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How I Have a Low Grocery Budget Without Relying on Coupons

Guest post by Johnlyn

Many people assume I use coupons to keep our grocery budget low. They tell me that they can’t have a low grocery budget because they just don’t have the time or energy to clip coupons.

At the beginning of 2010, my grocery budget was $260.00 per month for our family of four. My husband is a marathon runner with a high metabolism and my kids were 13 and 11 at the time and they both continue to eat more than I do.

Small Town Living

When you live in a small town, you do not receive the same coupon inserts in the newspaper as you do when you receive a large city newspaper.

Here are the coupons I received in last weekend’s newspaper insert: Zicam, Lysteda, Pillsbury Sweet Rolls, Betty Crocker Warm Delights, Red Baron Pizza, Chuck E Cheese, Weight Watchers Yogurt, Foot Pain Wraps and Wrist Supports and Direct T.V. I won’t use any of those!

Five Tips to Keep Your Food Budget Low Without Coupons

  1. Change your attitude. Be thankful that you can afford to buy ground beef even though you really want the shrimp!
  2. Take cash to the store. This changed my mindset completely. Even though I always paid off my credit card bill every month, I became much more aware of how much money that I was spending when I changed to a cash envelope system.
  3. Determine the lowest amount of money you need to spend in order to feed your family. For a few weeks, make low cost meals and buy only what you need at the grocery store for those meals. Don’t buy items just because they are on sale and avoid buying junk food.
  4. Find substitutes. For example, I’ve bought cabbage instead of bok choy because it was much cheaper and worked for the meal I was making
  5. Menu plan using your pantry. Make a simple menu plan after looking in your pantry, fridge and freezer.

Voting With My Dollars

I’ve decided to increase our food budget to $400.00 per month. The $140.00 increase is for several reasons:

  • After watching the movie Food, Inc. I decided to support our local farmers and ranchers when possible. I’ve found that the quality and peace of mind more than offset the increase to our budget.
  • There is a store here in our town where the prices are wrong quite frequently. After several customer service issues, I’ve decided to support the small grocery store with excellent customer service.
  • When my budget was $260.00 per month we focused on breads and pastas to “fill us up”. Three members of our family had horrible hypoglycemic issues while eating this way. We now we focus on veggies, meat, healthy fats and fruit.

Johnlyn has been a full time homemaker for the past nine years. She is the owner of Hummingbird Homemaking: Working the Home to Save Time and Money.

photo credit

Super Savings Saturday

I went out shopping last Saturday evening to four different stores — all by myself!– and got some great deals. It was so weird to be kid-less, as I usually always take at least one child with me.

I was amazed at how cathartic and refreshing it was to go grocery shopping by myself to multiple stores — something I’ve not done in months, as far as I can remember. I came back feeling like I’d just spent two hours at the spa! 🙂

Here was my “loot” from the health food store, Aldi, Target and Dillon’s:

Altogether, I spent right around $45 for all the groceries shown.

I think my favorite deal of all was the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips for $0.99 per bag. I have to admit that it took quite a bit of self-control to not buy all 20 bags they had on the clearance shelf. But I convinced myself that I really did not need 20 bags of chocolate chips — especially since we usually only use an average of one bag of chocolate chips per month.

I also was excited to get free Finish Powerball Tabs and Rimmel Eye Shadow at Target by combining Target coupons and manufacturer’s coupons. Now that we don’t live near a CVS anymore, I’m rarely able to score free makeup or dishwashing detergent, so I was especially thrilled about these two deals.

And avocados were only $0.25 each at Aldi — a price we rarely, rarely see around here. So that was another exciting bargain. I’m considering trying putting a few in our smoothies in the mornings just to keep things interesting. Anyone have a great smoothie recipe which uses avocados?

This week, we also bought four loaves of bread at the dollar store (I’ve recently discovered that our Dollar Tree sells soon-to-be-expiring Nature’s Own bread for only $1 per loaf so I’ve been buying a few loaves every few weeks and sticking them in the freezer to use as needed.) and milk, more cheese and some fruit and veggies at Dillon’s.

So all totaled, we spent around $65 on groceries the past seven days.

