Cutting down on our grocery bill

I have a dream.

A dream in which my weekly grocery bill falls under $100.

Perhaps you're reading this and thinking, wow, $100/week on groceries? What is she buying?? It is just the two of us after all. In all honestly, I don't know if that is a lot or not. Shaun and I also live in North Jersey, which tends to just be expensive in general, so I don't think that's doing us any favors. What I do know is that I'm on a mission to cut back our weekly bill to only $75.

Shaun and I cook most of our dinners at home, bring our lunches to work 4 out of 5 days per week, and eat breakfast at home or take it on-the-go. I usually do not cook on Friday and Saturday nights, so all told, we are talking around 36 meals per week (18 for each of us) that my grocery bill needs to stretch to. This also includes snacks in between meals. Oh, and did I mention that I try to keep it all healthy?

I recently cut my bill down from $120 to $100. I'm confident that I can do it again, and have been keeping steady for the last couple of weeks. I put together a list of how I'm cutting back. Please chime in with some tips on how you keep your grocery bill down! Be my Yoda, please.

Cutting down on our grocery bill
1. Meal planning. I've found this to be the number one way that I've cut back. With meals planned out for the week (breakfasts and lunches too!), I make my shopping list accordingly and stick to it.

2. Using seasonal ingredients. When I devise my meal plans around what's in season, I definitely find myself with a lower bill. For example, using zucchini in winter is not as cost effective as using cauliflower. Blueberries are prime right now, so I bought 2 cartons for $.99 each for some blueberry baked oatmeal.

3. Scour the sales - before meal planning. I like to do a quick search for my local A&P's online weekly flyer. It lists what's on sale for the coming week. This then advises my meal plan.

4. Eating leftovers - and liking it. Gone are my days of making something totally different for each and every meal that we consume (though the food writer in me begs to differ). Now, when I make dinner, I make enough for us to have lunch the next day. And since I try to make really good meals, I'm excited to eat it again the next day!

5. Bring your own shopping bags. Ok, this savings is minimal, but it just makes carting groceries So. Much. Easier. No bags flopping around in the trunk, no plastic cutting into your hands. And saving a few cents doesn't hurt either.

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6. Use your local store's bonus card. If you don't have one, sign up today. Right now. I don't really understand couponing, especially since I don't eat a whole lot of packaged goods. For me, it's all about the bonus card. Not only will this save you money on all those items you found in the weekly circular, but it also racks up points for percentage discounts or a few dollars off.

7. Eat less. Ok, this one actually comes from Shaun. At first I cracked up when he said this, but then I realized that it's kind of true. Junk food = spending more money. Even if it equals out, I'd rather spend my money on fruit, nut butters and yogurt.

8. Cut up your own fruits and veggies.
I never buy pre-cut. Unless it's butternut squash (which I've battled and lost too many times), I also cut my own - broccoli, pineapple, veggie mixes. I find it's typically more expensive to buy pre-cut. As soon as you get home from the store, cut up all the fruits and veggies that you just bought. Once cut up, it's also easier to eat!

9. Performing a thorough check of the refrigerator and pantry cabinets before shopping. Do you know how many times I've stocked up on crushed tomatoes, only to arrive home and find no room in the cabinet for them since I already have like 4 cans? Well it happens a lot. Not only is it wasteful monetarily, but I just don't have the space...see below.

10. Live in a small space (or pretend like you do). Our entire condo is about 1000 sq ft. I just don't have the space for stocking up unnecessarily, and thus, unless I need something in the immediate future, I just don't buy it. I do always have staples on hand (here's a list of our pantry staples), but overall, not overbuying means spending less on groceries weekly.

So there you have it. I plan to utilize all of these tips to the max to cut back on my grocery bill going forward. What are some of your tips for saving some coin at the grocery store?