Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Cut Our Family Grocery Budget By More Than Half

In January of this year I decided that I needed to get more organized about our meal planning. Our garage freezer was stocked with things that had been there for over a year while we kept cycling new things in and out. I was losing a good portion of my produce simply because I kept forgetting I had it and never planned it into meals. I never thought about it, I just went with whatever sounded good for dinner. I decided that this needed to change.

This also went hand in hand with another revelation. That revelation? I HATE Wal-Mart. I like their prices, but I hate going in them. I don't know about the ones around you, but generally I come out of the ones near my house feeling somehow less "clean". Have you seen People of Walmart? There's a reason we avoid it. Collin & I even tried switching to one a little further away from our house hoping that it would be less "ghetto", but within six months you wouldn't have been able to tell them apart. We came to the agreement that Wal-Mart had to go.

Our friends Owen & Patti had been touting the joys of shopping at Fred Meyer for months. Short of their ridiculously huge bulk meat purchases from Costco (that's right...I'm looking at you guys...) they picked up nearly all of their groceries there and loved it. (In their defense, buying bulk is a lot cheaper and if you have a big freezer it's well worth it - we do it too.)

I had also been introduced to The Krazy Coupon Lady about this same time by my friend Erin. The woman who operates this site was saving huge amounts of money by buying her groceries based on what was on sale and what coupons she had available. I was talking to my Mom about it and she started telling me about how she clipped coupons when we were kids and it saved her a pretty decent amount of money.

So...I made it a resolution. We were not going to shop at Wal-Mart any longer, we were going to start using Fred Meyer. We were going to meal plan and we were going to use coupons to shop. I started implementing the plan in late January and to date we have saved about 30% on our groceries by couponing alone. Meal planning has reduced our waste and we have lowered our household grocery budget from about $400/month for the three of us to about $150/month.

Now. There are a few things you need to know about me before you read on further.

#1 - The way I coupon will not get you through the grocery line with $1000 worth of groceries for under $20. I don't have that much time on my hands and I'd rather spend what free time I do have doing something I enjoy more. I also refuse to beg my neighbors for their coupons or go dumpster diving to get them. Nope. Not my style.

#2 - I do not go to the grocery store every week. I am not a fan of that either. I go once a month for the majority of things and then add an additional trip about two weeks in to get my second half of produce and restock my dairy, as needed. So I don't always get the absolute best price (we're talking like a $0.10 difference, if that) and I occasionally have coupons that expire (the horror!).

#3 - In order to work my meal plan, I occasionally have to buy things that are not on sale or at their lowest price. I try to keep this at a minimum by moving those recipes that require a non-sale ingredient to the end of the month. That way I may catch it on sale during my produce run.

#4 - I DO NOT coupon the way you see on Extreme Couponing. I refuse to buy more than makes sense and I will not run a store out of an item just because I can get it cheaper. It will go on sale again. I get what I need for a couple of months and then wait it out. I hate people who clear the shelves. It wrecks it for everyone else who is just trying to save a dime for their families.

#5 - I like cooking, but I hate cleaning up. I don't like messes...they mess with my OCD. So I am all about the simple meals. I also like keeping some quickfire meals available on the list for days when work has been ugly or I'm just not feeling like putting forth much effort. This means that we occasionally deviate from the meal plan, moving a recipe up or down the schedule or just grabbing one of the quickfire meals and replacing a menu item all together.

So this is my mission. I will share what I do with the rest of you. Not to make you crazy couponers and obsessive shoppers, but to maybe help your family save a few bucks here and there without spending a ton of time. The whole shebang typically takes up about 5 hours per month. I don't think that's too bad.

So if you're interested in seeing what semi-lazy meal planning and couponing can do...just stick around. I'll be breaking it down by task. No sense in getting overwhelmed. Next lesson...inventory. (Sounds daunting, doesn't it? I promise...it's not that bad.)

Oh...and FYI. To date, I have only been to Wal-Mart twice since we made the resolution. Neither of these times was actually for myself. I went once to pick up a prescription for a family member and once to get a gift card for my employee (who requested Wal-Mart). Collin has only been one additional time, to pick up a headlight for his mom at 11:30 at night when no one else was open. I think that's pretty darned good.


  1. We had ASDA, the UK WalMart equivalent in Scotland...and we never went. Now that we are in Ireland, we are happy to discover that the Irish government does not allow WalMart or ASDA to sell in this wonderful country! YAY! We have very little food waste because normal fridges here are the size that US college kids take to put in their dorms. This means we have to go to the store more often and can't stock up much since our freezer space is also miniscule. Whenever we go back to the US now, we are amazed a the food waste because it seems like everyone is planning for an apocalypse so they stock up ridiculous hordes of food for their family of 4. My in-laws have 2 big fridge/freezers and a huge freezer as well (and it's just them and my bro-in-law!). Good for you for making great changes and doing your part!

  2. @Padded Cell Princess Confession time. We have 2 side-by-sides (refrigerator/freezer) and a deep freeze. The freezers are full...the garage fridge rarely gets used except for around holidays.


Other Posts You Might LIke

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
01 09 10 11 12
Blogging tips