Mar 312012

Grocery Cart - left right outside

This week’s guest post is by Erin from My Mommy World:

One of my favorite ways to save money is by using smart shopping at the grocery store. It’s one way I can help contribute to my family as a stay-at-home mom…if I can keep my grocery bill very low, then we can stretch our one income a lot farther than it would normally go.

Since I’ve been practicing couponing, I’ve managed to bring our weekly grocery budget down from approximately $150 per week to only $80 per week. And that’s about to get even lower because we are pretty close to becoming a diaper-free home :)

These are some of my favorite ways to save at the grocery store:

1. Shop your store’s sales flyer–This is a pretty simple concept…if it’s not on sale, don’t buy it. I used to make the mistake of planning meals based on what I felt like having that week and then when I got to the store, I usually paid full price for everything on my menu. I’ve learned now to base my menu on what the store has on sale that week, resulting in a much lower grocery bill.

2. Sign up for your store’s club card–Not only do cardholders usually get better prices on items in the store, but sometimes they offer special incentives. My local grocery store, Harris Teeter, offers its members special electronic coupons and special weekend deals on a few select items. I have gotten some of my greatest deals from these special offerings, especially when I can combine them with a coupon.

3. Use coupons–I’ve had many friends and family members tell me that they don’t bother with coupons because it is too much trouble and that the coupons are usually for things that they can’t or don’t use. I used to think that too until I started using them. There are coupons out there for almost everything that we use! It does take some time each week to organize your coupons and compare them to your store’s weekly ad, but the savings can be huge. Look for a store that doubles coupons for your biggest savings.

4. Look for discounted meat–A good friend introduced me to this great concept. My store marks down meat that is about to expire, and that’s a huge money saver for our family, especially since my husband likes to eat meat every night for dinner. I’ve been able to get a 3 1/2 pound pot roast that normally sells for $13 for only $3 because I bought it the day before it was set to expire. I took it home and immediately put it in the freezer so that it wouldn’t go bad. We had a delicious pot roast dinner that following Sunday and it tasted even better because I knew I had saved so much!

5. Look for discounted fruits/vegetables–This is along the same lines as the previous tip, but looking for bargains on your favorite produce can save you big time. My store has a rack in the back of the produce department where I’ve been able to pick up discounted apples, bananas, oranges, butternut squash, potatoes and onions. They are heavily discounted and still just fine to eat or bake with.

6. Shop at different stores–I’m lucky enough to live in an area with many different grocery stores to pick from. I do my main grocery shopping at Harris Teeter, but I also like to take a trip to Aldi from time to time. Aldi has great prices on produce, but I know I can do better at Harris Teeter on things like cereal and meats. Take some time to explore other stores to see which ones offer you the best prices and take turns shopping at each of them.

7. Make your own–It’s very easy to make a quick batch of homemade pancakes and stick them in the freezer, and you’ll save a lot of money over the frozen ones in the supermarket. I’ve experimented with making my own homemade applesauce (using discounted apples from the clearance rack), pancakes and sandwich bread and found that homemade not only tastes better, but saves us a lot of money too!

8. Don’t shop without a plan–I’ve made the mistake of trying to shop for a week’s worth of meals without a list…I always fail miserably. I forget certain items or buy more than I intended to because I forgot which meals I was thinking of making while walking up and down the aisles of the store. Always try to plan out your menu and shopping list before you get to the store so that you know what you need to get.

9. Use cash instead of your debit card–This is a new rule for me, but something I’m hoping to make a permanent habit soon. When I use my debit card, I know there is always enough in my account if I want to make an impulse purchase…usually of something I know we don’t need…but if I have a set amount of cash in my wallet, I know that I cannot buy anything extra that could make me overspend.

10. Tips from friendsWhat are some money-saving tips that you use at the grocery store?

Erin is a wife, a stay-at-home mom to 2 young children, an aspiring runner, fitness junkie and scrapbooker. She works hard to shop smart, save her family’s hard-earned money, and balance her interests, all while blogging about it over at

Dec 232011

Here’s a last-minute gift idea: assemble your own gift baskets at Cost Plus World Market.  Each year my husband and I give gift baskets to a few people that we have business relationships with.  Normally we would order them from Harry and David (for $28 each for the smallest little box) or from Costco (for $28 each for a small basket).  I needed to keep our costs down this year because of some unexpected expenses that came up this month, so I decided to try assembling our own gift baskets.  Someone tipped me off that Cost Plus World Market has a great selection of baskets and goodies, so off I went.  And am I glad I did!  Cost Plus had small empty baskets, with cellophane wrapping, raffia stuffing and ribbon, and a gift tag, for $3.99 each (well, they were $4.99 plus 25% off).  They also had a huge selection of imported crackers, shelf-stable cheeses, salamis, wine, cookie mixes, soup mixes, teas, candies, and pretty much any other good item that would be perfect for gift baskets.  I filled each basket with a large bag of cookies, a box of gourmet pretzels, salami, brie cheese, gourmet crackers, and flavoured macadamia nuts.  Total cost: $17 each!  So, we saved a whopping $44 and gave gift baskets that were equal in value to the ones we used to order.

Do you make any changes to save money in your gift-giving this year?

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Dec 222011

Salvage grocery stores buy soon-to-be-expired or damaged food from groceries at resell it at bargain prices. Apparently, this can be a great way to save a lot of money on groceries, especially all-natural and organic eggs, meat and dairy.  Unfortunately, there are no such salvage stores near where I live, but you should check this directory to see if there might be a one near you.
Have you shopped at a salvage grocery store before?
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Oct 282011

An excellent way to enjoy gift-giving during the holidays without breaking your budget is to start a gift circle among the group of people that you typically exchange gifts with (you might have one circle for your family and one for your group of close friends). That way, you’re only buying one gift, but everyone gets to enjoy the process of giving and receiving. You can add more fun to the process by creating a theme for that year’s presents.
As you might remember from a recent post, my husband’s family does a gift circle each year, with a purchase limit of $40. (At Thanksgiving we write our names on pieces of paper, put them in a hat (or whatever) and draw names.) A couple years ago we decided to create a theme for that year’s presents, so no matter which name you drew, you had to find a present that fit within the theme. Here are the themes that we use:

  • Food (possible gifts: cooking/baking/BBQ utensils/actual food to eat/cookbooks/gift cert to grocery store or restaurant…) 
  • Clothing and accessories (possible gifts:clothes, hats, belts, scarves, jewelry, socks, boxers shorts, tank tops…) 
  • Home (possible gifts:housewares,home improvement tools, house decorations/art, garden tools…) 
  • Feet (possible gifts:shoes, slippers, athletic socks, dress socks, toe nail polish, pedicure kit, gift cert for pedicure) 
  • Outdoor activities (possible gifts:camping/hiking/hunting/fishing gear, exercise clothes/equipment, beach stuff, garden tools…) 
  • Rest, Reading and Relaxation (possible gifts:pajamas, books, slippers, spa stuff, magazine subscriptions, tea) 

Although a theme might feel limiting (what if you wanted to buy your sister a scarf, but it’s a “Feet” theme?), I find that on the whole it results in more creativity and more fun.  Instead of people opting for the default presents (sweater for Dad, fancy soap for Mom) they are prompted to think “outside the box.”

    Do you use gift circles or gift themes for the holidays?

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