Would you like to know what the best deals and coupon match-ups are for your local stores? Be sure to check out the Store Deals section of our site where we post the best deals and coupon match-ups each week for over 100 different stores across the country. You can sign up to receive the top deals in your email inbox each week as soon as they are posted!


Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

2011 Do-It-Yourself Experiment #2: Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent gets mixed reviews, but I decided to try it anyway.

I’ve been using the Tropical Traditions Powdered Dish Detergent for the past four weeks because they sent it to me. It’s very similar to the homemade version and so far, I’ve been liking it quite a bit. I’ve noticed that some of our plastic dishware is sometimes cloudy, but it’s not been a huge issue.

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent Recipe

  • 1 cup baking soda or washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup citric acid

Mix together. Use 1 Tablespoon per load. Add some vinegar to the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher to help prevent clouding.

I bought all the ingredients but the borax from Amazon with Swagbucks. The borax cost me $4.55.

If I was paying out of pocket for all the ingredients, I am not convinced that this recipe would really be less expensive than buying dishwashing detergent with coupons — especially since I can occasionally get it for free at Target and elsewhere. (If you typically pay full price for dishwashing detergent, though, making your own is less expensive per this cost breakdown.)

However, it was fun to try my hand at making something I’ve never made before.

And in case you missed it, here’s the list of the 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects I Plan to Try in 2011:

January: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea

February: Make Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

March: Make Homemade Hamburger Buns

April: Make Homemade Laundry Soap (I did attempt this one time before, but it was with a pre-made mix someone gave me. So I’m going to try again — this time completely from scratch!)

May: Make Appliqued Flower Tee

June: Make Homemade Hummus

July: Make Freezer Jam

August: Make Homemade Soap

September: Sew a Rag Quilt

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter

November: Make Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

December: Make Homemade Marshmallows

Have you attempted any new do-it-yourself projects recently? I’d love to hear how they went!

We Paid Cash! :: A Second Car

We paid cash!

A testimony from Liz at e squared.

When my husband and I got married in 2005, he had never been in any kind of debt. He was working his way through college and paying his school bills without the use of student loans.

While he had some savings and some mutual funds, I had a small car loan, $11,000 in student loans and no savings. I sometimes joked that he brought all the assets into our marriage, while all I brought were liabilities!

We only had one car, and although I would have loved to buy a second one, we made the decision to make do with one car until we could afford to pay cash for a second car. This meant paying off the loans I currently had — which were driving my previously debt-free husband crazy! — before we could even start saving for another car. Back then, it seemed like quite an impossible goal.

How We Did It

  • The first 18 months of our marriage were spent just making ends meet. My husband’s paychecks covered his school bills, and we lived on my income as a medical secretary. We lived in an old trailer, which kept our rent very low. We clipped coupons and stuck to our grocery budget. I was often motivated by my husband’s offer of a treat at Sonic if I stayed at least $5 under budget that week – that was a great incentive not to add things we didn’t really need to my shopping cart!
  • After my husband graduated in May 2007 and began his career, the temptation was great to upgrade our lifestyle a bit with the added income and move into a nicer apartment. However, we stayed in our trailer and all our extra money went toward my student loans. By doing this, we were able to pay them off in less than one year!
  • In August 2008, we began looking into purchasing a home. We made it our goal to keep our mortgage and other “necessity” expenses within my husband’s income, so that much of my income could be saved.
  • During this entire time, we have tried to live frugally to save as much as possible. At times, this was really difficult. We often felt left out having to turn down invitations from our friends who ate out frequently. We made do with only having one car, and while I’m thankful we were able to do this, it didn’t come without frustrations.

The Result

new carIn July 2010, we finally had enough saved to buy a used car, and after searching for a few months we were able to purchase a 2006 Ford Fusion for $8000.

We are both incredibly thankful for God’s grace and provision. I’ve learned much about patience, contentment and stewardship in the past five years. Although reluctant to this whole idea at first, I’m glad for the wisdom my husband had financially and so thankful to not have a car payment!

Married for five years, Eric and Liz live in Madison, WI. Eric works in retail management while Liz works from home as a medical transcriptionist and does her best to keep their blog, e squared, updated.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.