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Super Savings Saturday: We were $35 under-budget in September!

I'm so excited! We stuck with our $40 per week grocery budget last month and, by some creativity and hitting the bargain shopping just a wee bit harder, I had $35 leftover at the end of the month!

I'll tell you what I'm going to do with this extra money, but first, here's what groceries we purchased this week:

576

Total spent at Dillon's: $36.33

(And in case you wonder why I bought Jell-O and Velveeta Shells seeing as I told you last week that we don't eat food coloring, I needed 4 more items in the Buy 10, Get $5 off promotion and I grabbed those as they were only $0.20 each after coupons and the promotion. I'll donate them to someone who can use them!)

I also made another quick trip to the local grocery store running the Double Dollar Coupon promotion. They were out of most everything since it was the last day they were running it, but I still was able to get a few good deals:

578

Our total for the groceries above: $3.81.

We were, once again, the recipients of some produce from friends so I didn't have to buy much of that this week. I'm also trying to use up some of the meat in our freezer since it was getting pretty full, so we didn't have to buy any meat either.

I'm so thrilled that I was able to set aside a little extra from our grocery budget each week so that I had a total of around $35 to make another bulk purchase. On the recommendation of Brandy from The Prudent Homemaker, we're heading to Sam's Club tomorrow to check out the prices there. I have a short list of items I'm going to check on (beans, rice, oats, cheese, vanilla, chocolate chips, unbleached flour, among a few other things) and I'll see if I can beat some of my target prices with the Sam's Club bulk prices.

My hope is that if I'm able to stock up on a 3- to 6-month supply of items we use a lot and save money by buying in bulk, over time, this will allow us to further maximize our grocery budget. That's the theory I have, at least. But I have to test it out for a year or so before I have proof that it really works! I'll keep you posted!

By the way, things are finally really and truly slowing down around here so I promise to do better about sharing our weekly menus. And, by popular demand, my Baking Day marathon posts will be back, too. I'm planning my first session next week–if all goes as planned. Stay tuned for that!

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48 Comments

  • FishMama says:

    I don’t have recent experience with Sams, but I know that I can get great deals on Costco on all those things you listed — except the flour. Costco doesn’t sell unbleached flour. I think Costco and Sam’s are very competitive, so I think you’ll be pleased with wat you find.

  • I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes!

    Just so you know, I don’t buy my oats at Sam’s Club. I buy them in larger amounts from two others sources. I didn’t find them to be enough of a savings at Sam’s. I usually buy bleached flour (25lbs) at Sam’s–both all-purpose and bread flour. Our Sam’s does have unbleached flour.

  • Debbie says:

    I have found that in our area bulk yeast and honey are the only great buys at Sams. Check out the yeast especially, you really save on it!

  • Karen says:

    This is just a little note about the velveeta cups.. we also try to avoid the artificial stuff as much as possible (I am a dietitian) but I have also purchased these at times to make the deals work. I make the noodles per instructions on the cup, but I don’t use the cheese mix and rather add some sauce of my own. It works well! And still a quick lunch for the kids :).

  • n says:

    Our Costco actually does have unbleached flour right now and it’s just over $6 for 20 lbs. I find that to be a great deal and we love it.

  • Stephanie Shelton says:

    I love to get yeast at Sams. My store sells 2 1lb packages for $4.16. That is the best value I have found. We also get baking soda and vanilla. I don’t remember the prices off hand, but they are also good deals 🙂

  • Lori says:

    Hi Crystal,
    Thanks for sharing your grocery shopping success! I was curious how much you budget each week/month for your dining out days? Do you try to eat at places that have bigger portions for leftovers?
    Thanks!

  • JessicaC says:

    Sam’s actually lists their prices online. I always check prices before we go so I’m better prepared.

  • Stacie says:

    We have a membership to BJs and they have instore coupons. I was able to buy bulk chocolate chips for much less than even with a coupon and sale at the regular stores. I have also saved our church youth group lots of money by purchasing their bulk snacks there.

  • Bet says:

    Hello there!

