Feeding four kids between the ages of 13 and 6 months is like juggling flaming batons. The struggle is intensified by the nature of our blended family that means I’m always cooking for a different number of mouths. Buying the groceries for my family of six people and making fresh, healthy, and delicious meals is a never-ending free for all between the grocery store weekly ads, my meal plan, coupons, and wallet.
While I’m always looking for new and creative ways to save money at the grocery store, these are the main ways that I’ve managed to cut my grocery bill in half. I love saving money at the grocery store because for the amount of money that we spend every month a lot of other people would be eating cheap noodles and hot dogs over and over again. I know how to work the system, so I can spend that much money but make fresh, healthy meals tailored to my children’s picky preferences.
Weekly Store Ads
Weekly store ads are one of your essential tools for saving money at the grocery store. It’s worth looking at these before you leave your house to shop so you can have a plan of some of the items you’d like to get. You can get the weekly ads online or by having a Sunday paper delivered to your house. It’s important to look before you go so you don’t get carried away in the store. Take a look before and decide how much you would like to spend on some items.
Weekly ads are crucial for every one of the other tips I’ll be talking about, but most importantly, they can help you save money right now, without much more planning involved. Saving money at the grocery store usually means investing more time into grocery store prep, but if you need to get groceries right now without much money, the weekly ad is the place to look.
One thing you notice when you start following sales cycles is that certain items go on sale in a pattern. Yogurt and cheese, for example, always seem to be on sale at least once a month. Other items have a longer, but still very real, cycle. Think about things like school supplies in August, Christmas decorations in January, hot dogs in June. If you think about it, you’ve probably already noticed a lot of sales cycles just from being an average consumer.
Everything has a sales cycle that you can essentially plan your shopping trips around. I’ve been doing this long enough to know how many blocks of cheese my family will eat in the time it takes for them to go on sale again. I never have to buy cheese for full price because there is almost always another sale when I run out.
That brings us to stocking up, or organizing a stock pile. Instead of buying one or two blocks of cheese, I might choose to buy six or seven. The cheese that we don’t actually need right now would be part of my stockpile, another way of saying food I keep stored. I use the sales cycle to determine roughly how much I need of a given item in my stockpile in order to only have to buy it when it’s on sale.
Stocking up is like investing in your groceries. Let’s say cheese is $2 for a half pound, down from $3.50, which is an average sale price I see. I could buy a pound and spend $4, but next week I’ll have to spend $7. Or, I could spend $8 now on two pounds and spend $0 next week.
Gathering a stockpile is frustrating when you don’t have a lot of money to spend on your groceries at any given time. Go slowly, any size budget can start to save money this way. Maybe you can only afford to buy extra cheese this week. Next week, take the $7 you saved and use it to stockpile another item. Pretty soon, you’ll have to buy less and less items at full price until everything you purchase is on sale.
Sales cycles and stocking up are both slightly more long term strategies for saving money, another way you can save money on groceries this week is by meal planning. If you take the time to plan on what meals you want to eat all week before you go grocery shopping, you can build a better list of items to purchase. A shopping list keeps you on track and only getting the things you actually need.
Meal planning with the weekly sales ad is how you can really maximize savings. Meat tends to be the most expensive part of our grocery bills. By looking at what you can find on sale, you can plan around the ingredients that will save the most money. If I find ground hamburger on sale, I can think of a whole week’s worth of ways to cook it that my kids will love and no one will get sick of eating it.
I love my kids and of course I want to spend time with them, but whenever possible, I do the grocery shopping alone. Two main reasons make this idea appealing. First, there is no one else to make requests while I’m walking through the grocery store. If my kids ask for chocolate cereal before I leave the house, I can see if it’s on sale or tell them no without making a scene. Second, I can concentrate better on the planning I’ve done to make sure I get it correct. When I’m trying to keep an eye on my kids, I forget to make sure I’ve got the correct number of items or forget to give my coupons to the cashier. My husband understands that I am a better grocery shopper, so he always makes sure he’s around so I don’t have to drag my brood to the store with me.