Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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Wednesday
Jul062011

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.

click for source

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?

Reader Comments (17)

I always go to the store with some time when a new sale week starts and then plan my meals around what's on sale. I also buy a lot of what's on sale to store/save, so that I don't get hooked on 1.99 mung beans only to discover that the price went up to 2.99! Also, buying in bulk has helped me save TONS! Spices are so much cheaper that way, as well as grains, flours, and nuts. Happy saving!

these are great plans and tips and ideas for you and everyone including myself. One of my worst tendencies is to not look at what I have before going to the store. One day I came back and was putting up 3 cans of chicken stock only to find I already had 5 - yes 5 in their already. Now it is the middle of summer so no one needs that much chicken stock! LOL!

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKitchen Belleicious

I live in an apt. with limited storage space. It took some more prep work and organization, but I actually started shopping for non-perishable items once a month. I took an inventory of my pantry and items I seem to buy every week and purchased about a months worth. It's more expensive the first time, but has saved us in the long run. Plus I'm not tempted to buy the snacks. We also started eating less meat which has also cut down on our bill.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersarah

I plan my meals with overlapping ingredients. For example, if I need dill for one recipe, I try to use it 1-2 more during the week so it doesn't go to waste. I also make big batches of grain salads, bean salads, or chicken salad for our lunches. We take it 2-3 days of the week.

Before going grocery shopping, I always try to have a few meals (or one) where I stretch my meal creation creativity to use up what we have in the pantry. Usually, it's actually pretty delicious (according to my husband, who may in fact be biased), and we've used up that much more of what we already have in the pantry.

These are some great tips! I LOLed at eat less:-)

Oh girl! I feel you! I can not get out of the grocery store weekly for less than 130 dollars. Ok sometimes it's 115...but it never fails at least over $100! And it is only two of us! But in my defense, that also includes all our toiletries and cleaning supplies. Plus food and cat litter for 5 pets. But still! Ugh!

I love your ideas of ways to cut the bill! Currently I am trying to plan my menu around whats on sale...and it is kind of helping. :-P

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

NEVER shop hungry - I try to shop after a meal so I'm full and impulse buying is cut down markedly. Beware the end of the aisles - that's where the market puts the items they are pushing - usually not the best deals. Also I try to shop for the bulky items first like water - it fills up the cart and psychologically I'm convinced I've bought lots and don't have room for those "extras".

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermonap

These are great tips! It's just me and my hubs too but we spend anywhere from $75-120 on weekly groceries (which may also include a few toiletries!). But I also keep it healthy, buy mostly organic, and TRY to shop for the best. My BEST tips? Buy the sale items only (unless absolutely necessary), I go to 2 different stores (one that sells cheaper organic produce and the other that sells cheaper packaged goods), I only ever stock 1-2 bags of chips (for the hubs), and any desserts are homemade. Other than that...don't really buy any other highly processed foods, and I TRY to plan meals that can be used as leftovers, and we make breakfast for dinner at least once a week...it's helped save too!

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthehealthyapron

I know that I could (and probably should) cut back on my grocery spending. Your tips are awesome! Meal planning is something I seriously need to get on top of. I think banning myself from grocery trips beyond my trip at the beginning of the week will help. I always make plans, get cravings and end up back at the store. Good luck!

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBaking Serendipity

You're actually doing even better than me and my hubby. We usually spend about $120 on the two of us. :( Thanks SO much for these tips! I'll be putting them to good use, as we need to cut back on our shopping bill too!!

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

congrats on that savings! good work! In the warmer months, eating seasonally saves me LOADS of money. This year, I joined a CSA and even though the up front investment was tough to swallow, over the entire year it really saves me money!

Great tips Rachel! I hate budgeting when it comes to food, especially because it limits my creativitiy in the kitchen. How am I supposed to try making something like Paella if I can't splurge on the crazy expensive Saffron? Boohoo! I've been doing pretty well this year but I really have to do a lot of what you do... eating less... planning...eating leftovers. I also try to scope out the weekly ads for my grocery stores to see where would be the cheapest to shop and what I should be shopping for. Chicken thighs on sale? Then chicken thighs for dinner it is!

ooooh great tips! i love the live like you have a little space one! good luck with your dream :)

I tend to use store brand foods for a lot of generic items. For example, if I were to compare my pantry to yours, my chicken broth, evaporated milk, bread crumbs, and peanut butter are all store brand. Not to mention my breakfast cereal. Maybe I'm lucky to have a local supermarket that has awesome store brands and imitates name brands fabulously. There are a few exceptions, but when I can (and when it doesn't make a noticeable difference, except to my pocketbook), I skip the pricey name brands.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

http://www.cookinglight.com/marketplace/grocery-giveaway-facts-00412000071732/

$5000 grocery sweepstakes :)

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

Don't forget unit prices! If only I could get my fiance to understand that you can't just compare price tags! Read the unit price and you'll at least know how much you're getting for your money. And hopefully you'll never end up like the two of us: Sharing a piece of steak my fiance thought was a bargain at $12 vs. the one I had told him to get that was $14... seemed brilliant till I pointed out the one he picked gave us only a couple of bites at $9lb vs the one i picked that was leaner, healthier and a bargain at $3lb. Sigh...

July 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlindsey

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