How I Reduced Our Grocery Bill By $80 In One Month

Guest post from Rebecca of D & R Tabb

For the past year or two, I have regularly spend $80 per week on groceries (not counting household items) for our family of two (that recently became of family of three!)

The only preparation beforehand included menu planning. I did minimal coupon-clipping and only occasionally price matched on milk.

I decided to spend four weeks trying to reduce my grocery budget — just to see if I could save money without a huge investment of time.

Here’s what happened:

My totals before and after looked like this:

Before

$80 week x 4 = $320/month on groceries

After

4 weeks of shopping sales = $240/month on groceries

Savings: $80

Here’s how I did it:

I switched stores.

I was a loyal Walmart shopper, not because I liked shopping there, but because I was convinced it was the cheapest option. A friend of mine told me she saved money shopping at Kroger. After shopping there for four weeks I believe this made a big impact in my savings, but only if I shopped the sales.

I used the ads.

Every week I got out the circular and looked at it before planning my dinner menu. This forced me to plan recipes based on ingredients that were marked down that week.

I stopped being brand loyal.

I started buying a different brand of chicken that is regularly on sale for $0.99/lb for split, bone-in breasts, or $1.99 for boneless, skinless breasts. When it was on sale, I bought several packages to last me until it was on sale again.

I used the sales.

I only bought produce that was on sale, usually for $0.99/lb. I have occasionally even found organic produce on sale for less than regular produce. For example, this week organic oranges are on sale for $0.99/lb. I had to laugh when I saw regular oranges listed at $1.29/lb. just a few feet away!
I bought the side items for our dinners (i.e. corn and other vegetables) that were on sale.

I have been very pleased with the impact I have been able to make on our grocery budget with minimal changes. I am planning to put the money we save on groceries toward paying down our mortgage debt. Having this goal gives me an even greater incentive to spend a few hours each week mapping out our grocery trip and meal plans.

I know many people have been able to reduce their grocery budget by much more than this, but I am very pleased to see that little changes can produce big results!

Rebecca is a former educator turned stay-at-home mom. She enjoys exercising, reading, and blogging about her life as a wife and new mom at D&R Tabb.

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Comments

  1. Heather says

    Our family has saved money by doing a meal plan every week as well as shopping at Aldi. We used to do the same thing, shop at Wal-mart. With just these 2 changes, we have saved a good amount of money every month :)

  2. says

    To save money on groceries, about one week per month I go on a “shopping fast” and only buy the stuff we desperately need to survive–milk, produce, etc., if we run out of it. I find that we stockpile so well the remaining weeks that we hardly miss it that week, and I spend about $20-25 for the week instead of $70-80. If money is really tight I may do it for 2 weeks instead of 1. Right now I have a freezer FULL of meat including 2 turkeys and 2 hams, so we really don’t NEED to buy meat to get by, which helps a lot.

    • says

      Great idea! It’s been two weeks since I last shopped and I’m challenging myself to cook from the pantry this week too. It’s amazing how much food tends to pile up in the fridge/pantry. A little creativity saves a lot of money!

    • says

      I like to do limit shopping for a couple weeks at a time to find out what I really need to stockpile. The things we hardly eat even when we’re running low on food get reduced in future stockpiles.

  3. Brooke says

    That’s how I have been shopping for about a year or so, and it is soooo much less stressful than using coupons! Plus, I have found that we are eating a lot more “real” food by shopping this way, which is always a plus! Be sure to check Aldi before assuming that a produce sale is a good price, the lowest one local store goes on pineapples is 2.99, while our local Aldi regularly has them for 0.99!!

    • Joyce says

      I have also been very impressed with Aldi’s. Their produce is excellent, and we like their dairy (no hormones, etc) better than anywhere else…plus, it’s cheaper! We recently started making everything (I mean everything…cleaners, detergents, soaps, etc from scratch so there aren’t a lot of coupons I can even use). I will go on a big Aldi’s trip every once in a while and buy 5-6 pineapples, mushrooms, onions, etc when they are a really good price, and then can or freeze them to use later. It saves a lot of money with minimal effort!

