Sunday, December 26, 2010


December 26, 2010

As a roast simmers on the stove and the air fills with the delightful smell of bread in the bread machine my thoughts turn to what I consider “the cooking season”. The weather outside is below freezing, so what better way to warm up the house than to cook?

Only cooking can be the biggest part of any household budget, beyond your house payment. It is also the easiest one to go over budget on, therefore special attention needs to be paid here.

There are numerous ways to cut grocery costs and there is absolutely no way I could even begin to list all the ways to cut those costs, but I can list several. It is my hope that you will add more cost cutting measures to what I’m listing.

So let’s get started:

LOSS LEADERS, as I explained in the previous post on the blog loss leaders are an incentive to get you into the store. It is also one of the best ways to cut your grocery costs.

The best way to use them is to first learn what day your local grocery puts out there weekly sales ads. In some cities it’s Sunday’s others it’s Wednesday, your town may be entirely different. It is important to know how long a sale will last, it could be very frustrating to go to a store on a Sunday and find out the ad you planned your shopping around ended at midnight the night before.

I personally do not subscribe to a newspaper, and I live rurally so I seldom if ever get sales flyers in my mail, especially since I have registered our address on the no junk mail website. So I must be a little more creative about getting my ads. It’s a simple tool called “the internet”. Yep, just about every store known to man has a website with their weekly sales flyer on it.

Once I’ve located where these ads will be for the stores I’m doing cost comparison at I bookmark the site and/or subscribe to their email ads. I do this not only for grocery ads, but for hobby stores, and my husband gets notices and fuel coupons from Murphy fuel stations in his email on a regular basis.

Once you get the sales ads take time to sit down and really look at them. Just because it’s in a sales flyer does not mean it is on sale. Read the ads closely. Even better get out your PRICE BOOK (more on this in a moment) and do some serious comparison of not just price, but sizes.

Now make a list of the things that your family will truly eat that is truly on sale. Store by store, it’s always better to compare various stores loss leaders. Here’s one trick you may not know. Many major stores like Wal-Mart, Target and others (not just grocery stores) will do price match for IDENTICAL items. So if your local grocery has say a name brand frozen food on sale that you want, but it’s not worth the drive to pick up just that one item, take the ad to one of the price matching stores and get it for the same price there. Not only do you get the item for a lower price, but you don’t burn extra fuel or time to pick up the item.

Once you get the list made, you can possibly plan a menu for the week around these loss leaders. You can also consider stocking up to help cut your food costs for future meals. Ideally this is what you want to do if you are trying to meet the $1 a day challenge. Some stores will limit you on how many of what item per person per purchase you can get.

There are, of course, ways around this limit. Shop more than one time, more than one store, or take a shopping buddy with you. If the store is out of an item request a RAIN CHECK. This can be a true help in cutting costs. Because it allows you to spread out the cost of those more popular items. It is simply a coupon to purchase X amount of that item at the loss leader price when the store once again has it in stock.

Now about that PRICE BOOK. What you put in a price book is entirely up to you. My personal one is a spread sheet. The rows are the items ie: Chicken, leg quarters per pound; chicken, boneless skinless breasts per pound; Green Giant green beans 14 oz can. Being who I am it’s alphabetized for speed in locating an item.

The columns are the stores ie: Wal-Mart; Target, Dollar General, Aldis etc.

Then I start filling in the columns with the non-sale (every day) prices for each store. This can be quite time consuming at first. I recommend using grocery receipts you have at home to start out doing this, you can gather a lot of information and fill in the spreadsheet as you watch tv. Then each time you go to a grocery gather a little information while you are there. Just spend five minutes or so on a single aisle making notes and after a while you will have all the stores done with little effort.

Another way to save money is couponing. I am a former coupon/rebate queen. In the 80’s I was like those ladies you read about. I did not pay for groceries, in fact a grocery store once paid me because they doubled the free food coupons I had. Back then I ate only name brands, worked hard at rebating and our stores doubled and sometimes even tripled.

Those days are gone for me. I use very few ready made mixes or convenience foods. I clean with basic cleaners and like I said I do not purchase newspapers or magazines any longer. What I do have is a large box of non-expiring coupons from those days on basic items. So as the loss leaders pop up I will use those coupons until they are gone.

You can also download coupons from the internet, but be aware many stores will not take internet coupons, so before you waste the time, ink and paper check with the stores you will be shopping at.

There are also several individuals who will, for a fee, send you sets of coupons via the mail. I personally have not used any of these services, so I have no idea if they are cost affective or not.

Remember, a coupon is only good if it is an item you will truly use normally and it brings the price down below similar items that are equally as good. Ideally you want to match your coupons to the loss leader sale ad for the best deal. Also if you shop at places like CVS they have special store credits they hand out for certain purchases that can be used to bring your prices even lower.

If you are blessed enough to live in an area that still doubles coupons, by all means read their rules closely and then take advantage of it.

STORE BRANDS. Quite often a store brand is produced at the exact same factory as a name brand. It is in fact the same item, just a different label. But not always. Know what your family will and won’t eat. It’s not a good deal if your family won’t eat it.

Example: My family will eat the store brand instant oatmeal just as well as they will eat the Quaker of the same flavor. The store brand is of course much cheaper (but not as cheap as making your own instant oatmeal—a recipe to post at another time). However, we find the store brand raisin bran cereal tough and unpalatable, so we stick with our favorite name brand.

BULK COOKING. I’ve already wrote volumes on this in the past, simply do a search in my blog using the search feature at the left using key words/phrases like bulk cooking, Once a Month Cooking, OAMC , OMC and you should be able to pull up the posts on it.

GARDENING. I’ve done a few posts on this in the past and as spring approaches I will be doing more. Anyone can garden, no matter where they live. Many a garden is grown in window boxes and flower pots. Remember even one tomato plant gives you garden fresh tomatoes year round (yes they are a perennial) even in the coldest climates if you bring the plant inside when the weather turns nippy.

PORTION CONTROL. My last post had a lot on this, but it needs to be pointed out again. Control the portions, control the cost.

PLANNED LEFTOVERS. Instead of trying to figure out what to do with a leftover after the fact, plan for it before you even cook. Then once the cooking is finished set that leftover aside before serving up the meal. I’ll do a post in the future on the numerous ways you can use leftovers you may never even have thought of.

This has ran on too long, so I’ll close for now.

Jan who is looking forward to your suggestions on cutting grocery costs in OK


  1. Jan, those are good suggestions! Like you, I don't get a paper but I get the sales flyers for local stores delivered to my inbox and that works well. I also keep a price book but don't use a lot of coupons. I use non-food coupons the most but I just don't find coupons for meat, fresh vegetables, and such and I keep processed foods down to a dull roar. Shopping loss leaders is a definite help and for me, a huge help is simply not cooking too much. That's my biggest challenge at the moment.

  2. I purposefully over cook, do planned leftovers and freeze entire meals on a regular basis. It takes no longer to cook a huge pot of chili than a small one. So I cook the big one, then immediately package up the leftovers in meal size containers (which I later pop out and vacuum seal) Then when I need "fast food" I've got it, it takes just a short time to heat up and the savings in cooking time, clean up time and such are great. My family loves being able to nab taco filler from the freezer, nuke it to thaw and eat in less than 15 minutes.