    I find Sam’s and Costco to be expensive. Try your local restaurant supply. Most will allow public customers in with no membership fee. I find it hard to save enough to cover the membership fees. My favorite is Restaurant Depot.

    Lunchmeat (unsliced) like the deli’s have for less than a buck a pound. I slice at home, freeze in one pound packages and save a ton.

    Flour, spices, staples like sugar, oil, etc are all cheaper per ounce, but you’ve got to be prepared to store it in a way in which it won’t spoil (although that’s a Sam’s and Costco issue too!)

    The bulk frozen veggies are incredible and much cheaper than the other stores. I once got 15 dozen eggs for $4. My friends and I split them. Butter is always around a buck a pound, but you have to buy a lot.

    In this economy, I would think any restaurant supply company would be happy to receive your business. Restaurants are closing right and left and your money is just as green as theirs. Most offer “will call” service, so you can pick it up yourself. Restaurant Depot shops just like Sam’s club.

    Best wishes!

  • Angie says:

    On the subject of food coloring, do you have any natural alternatives that you use? I know that beet juice is often used in place of red, but that’s about all I know. My son’s birthday is in a few weeks, and I’d love to have a cute and food-coloring free cake!

  • Christy says:

    Costco also doesn’t sell beans, so please let us know if you were able to snag some beans at Sam’s because I’ve been looking for them (pinto/northern) too. Thanks!

  • laura khol says:

    I have a question about the coupon page on your site. I can view them, select them but am not able to print them….any advice? Thanks 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    We love Costco. I don’t like the membership fee. What we have found though is that the membership fee is more than paid for on one item we must buy. DH teaches special ed his kids are very low and they need a lot of lifting and maneuvering. My husband therefore wears jeans to work. He needs good quality ones but with the wear they get even great quality ones last just over a year. So we have to buy about 5 pairs, at least, every year Levis work and they are around $50 a pair making it around $250 a year for his jeans. Costco has a brand that look as good and last just as long or longer for $12-15 a pair. They also regularly have his size (he falls between big and tall and regular so his must be ordered from the store preventing good sales) This puts us between 60 and 70 a year on Jeans. Saving over $100 after the membership fee.
    With just this one purchase we are able to more than pay for our membership.
    I did find a great deal on flour there it was unbleached and it was half whole grain and half unbleached white. 2 10 lb pkgs for like less than $10. I also found a great deal on organic sugar ( I do not use all organic but like it for sugar b/c it is not bleached) I do not remember the cost but I do remember it put it about what I would pay for regular sugar. I used this to stock the freezer with zucchini bread from the zucchini in my garden.

  • Nicole says:

    You sure don’t buy much toilet paper. Unless, it’s not in your grocery budget. Assuming it is since it’s pictured as part of your grocery trip this week?

  • Monica says:

    I did some aldi/Sam’s/GFS price comparisons here http://thefulltableshineagain.blogspot.com/2009/03/bulk-shopping-comparing-aldi-sams-club.html

    Hope that information is helpful to you.

  • Melissa says:

    I just wanted to say that collage dorms are a good place to donate things like Velveeta Shells cups, oatmeal cups, cereal cups, soup, canned pasta, and premade tuna salad or pudding. I never realized how hard it is for a student living in a dorm to eat inexpensively with only a microwave to cook in and most without a refrigerator until my daughter started college this year. Like many students, she’s too far from home to eat with us or for me to give her much food though I do mail her coupons. Other convenience items that seem unnecessary to us like paper towels and napkins, paper plates, and cleaning wipes come in handy as well. Of course, there is always a need for the usual toiletry items as well; shampoo, soap, toothpaste.

  • Mel says:

    I also use Sam’s to buy a lot of my baking supplies. Sugar is probably the only thing I can often find on sale with a coupon at regular grocery stores. I jotted down some of the prices for other baking supplies on a recent trip. They may have changed some and be different in other parts of the country, but they are probably very comparable:

    Baking Soda – $5.76 for 12 lbs. (.48 ct/lb)
    Nestle Morsels – $7.98 for 72 oz. (.11/oz.)
    All Purpose Flour – $6.54 for 25 lbs. (.26/lb.)
    Bread Flour – $7.39 for 25 lbs. (.30/lb.)
    Brown Sugar – $4.39 (.62/lb.)

