Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Saving Money At The Food Store

With the rise in food prices I thought that I'd share some ways in which you can save some of your hard earned moola. I don't know about where you live but I've noticed over the past several months that the price of nearly everything at the food store has increased quite a bit and I'm not happy about it. A girl's gotta eat but a girl also likes to have hydro, water and some clothes on her back. With the way food prices are soaring you want to get more bang for your meagre buck!

As someone who loves to eat and cook for my family of five I need to make sure that we stay on target with our monthly budget. Sadly, we're not sitting on a mountain of cash nor do we own a chicken that lays golden eggs so keeping to our monthly budget is important. But, saving money doesn't mean that all we eat are weiners'n'beans or Kraft Dinner every night! You can make fantastic, healthy, less costly and less additive-ridden meals -- you just have to plan ahead.

Be Organized! --- This is where my Type A personality is a total benefit!! I knew there was a reason I'm so anal! This is it! I love me a nice, neat list (and get giddy when I can check off stuff) so when I came across a wonderful little app for my iPhone that listed my grocery list for me I knew it had to be mine! MINE! It is aptly (ha ha) called "Groceries" (ingenious!), is very easy to use and I think only cost me $2. I literally use it every day. I have one list for food, one for Walmart and even one for Costco -- all within the same app. That way, when I'm looking through the food store flyers or we run out of something I put it on the list right away. It's pretty hectic inside my cranium. My mind has a lot going on inside it and therefore sometimes has a knack for getting sidetracked and then .... uh, .... um .... what was I saying?!?

Make a Weekly Meal Plan --- Devise a weekly meal plan, make a food list and STICK TO IT!! Do not 'just go pick something up' at the food store. Have a plan, man! And for the love of all that is good and holy, if you are married to a man who doesn't understand how to save a buck at the food store do not send him out to pick up some bread because he'll come back with ice cream, chips and 4L of chocolate milk. Not that I have any experience with that. ;)

I like to keep my meal planning simple and tend to only plan out our suppers and lunches. Breakfasts are no brainers around here because my kids are total cereal junkies (I really should invest in General Mills for all of the Cheerios we go through in a given month). You'll save a lot if you just get what's on your list! But, you may ask, what if I see things on sale?!? By making a list, and looking at the flyers ahead of time, you'll already know what's on sale before you even head out the door!

If you're not too adventurous and want to keep things simple use a rotating meal plan. Plan 4 weeks of meals and make those same meals each month. Or, better yet? Make meals in bulk and freeze them! That makes the prep time on a daily basis next to nothing and you can save money by buying your meat in bulk packages. Win, win!

Read your Flyers & Price Match --- Do your homework and read your weekly flyers! It's makes sense/cents to do the leg work and see which food stores will price match (hello, No Frills!). Many stores don't scream it from the rooftops that they price match so you'll have to ask. They like to keep that information to their own fine selves. Once you know the ins and outs you can save a bundle! Plus, price matching at a local store will save you on the insanely high price of gas and the hassle of driving all over God's creation to save a buck or two on grapes!

Buy generic brands instead of pricier name brands when possible --- Often you can save quite a bit if you buy the store brand/no name/generic brand instead of the more expensive but more recognized name brand food. Not all food was created equally I realize. There are specific generic items that I know are just as good as the name brand but there are also generic brands that are not fit to be eaten by man nor beast. Cereal, condensed soups (used in casseroles, not for eating on their own), dry pasta and yogurt (President's Choice) are many of the items where I try to buy generic to save some coin. The more generic goods you can buy the better for your wallet!

Buy in bulk --- I do love to buy some things in bulk. Meat (ie ground beef, pork chops/tenderloin), potatoes, yellow onions and paper products like toilet paper and Kleenex can save you a bundle if you buy in bulk. The trick is to know what this stuff costs so you can compare the prices. Sometimes buying in bulk doesn't save you as much as you think.

Use store credit points --- I've been using President's Choice (used in the Loblaws/Zehrs/No Frills chains) for many years now and I adore their simple to use points programme. I thought I'd do a little experiment to see just how many points I can accrue. So from January 2011 until May 2011 I hoarded all of my PC points. I used my PC Mastercard each time I bought food, then I'd pay it off as soon as I got home. This way, I got more points on my card (you get more points for using their Mastercard) for minimal effort on my part. The result?!? Over $100 of free (yes, F-R-E-E) plants for my flower and veggie gardens! I could have used those points on pretty much anything in their store but I chose to pimp up my gardens! I'm going to continue doing this and save up my points for free food or free stuff for my kitchen. I adore free money!

Updated June 25, 2013 -- I have to add that for the past few months, when I redeem my PC Points at the food store ($90 every 6 weeks or so) I have been withdrawing the amount I just saved in cash.  This cash is then kept in the Bookworm Family Summer Fun Fund so we can have a ball together going to Niagara Falls, going out for supper etc.  I just started this saving a few months ago and with the money from our recent garage sale I've saved $495!!!  It's free money, people! My favourite kind!

Buy local, in season produce --- Buying strawberries in February in Ontario isn't the cheapest fruit option out there. Nor is it the freshest! See how fresh you feel after travelling all the way from down south!! Go with the flow of Mother Nature. Buy local produce that's in season and plan your meals accordingly.

