Taking Control of our Grocery Spending

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Grocery Savings Project

So, I have a confession to make.  It’s a pretty boring one, but it’s still kind of embarrassing to admit. We (err, I, since I’m the one that does the grocery shopping) spend too much money at the grocery store.  WAY too much.  We are a family of TWO, and I cannot comprehend the outrageous amount of money I spend at the grocery store.

I’ll go into the amounts later in this post, but in ridiculous click bait speak, “It will SHOCK YOU.”

Now, let me just get a few potential reasons out of the way here. I’m not necessarily defending any of these as reasonable, but perhaps just some theories for why our grocery costs are so high.

  1. Pretty much every meal we eat is cooked at home, and from scratch. This includes things like BBQ sauce, salad dressing, pizza dough, marinara sauce, and peanut butter.  So, while yes I could buy an entire bottle of BBQ sauce for a buck when it’s on sale, I instead have to ensure that I have ketchup, brown sugar, tabasco sauce, liquid smoke, bourbon, apple cider vinegar, etc, just to make BBQ sauce. I’m not complaining. I highly prefer our homemade BBQ sauce and it’s super easy to make. I’m just trying to point out that cooking from scratch is not ALWAYS cheaper than buying things pre-packaged.
  2. I spend a little more money on meat because we shop at a local butcher. Their meat tastes SO much better (like less chewy) and I like knowing it’s locally sourced. I’m not overly granola about a lot of things (like giving a hoot about organic produce or non-GMO corn or whatever), but I do like our locally-owned butcher meat!
  3. I plan our meals by month, and grocery shop each week for the needed groceries for that week’s meals. (P.S. I owe you guys and updated version of my meal planning workflow and spreadsheets!) I just buy pretty much what we need for that week. For instance, if I need a can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup or a container of ricotta cheese or a bag of potato chips, I buy it. I don’t really pay attention to the price. Because, I need it for that week’s meals. If items have a sale sign on them, I might grab one or two extra. All of this is to say, I don’t leverage sales or stock up on items when there’s a good price because I just buy what I need when I need it.
  4. Clipping coupons just never seems to be a good payoff.  I used to have a Sunday-only subscription to the Washington Post for 93 cents per week. I’d clip a few dollars worth of coupons, maybe remember to use them, and then get annoyed at my whopping $2 savings for my work.
  5. I hate grocery shopping. Why? It means I have to leave the house, and I’m a total homebody. So, the thought of having to hop from store to store to “shop the sales” makes me shake in my boots. Plus, I don’t get home until 6:15PM or 6:30PM on weekdays so I never feel like going to the store because it’s so late, but stores are so crowded on the weekends.  So there’s never a “good” time to go!

Okay, are those enough excuses / theories for you?




You Spent HOW MUCH???

So, here are some amounts we would like to confess.

In November, we spent $487 on groceries.  I’m too ashamed to even say what we spent in December, considering all the extra groceries for holiday entertaining. In January, we were north of $600.

That is right folks, I may know how to book $12,000 worth of airfare for five bucks or stay for free at a $700-per-night-hotel, but I seem to hemorrhage money at the boring old grocery store. .

I look at my grocery receipts and there is nothing out of the ordinary. We use up all the stuff we buy. Of course, we have some waste, like when we don’t use all our sour cream by the expiration date, but I don’t look back on my receipts and say, “Wow, didn’t need to buy that because we never used it!”  We use everything.

So, here’s the deal. I’m making 2015 the year of cutting grocery costs. Because holy hell, we are OUT of control.


Attitude Adjustments

But first, I needed to change my way of thinking about getting better deals when grocery shopping.I never thought it would be worth it to clip coupons or shop the sales for a couple of reasons:

  1. Time is money, right?  Should I really be spending an hour every week to save a few bucks at the grocery store?  Probably not. Because I earn a decent wage.  But oh right. I make a good wage WHEN I’M AT WORK. I’m a salary employee. Which means whether I work 40 hours per week or 90, I get paid the same amount of money. So, when I’m at home looking up sales or clipping coupons, it’s not like I could be spending that same time working at my job and earning more money. Nope. So, at this point, I’m going to ignore the “hourly wage” argument and just do things to try to save money! After all, if I can get our grocery bill from $600/month down to $300, that’s a savings of $300. Even if I spend four or five hours per month tracking down sales and clipping coupons, I think that’s well worth it!
  2. Gas, time, and aggravation shuttling between stores to shop sales. There is no way that I want to hit up four different stores to get sale prices on various items each week.  But I recently learned that a lot of stores, namely Walmart and Target, price match local competitors. This is not terribly convenient, as our Walmart and Target only carry a limited amount of groceries (no Walmart Supercenters or Super Targets around here!), but about 85% of the time, I can buy everything I need for the week at Target or Walmart.
  3. Frankly, it just seems boring. I would much rather be sitting at my computer trying to figure out the best first class products to redeem frequent flyer miles on for a trip to Japan (or wherever!) instead of browsing online grocery ads and clipping coupons.  I mean, it’s a no brainer on what seems like more fun!  So, I’m trying to think of it in a different way.  Even if I can manage a savings of $300-$400 a month on groceries, that’s $3600-$4800 we can spend on OTHER things or experiences that are MUCH more fun than groceries. For instance, one of the excursions I want to do on our Alaska cruise is $199 per person.  Essentially four hundred bucks for the two of us for something that is about six hours.  That seems like a LOT of money to spend on a single excursion, but it looks so cool.  But, if I can save that amount each month between now and June by spending more reasonable amounts at the supermarket, it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.  So, instead of looking at the idea of browsing ads or shopping for sales as boring, I’m going to try to remember to look at it as an effort to divert money to things that are more fun!


So, I’ll be chronicling my attempts to save some serious cash at the grocery stores, which have so far included tracking our grocery inventory and use, using digital rebate apps on my phone, coupon clipping, and price matching at stores that offer it!

What are your tips for saving money at the supermarket?


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