    I also buy my milk, butter, some meat and occassionally produce. One thing that is very affordably priced there is the large “rolls” of lean hamburger meat. It’s 90/10 and packaged in a very large, clear plastic roll. It’s often under $2.50 a lb.! I think I paid $2.24 a lb., which to me, is a GREAT price! They also had pork loin priced at $1.38/lb. the last time I was in there.

    I’d be interested to hear what other things coupon users have found to be cheaper. :o)

  • Nichole says:

    Buying in bulk is sometimes a great deal! I was blessed with a Sams card by my best friend so I went in this last week to see what I could get a better deal on than the grocery strore. Since we have no smaller grocery chains just HEB, Target, and Super Walmarts that do coupons I dont get to many deals on grocery things just cvsing and walgreens. The biggest thing I saved on was cheeses and butter!
    Love it!

  • I love hearing about your baking marathon days! You inspire me so much and we did our first baking day yesterday.

    I didn’t post about it, but I made three kinds of bread (Oatmeal Bread, French Bread and Julia Child’s White Bread) and a HUGE batch of cookies, freezing a ton of the dough in balls to bake later.

    I’d hoped to bake more but I didn’t get started until later in the day and something came up. I can’t wait to do another one soon!

    ~ Jennifer

  • tina b says:

    YAAAAY Baking Day!! I had one a few weeks ago, and thought of you. I was sad that we weren’t doing it “together” like last year when you inspired me to do a baking day on the same day as you. All of your posts just looked too yummy to keep me sitting on the couch 🙂 So, here’s to another baking day this week!!

  • Heather says:

    I Like SAMS because my husband and I were able to get their business card for $25.00 for one year. It works out great and it is easily worth that ammount to be able to shop and get what you need.

  • Lynette says:

    Hey Crystal,
    Love your site!
    We shop at Sam’s for certain things (white flour, sugar, yeast, dry milk, honey, and milk to name a few). Our savings in milk alone are enough to justify the membership fee.
    The nice thing about Sam’s is that if you look under “Click ‘n Pull” on their website, you can find the current prices of the items that your local store sells. This is a huge time saver!
    Since you are self-employed, you can buy a business membership for $35/year that provides you with 2 cards.
    We also buy tires at Sam’s.

  • Courtney says:

    We love Sam’s! In our area, they have the best prices by far on baking supplies, rice, dried beans, pasta, cooking oil, popcorn, vinegar and baking soda (for homemade cleaning supplies), cheese (big blocks or bags of cheddar and mozzerella, as well as all kinds of gourmet cheeses that are priced much more reasonably than at the grocery store), meat, eggs, fruits and veggies, spices and seasoning mixes, nuts, ketchup, applesauce, light bulbs, ink cartridges – oh, and gas! We always fill up when we’re there because the gas is so much cheaper. We also really like their store-brand (Member’s Mark) canned chicken. We keep a big stash of it in our food storage and it’s great for making a quick chicken salad, soup, etc.
    I don’t buy cereal or health and beauty items there because I can almost always get those cheaper with coupons at other stores.

  • Heather says:

    Depends where you live, the Sams club membership ranges from 25 to 45 dollars per year. Texas its $25.00

  • Christy says:

    Crystal, I’m curious & you have probably already addressed this somewhere, but do you only pay for things with cash or do you keep at least one credit card for emergency purposes? During your trip to see Dave Ramsey, did you pay for your hotel, airfare, etc with cash as well? I’m assuming since you are on such a great financial track, credit cards are something you would want to avoid, however, I’m a little scared to give them all up just yet. Can you offer any advice on this? Thanks so much!

    ************************
    Money Saving Mom here: We use cash primarily, but we also use checks and debit cards on occasion. When we order stuff online, we use debit cards.