  4. sherri says

    Shopping at Kroger saves us money because I am less tempted to by “extras” because the prices are a little higher. I stick to the sales and am not tempted by all the other departments at walmart. I may pay a little more for some staple items, but I save by sticking to the list.

    It’s more enjoyable to shop at a smaller store than a walmart and with a 2 & 3 year old, Grocery stores are definitely more ideal for me since they load and unload all the groceries at the register (and even to the car if needed) so that I can watch the screen and my kiddos. Thanks for the extra tips!

    • says

      I totally agree with this. In our area when I hit Safeway or Raley’s I am much more conservative and focused on my list and those sale items that if I hit Winco or Walmart. I always end up spending more at those two places and get quite a few things that I never intended to purchase in the first place.

    • says

      One of the best tools I use is to go grocery shopping by MYSELF! No kids along and no husband. (these two groups of people always put junk in the cart you never plan on!)I plan my trip early in the week and generally shop Kroger I love the double coupons. Sign up for their electronic coupons also, but the electronic coupons do not double, so unless it is $.55 or higher I don’t bother with them unless it is absolutely a hard coupon to find.

  5. Brandi says

    I too used to shop at Walmart, until I found out that Kroger doubles coupons. I noticed a huge difference right away and quickly said bye bye to Walmart!

  6. joanna says

    yikes! sounds like wal-mart isn’t such a good deal after all! ; ) def. glad we don’t have one in our little town, so i don’t fall into the wally-world trap! =)

    • Wendy says

      It really depends. You have to know the prices of the items you buy regularily. I only have 3 options for groceries where I live and one is Wal-mart. My Lowes Foods doubles coupons, but their prices are usually almost double Wal-mart’s prices. The only exception is if there is a sale for an item I happen to have a coupon for. So even with the double coupon, I come out better by using the coupon and buying it at Walmart’s regular price. I usually come out cheaper by buying 3/4 of my groceries at Wal-mart and only hitting the other two stores for sale items.

  7. Jessica says

    My parents swear by Wal-Mart then wonder how I occasionally get free items by matching sales and double coupons and how I feed my family, pay for our toiletries and pet products and a 1/4 organic beef per year for $75 per week.

    I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. Where I live, I shop at Meijer and Kroger, with the occasional Aldi or Dollar Tree visit. Meijer and Kroger double up to $.99.

    In the past year, I’ve been able to get a couple of cases of black beans for free after coupon (which I use in chili and rice & bean & cheese burritos), free condiments, free snacks- things I wouldn’t otherwise spend money on because they’re not necessities but nice to have. This way we can enjoy ketchup or bbq sauce and it didn’t eat a chunk out of the budget.

    I do price items at Walmart when I’m near it and I know I save money by not going there! The other pitfall of Walmart is all the other stuff they sell there. It’s easy to walk through and go “oh, that’s a good deal on a flower pot, I’ll get one of those” and “oh look, the kids would like that…”

    • Jennifer Torres says

      I agree with you WHOLE HEARTEDLY!!! I only shop WalMart for hygiene products that I cant get on sale elsewhere. Otherwise, I find that WalMart does NOT meet or beat the competitors’ sales. I will price match at WalMart if I have several (MORE THAN 3) stores that I want to get things from on their sales, otherwise I avoid WallyWorld at ALL COST. I am highly disappointed in their prices and because of the size of their store, it takes 3 times as long (or more) to do my shopping. The staff are never as friendly as the smaller stores and with coupon doubles, its by far a better option to shop at the local stores. I would rather drive to 3 stores than hit WalMart once. And in the end, I am probably faster going to all 3 stores. Aldi’s always has great deals on the items that are not on sale at local stores, and their produce is always cheap (although you must really look closely to make sure it is fresh and in good condition- worth the effort!). If nothing else, price match Aldi’s prices at WalMart, the savings is HUGE. WalMart has gotten too greedy with their prices….and its really beginning to show.