Buying directly from the farmer is even better! The money goes directly to the people who provide the food and cuts out the middle man. Our family has recently tried buying beef directly from a farmer and have been very impressed with the better quality and the ease of having beef available in my freezer when a quick meal is needed.

Grow your own! --- A great option in these hot summer months is to grow your own! I LOVE having my very own little plot of land to grow my tomatoes, herbs, rhubarb, beans and beloved strawberries! If you have a big enough garden you can even can your excess and use it in the winter months! Plus you have the added benefit of involving your family in growing their food!

If you bake it, they will come -- Cut down on a lot of your food bill by baking your own. Granola bars, packaged brownies/cookies, cereal bars etc are really expensive. Take a half hour and whip up some muffins or your own cereal bars. Freeze some for those mornings when you're scrambling to make the kids lunches with what you have on hand.

Buy cheaper cuts of meat -- Cheaper cuts of meat is why the crockpot was created! Put a cheap blade roast in a crockpot and 8 hours later it falls apart it's soooo tender. Delish and easier on your wallet!

Now, saving money isn't all rainbows and unicorns. There are some ways
to screw it upthat are less beneficial for your wallet. Here are some of "The pitfalls" (cue scary, intense music)

Buying too much -- Just because a food is on sale doesn't mean you have to buy enough to feed your family, your neighbours and their in-laws until next year. Even canned goods have expiry dates so watch out! Saving money only happens if you use what you buy. If you end up throwing out half of the grapes you bought on sale you haven't saved any money! Just remember that it's a great idea to stock up on items you use often (ie spaghetti sauce, noodles, coffee, cheese, cereal) but I'd suggest only buying enough to get you through the next month. Chances are the store will have another sale and you can stock up again.

Shopping when you're hungry -- this is a no brainer, people! Everything looks tasty when you're hungry! Eat before you shop, stick to your list and you'll be fine!

Not storing your food properly! -- If you're not going to eat all 10lbs of ground beef that you bought today make sure you buy good quality freezer bags to freeze the rest. Label them clearly with what's in the bag (nothing worse than mystery meat!) and the date that you put it in the freezer. Have a 'first in, first out' method of using your frozen wares. I hate seeing a freezer bag of meat that is past it's 'safe to eat' date because it got lost in the abyss that is my deep freeze. Organize and all will be well.

Another great option for keeping your food fresher is by investing in some great Tupperware veggie keepers. I have to admit that I'm not a big Tupperware junkie like some people. I do have a few pieces given to me but overall I'm more of a Lock'n'Loc gal. BUT, I have been converted! About a month ago I bought two Tupperware Fridgesmart containers and have seen the light! I'm one of those people where if you tell me an item does something spectacular I'm not going to believe it until I see it! And honestly? They really do keep your veggies fresher. No more limp green onions or shrivelled up green peppers! Oh no! And strawberries?!? Don't get me started on how long they lasted! Yes, a good set of Tupperware containers can prolong the life of your produce which gives you more time to use it up OR allows you to buy more when it's on sale knowing that it'll last longer in your fridge.

I hope that these tips will help you keep more money in your pocket and save you time in the kitchen.

So, how do YOU save money at the grocery store?? Share your tips!!


Renee said...

I love to save money! Another thing I do is make my own cleaning products. Vinegar, baking soda, castle soap, borax and essential oils....all are the basis of my cleaning regime and are so much cheaper and safer than commercial synthetic products.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Hi Renee,
Makingy your own cleaning products is a great tip. Plus you get to choose what you use to make it!

Apron Appeal said...

Stick to the list. When I say I need 1 can of cream of chicken soup....I only buy one 1 can. This way I can feed my family for under $250.00 a month if I go outside of my list, I'm toast. I prepare as much as I can from scratch, Doesn't save me time, but it saves me money AND I go for the 4 week meal planner so that as I'm searching through the ads I know exactly what I need and I can shuffle meals around so that I can make what's on sale.

Oh and they other thing I do to save money, I send my husband to do the grocery shopping, he doesn't dare deviate from the list because he doesn't know what most of the stuff is I'm asking for so...it works.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Great ideas! It's so easy to be out shopping and say to yourself "I'll just pick up this item because I KNOW I'll use it for something". Then you get home and forget which recipe you meant to use it in and it gets shelved only to collect dust in your pantry.
Another thing that we started doing 2 months ago was keeping a spreadsheet (we embrace our inner geek) to keep track of ALL expenses, including food. Our original budget was way off what we were spending so now, after looking at our true spending, we have a much more realistic idea of what we spend on food. Seeing where your money goes can be eye opening. All those little 'odds and ends' really add up!

TheBookGirl said...

Thanks for the idea about the app for the phone. I have an android phone and I'm off to see if there is a good grocery app for me.

I have learned my lesson about bulk buying: I love Costco to death, but I have learned what things are just not reasonable buys for me there because we don't use them fast enough. It's funny that you mention grapes, because that's one of the things that I have given up buying at Costco for that very reason.

Jen at The Three Little Piglets said...

I follow blogs that relate to my favorite stores that post deals and match up coupons. Sometimes it's not what I need, but sometimes I see something I missed when I went through the flyer myself. Helps me make a plan and stick to it! That way, on a week when I'm under budget, I can spend the extra stocking up on whatever meat is on sale to keep my freezer well stocked.

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