Monday, November 21, 2011

{Money Smarts} Saving on Groceries - The No Coupon Edition

With the feast-of-all-feasts coming up, I thought it an appropriate time to talk groceries. I've done a lot of learning-the-hard-way over the years, and many of you shared awesome grocery tips.

I'm going to be sharing your couponing tips in the next post, but this one is just for those days/weeks/lifetimes that you can't deal with coupons, but still want to save!

1. Meal Plan!

I'm using that as a verb. Sorry if that offends you. I started meal planning a few years ago, and now I can't imagine NOT doing it. What on earth would I do at the grocery store before that?!

We are too fickle to plan out what we're going to eat on a specific day, so I just plan for the number of days between shopping trips (usually 7, because we run out of fresh fruit by then). I come up with 8 meals--7 that I'm planning on, and a back-up easy one in case we're fickle AND too lazy to really cook.

For a while before I got pregnant with Charlie I was crazy and would only grocery shop every two weeks. The second week we just ate canned or frozen fruits/veg. Part of it was I wanted to resist impulse buys, and part of it was, I hated Wal*Mart. (Now I just don't shop there.)

2. Plan Around Sales

I'm still not great at this, because we are picky eaters, but some of you mentioned that you do your meal plan based on what is on sale that week--beef v. chicken, pasta v. rice, fruits/veggies. Brilliant! I am adding this my list of financial to-do's. (It is getting long.)

3. Stock Up

From my limited couponing knowledge I can tell you that grocery stores put things on sale in cycles, with the lowest price happening about every six weeks. Sites like Southern Savers are great for this--they only post items when they are at their lowest, so you don't have to track it yourself. When things are super cheap, stock up! We go through cereal and pasta like crazy, so I always snatch a bunch of that up when its cheap, and then it is always in my pantry ready to go.

4. Get a Raincheck

If the thing you want that is on crazy good sale is wiped clean off the shelves, get a raincheck! (Rainchecks are a little certificate the store issues saying they will honor the sale price for you at a later date when they have stock back in.)

This can work out GREAT if you coupon, but is wonderful even if you don't. I bought 6 jars of Prego last week for less than $1 each a couple weeks back, because I had a BOGO raincheck, and then they went on sale. So I paid the sale price of 3 and then got 3 more free. It was awesome.

5. Stick to the Budget

A lot of you mentioned this (wait, do you want your names dropped? Nicole, Jenna, and Madeline!) and I think it is key. First, budget an amount that you think you can actually keep yourself under (not the amount you WISH you could handle--there's time for that later). Then, stick to it. That means if you're two days from the end of the month and there is $0 in the grocery budget, eat out of the fridge, freezer, and pantry.

This is one of those things that I've never done. If we run out of food, I've always just gone to get more. But that makes no sense considering how much we have already. This month, we're going for it, and so far, so good!

6. Batch Cooking/Freezer Meals

My friend Melissa is a mother of 6 kids, all 8 and under (yes, she is amazing), and she is one of my guru's for everything motherhood. (I've emailed her about everything from budgeting to getting a baby to sleep through the night--she always seems to know the answers.) Anyway SHE WOULD KNOW, right?

She said freezer meals save a bunch. I started doing this mostly because I hate cooking at the end of the day, but now I will also do it because it saves money. Two ways: first, it is usually cheaper to buy in bulk. Second, having something on hand to defrost means we are FAR less likely to order pizza instead. Which we did waaay to much in September. Just saying.

What I do is just make dinner for that night, plus 1 or 2 more batches of it, then freeze. Some stuff gets frozen before its cooked (like pizza dough) others after (like I just made a huge batch of chili and we ate it and had 2 meals worth left).

7. WIC

Okay this is a little off-topic, but I'm going to mention it because (a) lots of people don't know about it and (b) it really helps our grocery bill. WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children, and it is a state-run grocery supplement program for pregnant or nursing women, babies, and children under 5. If you are under a certain income level and are one of those things, you qualify.

You go in once every 3 months to get "re-certified" which means they do weight check and an iron-level check, talk to you about eating habits, and occasionally you take a short nutrition class. It usually takes about an hour and a half. Then they give you vouchers for things like fruits/veggies, milk, eggs, cheese, bread, cereal, beans, and peanut butter. For babies, they provide formula, grain cereal, and baby food.

I know some people feel iffy about using WIC, because they feel like they are mooching off the system, but here is how I see it. Right now we are in a situation where it really helps our family. That is what it is there for. I know that I pour my girlie more glasses of milk than I would if I had to foot the bill on my own. It is a great program, and I am really glad it exists. Someday we will not need it--we'll be making more money and we will be paying more in taxes, and I figure some of our tax money will go toward helping someone else get more milk for their babies.

Also, I usually don't pick up things I won't use just because they are on the voucher. For example, we don't eat tuna, so I never got it. Charlie is just about done with baby food, so I probably won't be getting that anymore, either, even if they give me a voucher for it.

Here is the national WIC website if you want to learn more about your state's WIC program.

Phew! We're done.

1 comment:

hughesfamily said...

YAY for budgets! I love all of this info...good reminders for me, too!

Also, PLEASE use WIC! I would rather tax money go to people who deserve it! No judgment here. Gracie needs milk! I may check it out... :)