Last week I was asked about my grocery shopping budget and shopping habits now that I am following the Trim Healthy Mama diet. If you are a long time reader of my blog you will know that I was once a hard core couponer and have talked often about couponing in posts like "Using Coupons and Clearing up Coupon Confusions", and "Works for Me Wednesday - Coupon Binder". Couponing was a lifesaver for me for the longest time because we were on a very tight budget and it allowed me to feed my family on a very tight budget. As time progressed I began to change our eating habits and stopped using coupons altogether as we began a whole foods type of eating. My grocery bill went sky high, my pantry started thinning out, and my kids were complaining because there were no quick snacks. This wasn't working for us either. Now we find our family still eating somewhat of a whole foods diet, although not as rigid as we once were, and needing to tighten back up on our grocery bill. My weekly grocery budget is between $125 and $150 a week for a family of five this also includes our paper products, cleaning supplies, and health and beauty items.
So the problem is this, if you are following a healthier way of living and are trying to save money on groceries how do you do that?
Yes, there are many coupons for processed foods but you don't have to buy those items. However using the coupons for items that you will use are a huge budget helper. I stick to using coupons for items like shampoo, soap, deodorant, paper products, and pet foods. I can also find coupons quite often for items like Dreamfield pasta, almond milk, and spices. I will also use coupons from time to time to buy sugary treats for my kiddos - these are items that are just that treats, they don't get to eat them often and are given to them very sparingly. Last week alone I saved $42.04 with coupons on these type of items.
Stock up When Items are on Sale
This is one of the biggest money saving principles that I have found and can't stress it enough. Always stock up when items are on sale!!! I use this principle most often when it comes to meat. This means some weeks my entire grocery budget is eaten up by purchasing meats, but on the other side of things I have not purchased any meat in three weeks because I have a well stocked freezer, and that frees my budget up to stock up on other things.
Plan Your Meals
Menu planning is such a money saver for me for multiple reasons. The first reason is that it allows me to utilize items I already have at home by planning my meals around what is in my pantry. The second reason is that having a plan helps prevent me from resorting to the drive thru for dinner. Thirdly, having a meal plan before I go to the grocery store means that I only buy what I need to fix the week's menu items, which keeps me from spending money on items I do not need. And lastly, it keeps me out of the store which saves me money because I can never run into a store and pick up just one item, I always end up spending way more than I plan to on those little runs, so for me staying out of the store saves me money!
If you have a Meijer near you than you most definitely should be using Meijer Mperks. You simply sign up for an account that is connected to your cell phone number, then you may virtually "clip" coupons that are automatically applied to your order when you checkout at the store. These coupons may be off of specific products or they may be save $1.50 off produce when you spend $15, or take $3 off of you paper product purchase of $10 or more, or get a free gallon of milk when you spend $25 or more. They also have rewards that allow you to earn money each month. This month the reward I chose was to save $15 off my order when I spend $425, the good thing about this reward is that it calculates the reward pre-coupons and Mperks. So this week while I only spent $150.51 in the store I earned over $200 towards that $425.
Learn where you can find the best prices for items you buy and shop from those stores. For me I shop quite a bit at Meijer because it is across the street from our church and is convenient but I also shop Sam's Club. I have been able to find great deals at Sam's Club on meat, dairy, and produce. This is where I buy the majority of these items. I also buy my toilet paper and trash bags here. I can buy these items in bulk here much cheaper than I can buy them with coupons. However, if I run across coupons for them that make them super cheap I will also buy them as well just to have on hand.
Grow it Yourself
We have 25 hens that supply us with our eggs each week. We also raise a few chickens for meat. We raised a few turkeys this year for meat purposes but for us they weren't the worth it and we won't be raising them again in the future. We also have a few rabbits that are going to be used to supply us with meat. We also have three goats, two nannies and a billy, once the nannies give birth they will be used for milk.
We also grow a garden each year that allows us to have fresh produce. This past year I began researching ways to extend the growing season and hope to reach the point where I can keep the garden growing year round. The book The Complete Idiot's guide to Year Round Gardening has been an extreme help to me here.
One of the other big ways that I save money is by preserving foods when they are in season. Everything from my garden that isn't used immediately is preserved. Tomatoes are canned in salsa or whole, green peppers are chopped and frozen, and cucumbers are pickled. My neighbor has an apple tree and offered me apples. The apples were made into apple sauce, and apple pie filling then canned. By buying these items when they are in season they are cheaper (or if you grow them yourself they are free) and then can be used throughout the year when their prices are much higher.
I am linking this post to Works For Me Wednesday at We Are That Family