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?

Groceries on demand

I did it.

After two years of glimpsing longingly at the Fresh Direct truck as it rode around my tiny Jersey City neighborhood delivering boxes upon boxes of groceries, I gave in. I placed an order.

I have been regaled with tales of Fresh Direct as friends and family (even our realtor!) sang its praises over the last months, but always had an itty bitty pang of guilt at the thought of having my groceries delivered. Doesn't grocery shopping come with the being-a-wife territory? And that's how the guilt always got me. After all, I don't reeeally have a good excuse as to why I can't take time out of my day to grocery shop. It's not that I mind food shopping. I generally like it...and at times, I even love it. I enjoy trolling the aisles for fun new foods, filling up my cart and subsequently my fridge and pantry...and, oh yeah, eating up the goods. However, quite honestly? The thought of giving up even a moment of my precious weekend hours, which are typically spent getting our apartment in order, writing away and getting to spend some fun time with the husband, for grocery shopping just became too much to bear. Not to mention the annoyance of carting groceries up to our apartment. So last week when I realized that this weekend would need to be a grocery shopping extravaganza, I decided to give Fresh Direct a try.

I scoured the website, filling up my cyber shopping cart with fruits and veggies galore (I admittedly may have overbought), sticking to my general shopping technique of purchasing what's in season and on sale. I found giant packs of chicken breasts, frozen shrimp and lean ground beef - my usual staple proteins. Most of my favorite name brand products were available and for similar, if not lower prices than in store. Not only did I score better deals on cold cuts and vegetables (which lead to my fabulous grilled zucchini) than at my local A&P, but I hunted down an electronic coupon which scored me a sweet 25% off my order bringing my order total to way, way less than what I'd usually spend on a bi-monthly shopping trip. Oh, and the fact that much of the produce is grown locally, with plenty of organic options, is just the icing on the proverbial cake.

So that nagging pang of guilt at the thought of delivered groceries? Let's just say, like many things in life, its been zapped away by convenience and low prices. Now it's the thought of ever having to visit a grocery store again that gives me an itty bitty pang of anxiety.

So what's your thought on the groceries-being-delivered movement? Are you on board? Resisting? Waiting for it to come to a neighborhood near you?

*Images borrowed from FreshDirect.com