    Here are a couple of articles on debit cards/credits that I recommend reading:

    http://beta.daveramsey.com/articles/display.article/articleID/113336/categoryID/100376/

    http://beta.daveramsey.com/articles/display.article/articleId/the_truth_about_credit_card_debt/category/lifeandmoney_creditcards/

  • Mandy says:

    I try to keep a three month supply of food on hand, and I just recently decided to post all of my meal plans and recipes for it. Check it out at http://classichomemaking.blogspot.com

    I actually just discovered Brandi’s website last week, thanks to a guest post she did that has gotten quite a bit of attention. It was her site that actually pushed me over the top to post all of my recipes.

    I have done a lot of checking on bulk purchase prices, and find that Sam’s has the best price on all purpose flour, bread flour, pinto beans, and sugar (especially considering it’s C&H brand). Canola oil is also pretty reasonable. Their price on white rice is okay, but not amazing.

    Hope that helps – good luck with it!

  • Jenni says:

    Hi Crystal,
    Looking forward to hearing YOUR take on Sam’s Club prices. Also, I wonder how much Sam’s prices vary in different parts of the country. I’m anxious to see what kinds of deals you find on staple items.

  • Kansas Mom says:

    We buy a lot of staples like bread flour and all-purpose flour (ours doesn’t carry whole wheat). I’ve found coupons far between and the Sam’s price is better than the generic at our store. The biggest ways we’ve saved there to cover our membership fee, though, are the tires we bought for our van (the recommended tires at a far better price than any of the mechanics, repair shops, or dealers we called) and eyeglasses. I remember in particular the contacts were a vast savings over the prices at the optometrist’s office and even $5 a box better than at Walmart.

  • Roxanne says:

    I love Sam’s Club. It saves me a little money, and a ton of time.

    Also, every product on Sam’s Club’s shelves, from paper to socks to sour cream is HIGH quality. Comparing Sam’s Club toilet paper to Aldi is apples & oranges. Sam’s Club will be higher on some items, but you can usually stretch high quality items better than cheapies to make them be just as frugal.

  • Your shopping deals always amaze me! I was pleased with my efforts this week – especially at CVS but they certainly don’t match yours. Now I’m off to check out the links to other’s deals.

  • Kathy Davis says:

    I love the way that you concientiously think and plan for your family and budget, even years down the road. Very inspiring.

    I’ve got to get our meat buying figured out and then should be able to get our spending down a little to be able do some bulk buying. I think the things like choc chips, vanilla, etc are a great idea!

    Again, if you would be so inclined to catch us up on your homeschooling, I would love to read about it 🙂 The main reason is that I also have a 4.5 year old daughter and we are also doing MFW.

    Blessings this weekend,
    Kathy

  • Emma K says:

    Do you know anything about Gordon Food Service– the Marketplace? It’s supposed to have bulk items but no membership fee.

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    http://www.frugallivingandhavingfun.com/2009/10/lovely-blog-award.html

    Deb @ Frugal Living And Having Fun

  • Jody says:

