Saving a couple bucks at the grocery store

I’ve found I can save a few dollars (actually, significantly more) at the grocery store(s) by doing a little pre-planning.  So, what works for me?  Menu planning, and making a list based on the menu, seems to work well for our family.  But you have to be prepared to stick to the plan.

Every Sunday I sit down, with the wife if she’ll participate, and create a menu for the up coming week, specifically for each day of the week.  It’s really not that hard to do, just think of a few items on the plate, and only a dinner menu.  We eat relatively the same, a meat, a vegetable, and a starch.  We also usually pick one night a week for picking something up.  Breakfast and lunch are easy meals for the kids and the wife will take a frozen lunch or some leftovers from dinner, so dinner is the only dedicated, strict item to plan.  Also, because the menu is written out I’m able to include prep for the upcoming days, like taking down chicken on Monday so it will thaw for the meal on Wednesday.  I can also include those days when I, or the wife, will be late or not home.  This makes it easier to stick to the menu because it’s not ambiguous, and there aren’t days you’re thinking, “Oh, sh*t, I forgot to take down chicken” (although it still happens, just not as often).

I’ve found if I prepare a menu, then prepare a list of items needed to make only those things on the menu I can save a significant amount of money over going to the grocery store thinking of what I’d like to eat for the week.  I am very strict, to the dismay of those who shop with me (Anna wanted several various cereals this week, chocolate covered pretzels and a host of other items that were definitely NOT on the list).  This obviously doesn’t work if you’re not willing to then prepare the meals on the menu, and it does take some give and take on the wife’s behalf.  She can’t call on the way home and say, “How about ‘X’ tonight?”.  That just doesn’t work if you’re going to stick to the plan; however, I do allow mixing up the week (I’m not that strict!).

Then, I go to Costco (yes, the store where every visit costs hundreds of dollars).  We eat fish, beef, chicken, and everything in between, so I budget for a large “meat” purchase.  Whether it’s chicken, fish, beef, pork, it doesn’t matter, because once a week I buy ten or twenty pounds of it.  Then the following week I pick another big ticket item and purchase that.  What ends up happening is we have a rotating quanity of “staples” in the freezer to choose from.  This was costly at first because I bought everything at once, but now we don’t need any one thing of significant cost more than it comes up on the rotation.  People always seem confused that I shop at Costco, on a budget.  I can do all of the grocery shopping, and get out of Costco for less than half of what I used to spend.  It’s all about planning, and sticking to the plan.

Too, it’s important to have an idea of what things cost.  This too was difficult at first, because I didn’t know.  I just put things in the cart and paid for them.  Now that I’m on a budget I make a list, on a full sized sheet of paper, with columns for each store I’ll need to visit (does this sound anal yet?).  I also include a small line next to the item so I can write down the price as I add things to the cart.  By the time I’m at the checkstand I know what my bill will be.  I don’t have to have the “whoa!” feeling when the cashier is done ringing things up.  I don’t get blindsided, and after time I know what to expect.  I know when items have changed in price, even slightly, and if that’s the case I can buy Fuji apples instead of Donagold, or vice versa.  I also know if something is a good deal and maybe it’s better to buy an extra few pounds of hamburger, or buy steaks this week instead.

Now, there are limitations to being strict to the menu.  My wife and I recently went to Costco and found boneless rib roasts on sale.  I asked the butcher how much a bone-in prime rib would be.  He asked, “How much do you want?”  I hadn’t really thought about that, so I said, “How much is it per pound?”.  “$4.99 or you can buy the whole rack uncut for $3.99 per pound.”  Well, 3 racks later (about 50 pounds) I was headed to the check out with the “whoa!” feeling and enough prime rib roasts and ribeyes to last all year.  Can you guess how I spent the next day?  A sharp knife, and elbow deep in beef!  We came away from that experience with 16 ribeyes and eight prime rib roasts…and a sore shoulder from cutting it all up.

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4 Responses to “Saving a couple bucks at the grocery store”

  1. susanprunty Says:

    You really can’t get the full effect unless you see the photo! Post the photo!

  2. Aaron Says:

    I think the photo includes an uncovered nipple protruding from behind my apron, and this is a family show! So, you’ll just have to use your imagination. I did have a lot of fun with those three racks of ribs though 😉

  3. Abby Says:

    Wow. I think No. 34 has turned into his father-in-law.

  4. Susan Says:

    Except for you don’t have a freezer bag and a plastic straw!

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