  8. says

    My grocery store options are not the best.Food Lion is the closest to my house,about 3-4 miles.Walmart and lowes food is about 10 to 15 miles.While I find produce and some dry goods,like dog food and cereal are cheaper than food lion, I figure unless I am going that way for some other reason, Im not saving much because of the extra gas it takes.I often wonder if those that shop different stores often have considered this.I coupon as much as I can but am by no means a coupon queen.I think what saves me the most is buying enough in a sale to last me til that item is on sale again.I also recommend not to count the dollar stores out.I often get my coffee at Dollar General anytime for the same price as it is on sale at grocery stores.And DG is on the way to Food Lion so no gas lost there.

    • Sherri says

      It all depends on where you live. Within 4-5 miles of my house are 2 Krogers, Martin’s, SuperWalmart, 2 Food Lions, Target (with some groceries), Kmart (with some groceries), and a grocery outlet. There is also a Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and Family Dollar within that range. Pretty much any direction I need to go will take me past 2 or more of these, so combining trips is never a challenge, though I rarely shop at Food Lion because they are the farthest away.

    • Diane says

      How funny—I only have Wal-mart, Lowes Foods & Food Lion as options where I live. I looked at your blog and see you live in NC too. I kind of guessed that before I went to it though.

      • says

        yep not much for choices in good ole NC.There are Krogers around but you have to live near a major town or city.Im pretty much at the end of the earth on the coast where everything is high.I never buy meat at walmart! YUCK! In my opinion FL does have the best meat as far as taste goes just have to wait for the sale

  9. Amy R. says

    Before you cut out walmart altogether… Our Kroger stopped doubling coupons. I save a TON shopping at walmart because they match every ad in the area…even the little Mexican grocers. I save both time and money because I don’t have to run from store to store. You do need to know the policy. For instance, they don’t match BOGO prices, etc. The downside of Walmart is the temptation to buy things you don’t need just because it seems to be a good price. They are masters at making sure you have to walk across the whole store at least once! Our Aldi is WAY out of the way for me, so I just don’t get by there very often.

    • Stephanie says

      I agree. I save so much mugh money by price matching. Kroger just isn’t worth it to me since they stopped doubling coupons. I do just as well at Walmart if I stick to my list.

  10. Sarah says

    I tend to spend more on quality ingredients, but use whole foods, including brown rice and beans, which are cheaper and balance things out. There are not very many coupons we can use. I will pay more for organic because it is not only better for the environment, but it is for the greater good of EVERYONE to support companies who are working harder to do things right. Bi-Lo is not as cheap as Wal-Mart (our choices plus a hometown grocery store), but their produce quality is almost always better and they do have a lot of bonus card produce sales that I take advantage of. Pretty often, they have buy-one-get-one free Earthbound Farm organic salad, which we use pretty much every week. A whole purple cabbage is pretty cheap and lasts forever for only two people…and is beautiful in salad. We also are participating in our first CSA this year. That may turn out to be a mistake, since there are only two of us, but we wanted to try to support the local organic agriculture.

    • Andrea says

      If you’re overwhelmed by the CSA produce, freeze some of it and share with your neighbors. Some CSAs offer half shares, which might work for you if a full share is too much.

    • Lara says

      CSA’s are wonderful!!! I’ve done a full share, with just 2 of us… I canned, par-boiled then froze, and found other ways to preserve lots of what I got that I couldn’t consume in a week. Herbs: chop with a bit of water, freeze in ice cube trays. Remove from tray, toss in a freezer bag, (well labeled) and you’ll be set for fresh herbs all winter… same for much of what you’ll get. I’ve finally found another CSA here, and am getting a share this summer too!! So excited!

      • Sarah says

        Andrea and Lara,

        Thank you both for the tips! Andrea, we did ask for a half share. Lara, I had never heard of your way to store herbs.

        Our CSA share was supposed to have already started but the horse farmers next door thought they were doing the organic farm a favor by dumping FRESH manure on the garden. They lost the entire spring crop! They plan to carry the CSA out further if it stays unseasonably warm; if not, we’ll all get a partial refund. :)

  11. says

    I no longer shop at Wal-Mart. In my area they are actually high and they’ve greatly reduced their selection. Plus they have only factory packaged meat. Kroger’s regular prices are high, but everything goes on sale. I’ve shopped there consistently and know that and it saves a ton. Even better are the store- generated coupons for things I regularly buy. I hold onto them for sale week and save more. I don’t really do other coupons unless I find them free at the library coupon exchange. The savings has been really significant. Plus Kroger’s meat and produce are so much better than Wal-Marts.

