Saving on Groceries Part 1: Getting Organized

There are lots of good lists out there on how to save money on food, and they’re great, but it’s intimidating to see lists of 25 or 50 items that are all sort of related to each other. I’ve condensed those lists into something easier. This is how to save without owning an extra freezer, without having a garden, and without using any coupons. Following these principles will also help you build up food storage, because they tie right in with the rest of what I’ve already written on this blog. Getting organized is key to having an efficient home.

How Does Your Spending Measure Up?

We spend very little on groceries, especially when compared to the government’s standard of “thrifty” which would have us spend $440 a month on food (Calculate for your family HERE). Technically, since I’m nursing and need extra food and James needs 1.5-2X as much food as a normal person, I’m pretty sure we could count the 2 of us as 3 adults, but I didn’t. $440 is the figure for 2 adults and 1 toddler. Kenny doesn’t figure into this equation at all since he exclusively breastfeeds and is under 1 year old. Update in 2019: We spend more because we have more people, but we’ve consistently stayed at 60% of the thrifty amount listed by the government.

Planning Ahead

First and foremost is having a plan. I’ve always been a really organized person, and how I do my grocery shopping is no different. A couple of things that I find helpful:

  1. A permanent list. The best way to make one is to look at a couple of past grocery receipts and organize them into some type of typed document. Another option is to check your past purchases on your store’s app if you use it. (Any store with a rewards card will have a record of what you’ve purchased recently.) I put my list in order by aisles so it saves me lots of time. It makes it really easy to keep track of what I’m running out of because I can circle things I need as I run out of them.
  2. A weekly menu. It sounds like over-planning, but my weekly menus are actually pretty flexible. Many meals can use different meats or veggies, and I always have pantry staples on hand (unless there’s a serious oversight) so I can always make last-minute changes if I need to. I make my list based on things I need for meals, but it’s not “do or die”. If some part of a meal is particularly expensive that week, I will often sub the type of meat, the veggie, or change the meal completely.
  3. Shop only every 2 weeks. This, I do treat as “do or die”. Extra trips = extra money. Who ever goes to the store and buys just one thing? Not me. If we run out of something, we deal with it for a few days. Period. Yes, I make sure that we NEVER run out of toilet paper or diapers. 🙂 Update in 2019: I’m not as strict about this but I do my main shopping only every two weeks. I shop at two stores because of where I live, so I alternate big trips with small trips for things that are cheaper at the other store.
food storage

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