home- so we were spending about $2.50-$3.00 per person per meal. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?
But after making some changes in the way that I was shopping for groceries, I brought my monthly grocery expense down to $600-$800 per month- which works out to $150-$200 per week and about $1.00-$1.30 per person per meal. And the best part is- I didn’t make changes in the way I cook, the brands that I buy, or the amount of, or the type of food that I serve. The only thing I really changed- is how I shop.
How to Save Money on Groceries
Grocery stores put their products on sale on a regular basis, and usually on an 8-12 week rotation, and they advertise these sales items in their weekly fliers that you can find either in the Sunday newspaper or at the customer service counter at the store. These weekly promotions are meant to drive traffic into the store- and you job is to take the best possible advantage of these sale prices!
What you want to do, is to use the fliers to find the items that are at their lowest possible price, and then purchase enough of that item to last you 8-12 weeks. That way you never have to pay full price for that item!
Here is a real-life example: the regular price of a package of Perdue thin-sliced chicken breasts is $5.49 (at my local store). But every 8 weeks (or so), they put them on sale for 50% off ($2.75). At my house, we use 4 packages of chicken breasts a week, so I need to buy 32 packages if I want to have enough to last me until the next time they are on sale. If I buy 32 packages when they are on sale at 50% off- I’ve saved my family $88 in grocery expense- on just one item!
Shopping like this is called “stockpiling”- and in order to use this “system” you have to have a place to store your 8-12 weeks of supply of grocery items. Here’s how to do it:
What to Stockpile, and How to Build Up Your Stockpile
How to Get Started…
When looking over weekly store circulars and perusing through your pile of coupons, it is easy to allow yourself to get lured into purchasing something because it is “such a great deal”. But when it comes to starting your stockpile- you only want to stockpile those items that your family already buys now, and uses on a regular basis. This is not the time to try new foods or even new brands. Right now you are concentrating on building a stockpile of items that you already use, and that you just want to pay less money for!
When you are just starting out, you will need to buy all of your regular groceries that your family needs for the coming week, since you do not have a stockpile to work from yet. And you will also need to start building that 8-12 week supply of items that you can buy cheaply this week.This means that at first, your weekly grocery bill may rise slightly. But over the next 2 months, you will buy less and less of what used to comprise a normal shopping list, because you will already have many of those items on hand- and you will instead spend your weekly grocery dollars on what you add to your stockpile that is at a rock-bottom price, as well as perishable items like milk and produce which you need to buy weekly.
Where to Store It All
I break up my stockpiling needs into several categories, and I have different storage locations for each category:
1. Pantry items- such as baking supplies, drink mixes, cereal, condiments, oils, peanut butter, pastas, snack items, and canned goods. I store some of these items (where I can fit them) in my kitchen cupboards, and the rest I keep in a closet that we have set up with pantry-type storage shelves. I make sure that I am careful to keep this closet neat and organized- and when I put new items away after shopping, I make sure the newer items are stored in the back of the shelf, so I use up the older (up front) items first.
2. Frozen foods- such as ice cream and other treats, frozen fruits and veggies, and beef and chicken. When I first started to change my grocery shopping habits, I stuffed every square inch of our freezer- but it was impossible to store enough frozen meat to really take advantage of stocking up when the prices were at their lowest. So Steve and I waited until we found a very good price on an energy-efficient stand-alone freezer that we could store in our basement. We made sure that the added expense of buying the freezer and running the freezer would be re-couped very quickly by the cost-savings of storing the lower-priced frozen items.
3. Beauty items- such as shampoo, conditioners, body washes, soaps, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shaving cream, and feminine products. For a while I used old shoe boxes without their lids to create storage containers for these items, and stacked them under the sink in my bathroom. But it made that space so crowded, that I was having trouble finding what I needed. So I re-purposed an old bookshelf that we had stored in our basement, and brought it upstairs into the kids’ bathroom, and was able to squeeze the bookshelf into a corner nook in that bathroom. This now holds all of my toiletry stockpile- and it is so easy to see exactly what I have, and where my stockpile is running low.
4. Paper goods- such as toilet paper and paper towels- these get their own category because they are so bulky to store. I have found that the only place where I have room to store these, is in my basement.
5. Cleaning and laundry supplies- I was able to re-work some existing shelving in the laundry room so as to increase the amount of laundry detergent and other supplies that I can store in the laundry room.
Rather Watch Than Read?
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So now you get the “big idea”! Read those grocery store sales fliers every week, and plan to purchase an 8-12 week supply of the sale item so that you never pay full price for that item again! Boom! This one small change in the way you shop can add up to a 30% savings on your grocery bill- and that’s if you never clip a single coupon! It really and truly is that easy!
Do you shop like this now? And if not, do you think it will work for you?