    Hi Crystal, I was wondering if you have ever looked into shopping at a bakery supply store. I live in El Paso and have gone to a supply store downtown and it’s amazing. I bought a five GALLON bucket of molasses for about $26! Of course that’s a lot of molasses for 5 people, but you might be able to split it with some fellow frugal friends – we started using it with peanut butter on sandwiches, in baking, etc . . . I think they have brown sugar and yeast at good prices too. Also, for oats you might want to look into getting a flaker. I bought one from http://www.breadbeckers.com and I love it. You just put the whole oats in it and it flakes them – like oatmeal. The great part is that you don’t have to use oats – you can use spelt, rice or whatever. Also, the nutrients are still there – just like when you mill grain. It’s way cheaper than buying store bought flaked oats. I don’t know if you live near a major city, but it is definitley worth it to explore a bit in downtown areas – we have found some amazing fruit prices at the wholesale fruit distributors – we’ve gotten about $75 worth of produce for around $10 sometimes. Also, a lot of cities have local wholesalers (like a local version of Sam’s or Costco) we have one called Economy Cash and Carry and I love it. Being local means they are more willing to work with you. A couple of weeks ago I walked in and they had several cases of cottage cheese tubs that were expiring that day. They were marked down from $27 a case to $8 a case. I asked the guy if I bought three would he give them to me for $5 a piece. He said yes! I took them home and we stuck most of them in the freezer and have been using them to make lasagna (in place of ricotta cheese). Each case had 12 tubs that were 16 oz each. I bought three cases for $15 – that’s 576 oz – so it worked out to be about 32 cents per 16 oz tub. I was pretty excited. It seems like the locals are much more willing to work with you because they don’t usually have all of these corporate rules over them and if they throw it away they are losing. They’d much rather sell it to you for next to nothing than toss it for nothing, and they can do that because they make the rules not some distant corporation. Also, at our Health food store they often have a cart full of clearance items. I know that they want to get rid of it, and if they are items that I could use I’ll ask the manager “Would you sell me the whole cartful for . . . ” They have said yes more times than not. One time I bought $2,000.00 of Wild Oats Organic fruit bars for $50. 🙂 I realize this wouldn’t be practical for everyone, (we have vending machines, so I sold them) – but then again maybe it would be. Have the kids set up a fruit bar stand in the front yard instead of a lemonade stand. 🙂 Anyway, Those are just some thoughts that came to mind when you were talking about bulk shopping. I am a big fan of buying a lot at once and I have greatly benefited from a lot of your advice. I have been selling a whole lot of things I got for free lately . . . It has helped our family’s business a lot. Thanks for your wisdom! Sincerely, Jody

  • jen says:

    Also check liquidators outlets they have dirt cheap prices.

  • Jenna says:

    Oh, I wish my Sam’s carried pinto beans and unbleached flour. Whole wheat flour would also be fantastic. sigh. I recently saw a promotion at Sam’s about something that looked like ecoupons, but I didn’t have a chance to check it out. Their prices on paper products and laundry items, etc. are good but can be beat with couponing. BUT, if they start offering ecoupons I may have to recalculate everything : )!!! Does anyone have the details on this?

  • Jody says:

    The ecoupons are supposed to be based on what you usually purchased, but over the last couple of months I have checked mine every week and they have pretty much nothing to do with what I buy. We have vending machines and have bought over a thousand dollars of candy bars in the last month, yet I am mostly getting ecoupons for stuff like body wash and deli trays – completely unrelated and overpriced in the first place! I have talked to the manager and he was even shocked by how unrelated they were to my routine purchases. He has practically encouraged me to ask for a refund on my membership (if you aren’t satisfied with the esavings coupons and haven’t saved up to $200 they say they will refund your membership). To print them out you go to a little kiosk at the front of the store and stick your membership card in. It prints the list. So far the only beneficial thing from is it is that I take the paper home and use it to print my moneysaving mom coupons on. 🙂 I’m tempted to stand and print my ecoupons again and again until I have stacks and stacks of paper then tell the manager that I’m satisfied because I’ve saved about $200 in paper. 🙂

  • angie shaler says:

    I needed a few more things for the Buy 10 sale too. I think I got more cream cheese and hot pockets.

  • Jenna,

    Here, a regular membership is $40. The e-coupon one is $100! And, they give you some generic coupons for the first few months (I saw the list when I asked there, and there was NOTHING on it that I bought from them). They told me that you don’t get the personamized coupons until after about 4 months of shopping. To me, it is not worth it. They will refund the membership difference if you don’t save $200 in a year, like Jodi said.

  • Crystal,

    I have not updated my Sam’s Club list to reflect a change that we are trying out. I took my husband with me to Sam’s Club last time, and he decided to look around at some other things. My husband is incredibly frugal, but when he looks around, I always spend more 🙂 HOWEVER–it’s always something that will save me money in the long run!

    He was looking at the #10 cans of Pizza Sauce that are under $5. I make my own pizza and spaghetti sauce, because it is less than half the price of buying pre-made sauce. I normally buy canned tomato sauce in a 28 oz can (which is .89 here at Walmart; the cheapest price at all of our stores).

