Grocery Shopping Strategies

I would like to share some of the money-saving shopping strategies I use. I’ve never been a “coupon-clipper”, but I do have a few other tricks I use that keep our costs down quite a bit!

Stockpile Non-Perishable Staples

There are always going to be those items that you need over and over again when you cook.  You know you’re going to use them, so why not stock up?  The trick is to learn what those staples cost and watch for them to go on sale to take advantage of considerable savings.

If you watch your favorite store(s) closely enough, you’ll even start to notice trends that you can take advantage of.  For instance, I used to be able to bank on Green Giant frozen vegetables going on sale every other month or so.  Since the recession, this has changed a bit, but during that time, I could buy enough frozen veggies to last us 2 months.  The savings were considerable.  It was common to see a 30% to 40% discount.  That really ads up!

If you use things like tomato sauce in a lot of recipes and your favorite brand tends to go on sale every few months, stock up!  Don’t be afraid to buy an entire case of the stuff.  I promise, you’ll use it.  If storage is a problem, try thinking outside the box.  Not everything has to be stored in the kitchen.  Setup some shelves in the garage or basement.  If shelves aren’t possible, try totes.  Label them so it’s easy to find the cans you want to restock your kitchen shelves with.

Don’t forget to restock the kitchen with the oldest cans first.  You don’t want anything to sit too long.  If you have the convenience of using shelves, you’ll want to move your new product to the back and old to the front.  Most canned goods aren’t too sensitive to this, but it’s still a good habit to get into.

Menu Planning – Not just for the insanely organized.

I would not exactly characterize myself as a planner.  I prefer to float along and adapt as I go, but I’ve learned after many years of chaos that it is easier to give yourself at least some type of plan to make life easier!  Menu planning was something that I used to chuckle about.  Who wants to know 2 weeks in advance what they will be eating next Wed. night?  What if I’m just not in the mood for it?

Eventually I realized that planning my menu didn’t mean that meals couldn’t be switched around as the week unfolded.  I’m really just planning a certain number of meals over a certain span of time and then buying groceries for those exact meals.  I can look at my calendar and recognize that there are at least 2 busy nights next week, so I’ll plan a couple of easy-to-cook meals in there.  As I plan, I’ll look through my cupboards for inspiration (remember that tomato sauce we stocked up on? – now is the time to use it!).  I can also look at my little plan for the last 2 weeks and make sure that we aren’t being too repetitive.  I don’t know about you, but I hate eating the same items over and over again!  I plan out the meals, make a list of the ingredients I’m missing and plan my trip to the store.

It’s not uncommon for me to look through my favorite grocery store’s weekly sales flyer while I’m planning.  Leveraging sales items into the plan helps me keep the costs even lower!  Sometimes it reminds me of a recipe that I’d forgotten about.

The Main Dish Spreadsheet

One other thing I do to help with planning and shopping is a spreadsheet I keep with the dishes that I tend to use over and over again.  I don’t have actual recipes listed (I know them all by heart!), but I do have side dish ideas listed.  I also break the file up into separate tabs based on the meat that I make it from.  So, on the Beef tab, I’ll have things like tacos, sloppy joes, meatloaf, grilled burgers, spaghetti with meat sauce, etc.  On the Chicken tab there is my favorite chicken casserole, chicken marsala, chicken alfredo, and more. It works for me, but experiment to find a way that makes the most sense to you.

This list is very handy when I’m trying to come up with a week’s worth of meals.  With the spreadsheet, my sales flyers, a general idea of what is in the cupboard, and my calendar I am all set to determine what we need for the next week.

How does a plan save us money?

So why have I included menu planning in an article about shopping strategies?  Because it forces us to create a list and take advantage of the savings that are available right now. If we stick to our list and buy in bulk during sales, we will always come out ahead of the person who simply goes to the store and buys whatever looks good.

Don’t forget, you aren’t locked into using the exact meals you planned.  Mix it up as needed and adapt.  You’ll just be very happy to know that you have everything you need before you start cooking!  And the savings will make you feel even better.  Give it a try!  You won’t regret it.

The Geeky Mom Tools I Use:

http://www.libreoffice.org
http://www.google.com/calendar

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