  12. Monica says

    I personally don’t shop Walmart, even if it’s cheaper! I prefer to coupon shop at Target,Walgreens, Ralphs and Vons. My dairy and meats are purchased at Costco. I also use the ads and blogs to find sales. I went 4 weeks without shopping at Ralphs and Vons. I allowed myself a break. Besides, my pantry is full of stuff I really need to use. I will admit, it was nice to take a break from coupon shopping.

  13. Ashley says

    Years ago I didn’t live near a Walmart and only shopped at Kroger so I had to make sure I wasn’t buying expensive snacks etc. Now I live by both. I should go back to only shopping at Kroger. I bet it would help me save money on groceries overall.

  14. says

    Rebecca, you’ve had great results! We’re loyal Kroger shoppers and we are certain we save tons more than we could. We use Kroger gas, shop on Tuesdays whenever possible (senior day, which you’re too young to take advantage of), fill our prescriptions and buy groceries with a Kroger credit card (which we pay off each month) to get extra savings and perks.

    I regularly save 25% off my total each week. I’d like to do better, as well, but we have to weigh our time to do so.

    Keep up the great savings;-)

  15. J says

    I so do this also. I read all the ads online, there is a small grocery store very close that virtually beats all the other stores on fresh, great produce for a fraction of the cost. Usually to get all the best deals it takes a trip to three different stores but the amount I save is significant. I live in a tiny town so the distances between each store is very small. I have never found Walmart to have lower prices than what I pay for various food items. Smile.

  16. Erica Martin says

    Great post! I need to start meal planning myself, and I liked your idea of using the ads to plan out your meals. I too do most of my shopping at Walmart and only shop King Soopers (our Kroger) when I see good sales. Good job on reducing your budget!

  17. Andrea says

    I don’t meal plan on paper, just in my head. It only takes 10 minutes to skim the sales flyer and write a list, and I save a significant amount ever week. It may be well worth a few minutes of your time to review the flyer before shopping!

  18. Tania says

    I think these are inspiring ideas. My only problem is that I have a picky eater who is not open to new recipes and I often can’t take advantage of sales and plan meals around them. I also don’t compromise on organic meats. I trade with a farmer for organic meat but I still buy organic or naturally raised chickens and eggs. I tend to shop at Trader Joe’s for those items as they are cheaper than at a natural food store.

    • Jessica says

      I have two picky eaters (my DH and DD). DD will only eat apples for fruit. DH will eat bananas and apples. DD will only eat broccoli, green beans, peas and corn for veg. DH will also eat carrots or asparagus. No onions, tomatoes, mushrooms or peppers. No salads for either. Neither eats cereal / oatmeal. I could go on and on. My DS will eat about anything. At least now I have someone to share my fruit and veggies with!

      At our house, we have grilled cheese night, breakfast for dinner night, and such. You can eat on a modest budget and still satisfy your picky eaters that way. For example: my DH and DD will only eat meat and cheese in a taco shell and call it “tacos”. So I cook the meat and then I’ll add tomatoes, onions and peppers separately for me and my DS. If I added it to the whole pan, my DH and DD wouldn’t eat it.

  19. Kelly M. says

    Love the ideas! Thanks! I have tried so hard to reduce our grocery bill by meal planning, however I cook so that I have left overs for my husband to take to work. Anyone with meal suggestions (I cook casseroles mostly)?

  20. Ruth says

    Kelly, my husband hates sandwiches. Therefore I have to cook something that will allow for leftovers to be taken to work. Try chili, rice casseroles, chopped chicken breasts over noodles, Mexican food, Chinese food, and most Italian food. I keep nice self-opening cans of soup on hand for the days I don’t have leftovers, and send along a paper cereal bowl for the microwave. He needs two frozen Michilina’s type dinners to fill him up, so I stock up when they are 59 cents only.

  21. Ruth says

    Oh, I miss Kroger. We moved over a year ago to another state without a Kroger. Never knew what I had until it was gone.