    My husband was excited because of the price of the pizza sauce, but I decided to look around a bit more, and sure enough, they had a #10 can of tomato sauce for almost half of the price of the pizza sauce! It’s a 6lb 9 oz can for less than $3!

    I figure I’ll just make larger batches of sauce and put them in the freezer to use later.

    This should make meals like pizza, spaghetti, and chicken caccitore even cheaper for us!

  • We have a Costco, not a Sam’s club, because I do not buy alot of stuff there all the time, I split a membership with my sister. Before I was able to do that, I just went with another family member and paid for my stuff. You just have to use cash then. Costco’s vary as our Costco does not have unbleached flour, but does have pinto beans. I generally buy lettuce, milk, sometimes cheese there and #10 cans. I buy the # 10 cans of tomato puree and make my own spaghetti, pizza sauce out of it for under $3 for more than a gallon. I freeze it and use it as needed.

    That is neat someone gave you a bunch of produce, I like to set aside a bit extra in the summer and fall for stocking up for the winter as well. Flour, oats, but also stuff to can or freeze. It saves us alot of money! Applesauce and pumpkin is next!!! So, far I have a pantry full of peaches, cherries, assorted jams, pickles, applesauce, apple, raspberry and cherry pie filling, beets, and other stuff like dilly beans…..I barely spent anything this year on it! Also 200 lbs of potatoes for free from a local farm also…..

  • T.H says:

    You are truly inspriing Crystal
    You have inspired myself and husband to live on $60 less that we usually do for the month of Nov to see if we can do it! While I know I will have to be more organized and hit the deals a little harder Im excited about the challenge if all goes well we will do it for December and save Nov and Dec surplus fo Christmas

  • megan says:

    I just wondered how you budgeted milk into your $40/weekly total? I have two young children ages 1 and 3, plus my husband and I. It seems that we could easily go through 3-4 gallons of milk a week. That would total at least $9-$10. Do you not buy much milk?

  • maria says:

    Crystal,

    Sams clearance outs the ghirardelli baking chocolate after Christmas. Not right away, but within the month of January I believe. I bought last year the double chocolate (only kind of sale) 2.5 lbs of chocolate for 51cents each!!!!! I bought 10 packages and am still working on finishing it. We make chocolate waffles (as a treat) or melt it to make pretzels and candies etc.

    25 lbs of choclate can go a long way baking for the year for any of us!!!!

  • jennifer says:

    Wish we lived in an area that had prices so cheap. I pay almost twice the prices shown and these same national stores do not run the great promotions nor do we get the same coupons in the newspapers. It is so very frustrating!!

  • rebekah says:

    Hi Crystal,

    I really enjoy your site and can honestly say that it has made a BIG difference in the way I manage my household’s finances. I am thankful for you and your ministry!

    My comment, though, is a bit sensitive and I hope you can take it in the intent it is meant. For my family, I used to donate stuff like Velveeta m&c, jell-o, or other really junky (but cheap!) food. And then one day I realized – wait a minute! Why in the world would I give to OTHER people something that I thought was harmful or not healthy enough for my own family. I’d NEVER let my kids take the best of something and give the leftovers or the inferior parts to someone else. Never. I want them (and myself!) to give to others the BEST, the healthiest, the biggest, … and then happily choose from the rest for yourself.

    So when I realized that I was dumping my junk food on other people (who in my case were just poorer than me at the time), it horrified me. From that moment on, I gave to them from my own pantry. I donated only stuff that I would unequivocally serve my own children. Just because they are poor or have less than me, does not mean that they should be given less.

    Please, please, please, don’t take this as an attack. I REALLY don’t mean it that way. If you’re passing the jell-o junk onto someone who eats it, loves it, and happily serves it to friends and family, well, that’s great. But if you’re donating it to a food bank, your church, or a food pantry, please consider giving to others only what you would want them to give to you.

    Fondly,

    rebekah

  • Melissa says:

    I have to second all the comments about the yeast at Sam’s – it’s the cheapest place to buy yeast. But, I have had problems with the flour. My baking never turns out the same when I use their flour as opposed to buying the Gold Medal/store brand flour at the grocery stores.

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