  22. says

    We have a great closeout store by us that I get most of our produce from. It has saved us a lot of money.

    I usually meal plan for a month at a time. I use what we have on hand to make the main dishes from our stockpile for each day of the month. I pick up just the few things I need each week to complete our meals with whatever is on sale. I also stock up on any good deals that I can use for my meals for the next month. I have found this has saved us money because I am constantly using my stockpile and using the meats I got on sale so I don’t have to pay full price.

    With meat prices rising in our area I have started thinking about purchasing meat packages at our local meat market. So that may save me even more. It is really amazing how much you can save by just small changes in how you shop and where you shop.

  23. M says

    Does anyone know if Dillons is the same as a Kroger? I live about 95 miles from a Kroger but have several Dillons within just a few miles of my home.

        • says

          I have found that Hy-Vee is similar to Wal-Mart overall–cheaper in some areas, more expensive in others. Hy-Vee seems to have staples on better sales frequently, but those staples are regularly-priced higher than Wal-Mart. We don’t have Krogers here, so I don’t know about it.

        • Laura McKeen says

          Hy-Vee is going to be more like a Kroger’s than a Walmart. They are located only in a few Midwest states. I’m not sure of their coupon policies, but I do know they have excellent produce and great customer service.

  24. Jenn says

    Oh, how I miss those great deals at Kroger! Here in the Houston area, Kroger discontinued their double/triple coupon policy in April of 2011. So for the last year, I’ve been strictly a Walmart shopper, and have used their price-matching policy. I go through ads from all of our surrounding stores (4-5 different ones) and find the best deals, use my coupons, & stock-up! And now I only have to travel to one store to do it all. (Saves gas!) Our budget is now down to $80/week–including all groceries, household items, toiletries, you name it. I’m still trying to find ways to reduce, but without that double/triple coupon policy I’m not sure how much more we can cut. Glad you’re getting those great deals! Keep it up!

  25. Amie says

    This is a great post. I rarely paid attention to sales before starting my family. My husband and I bought generics at Walmart and thought we were saving a ton. We spent at least $80 per week and once we had my first son, we spend up to $120 per week. Part of that was the temptation to buy him stuff whenever we shopped. One day, we got a Save-A-Lot ad with some great prices and gave it a try. The prices were less than Walmart so we started shopping there. When we decided to have a second child, we needed to cut back even more. I learned about couponing. That really saved me money. Now, I spend around $60 a week for everything…diapers, dog food, produce, meat, milk, and so on.

  26. Kristie says

    Love, love, LOVE Kroger!! Double those coupons, and always use your Kroger card, because they “track” your shopping habits and occationally send little packets of Kroger coupons which reflect your spending habits. Last time, I had free peanut butter and free eggs. :) And our Kroger is great about putting dented cans and close-to-expire items in carts at the front of the store, half off. I get sticker-shock at Walmart.

    • Linda says

      Yes! I love getting those little treasure packets from my local City Market (same as Kroger). I also love the discounts for the gas pump. Once in a while I’ll rack up to $0.20 per gallon, which helps a lot.

  27. Lisa says

    I have never been to a Krogers, we have piggly wiggly and pick’n'save along with Walmart. Our piggly wiggly carries organic chix, Boar’s head deli meat and angus beef-all of which are more expensive. But we are picky on meat and if you wait for items to be on sale and stock up you can do just as well or better than the nasty meat at Walmart-which I would never eat. Sorry if that is snobby. We buy most our produce, baking supplies etc at Aldi and Costco, but you can still buy good meat and ingredients if you wait for the good sales. Piggly Wiggly does not double coupons. Love your site!

    • Danielle B says

      Wow! Piggly Wiggly! I didn’t even realize they were still in business. That takes me back to childhood!

  28. Monica O says

    Thanks for all the ideas. We don’t have half of the stores everyone is mentioning. We only shop sales at our local grocery stores Vons & Savemart. I also go to Target & Costco for diary & some meat. Something else to mention is shopping on the annual discounts. I pick up all my baking goods just before Thanksgiving at Target as they seem to have the best pricing. I purchase all my flour, sugar, brown sugar and chocolate chips for the entire year. As of May we have 30 lbs of the 50 lbs of flour we purchased. It is also the time to pick up can vegetables, especially green beans and corn. Memroial Day & July 4th are dates to pick up meat: hot dogs, hamburger, & steaks to freeze for the next 6-9 months. We go a year but we use the food saver. Those of you that induluge in sodas, this is also the time to stock up on Pepsi & Coke. During different produce seasons, we buy up to triple of what we need and freeze the rest for off season. Fish we only buy in season and try to get in frozen from the store and use it throughout the year. I’m not a coupon clipper and probably never will be but I always know what my non-sale pricing is to know if I’m getting a deal. I check and log basic pricing regularly so when the best deal comes up I stock up.

  29. says

    $80 is great! You use a lot of the techniques that I use. I also use coupons, but I’ve found that I save the most money just by buying what’s in the store circular.

    I too have found that Wal-Mart is not the least expensive. Beyond that, our regional grocer is much nicer and more friendly. They treat their employees well & have environmental & community initiatives, so I’d rather spend my money there.

  30. Mellissa Pottle says

    I’m not sure that it’s very well known, but Walmart will price match for almost anything in the store. I have taken ads from all the other grocery chains in on the same trip and price matched dozens of items in the same transactions. This is like shopping all the sales in one store!

    The policy states that you do not need the ad, but I’ve never tried it without the ad. Also, they will price match meat and produce (like 80/20 ground beef 1.99/lb. or similar) Here is the policy from their website:
    http://www.walmartstores.com/10563.aspx

    Also, they will honor almost all manufacturer coupons. This includes Catalinas printed at other stores. They also honor printed coupons for their competitors (such as coupons in the sales flyer). There’s a few restrictions (mainly that the exact price must be specified, no 50% off all X). Here is the coupon policy:
    http://www.walmartstores.com/7655.aspx

    I have tried rotating stores based on what was on sale including couponing, I’ve always been brand neutral on almost anything we buy, choosing the lowest price per unit and all that, and I find that going to Walmart lets me cherry pick all the best deals.

    I work overnight shifts, so we go grocery shopping there in the middle of the night (like 1am), and arrange our cart and ads and coupons to make it easier for the cashier since we do so many price changes. From what I can tell our average seems to be about 40% off the shelf prices for the items we buy, but the math is a little harder since they manually price change at the Walmart we go to.

  31. Sara says

    Funny – I’ve saved $80 this month by shopping ONLY at walmart! :) I don’t clip coupons anymore (unless I’m going to target), but bring all my ads with me to walmart. I only buy what I can price-match. Shopping at all the other stores is way cheaper, but more convenient if I can do a one-stop-shop at Walmart using the other stores’ prices.

  32. Diane says

    My grocery budget is $75 per week for the two of us. That amount allows me to stockpile and sometimes take advantage of the reduced prices on meat at Bi-Lo, mostly. I’m very careful to either freeze or use the meat right away, so as not to risk having a health problem with meat that might be close to spoiling. I do buy meat at Wal-Mart sometimes.

    I have a question about Wal-Mart meat. Why are a lot of folks against Wal-Mart’s meat? I’ve never had a problem with it, but I have heard twice lately from people who say they never buy Wal-Mart’s meat. One person said it is because she heard that it comes from Mexico. Does anyone know why (other than price, maybe) not to buy meat from Wal-Mart?

    BTW, I do most of my shopping at Aldi’s and Bi-Lo. Double coupons for Bi-Lo and really good prices at Aldi’s.

    Thanks.

  33. Michelle Stolzenburg says

    I shop @Kroger/Dillons here in Kansas. I use a website called FOOD ON THE TABLE to plan meals around what is on sale. Plus I use coupons whenever possible. As a SAHM I try to feed our family of 7 on under $400 per month.

  34. Cristin says

    I personally don’t like the Walmart brand chicken, something off about the taste. Never had a problem with the beef, and the name brand stuff (like Tyson) is the same at every store.

    I usually buy Kroger brand items, and they are often cheaper than the name brand with coupons, and taste the same or better. I get most of the food at Kroger, and most of the household goods at Walmart with coupons.