Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to the MSM Freebie Library, including my top printables & eBooks.

Tag Archive: 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Buy in Bulk

One way we save at least $100 or so per year on our grocery bill is by buying select items in bulk. While I think that buying in bulk can definitely save you money, you need to be mindful of three things:

1. Bigger is Not Always Cheaper

It’s easy to get suckered into thinking that purchasing in bulk is always going to be cheaper. Oftentimes, the larger size is the same price — or even more than a smaller size. Always analyze the cost per ounce of items you are considering purchasing in bulk to determine whether or not it truly is a good deal to buy in bulk.

2. It’s Not a Good Deal If You Won’t Use It

I’m sure this is a no-brainer, but it’s not a good deal to buy 25-pound bag of coconut which expires in a year if you routinely only use four cups of coconut per year. Yes, I’m sure you could get creative and dig up a hundred new recipes which use coconut, but unless you got that 25-pound bag for a few dollars, it’s like better to save your money and buy items in bulk which you use on a very frequent basis.

3. Just Because You Buy Something in Bulk Doesn’t Mean You Should Use More

The biggest pitfall I’ve found to buying in bulk is that it’s easier to use more when you have more of something. For instance, I once bought a five-pound bag of chocolate chips at Sam’s Club. Usually, we go through around five pounds of chocolate chips in an entire year because we only buy a small bag or two at a time as needed. Instead, we’d used up that entire five-pound bag of chocolate chips in four months or less!

Now granted, we’re talking chocolate chips here, but I do think it’s important to make sure you aren’t consuming more of something because you’re buying it in bulk. If this is the case, you might consider portioning out the bulk package or else possibly just not buying that particular item in bulk.

How To Get Started Buying in Bulk

::Set Aside a Small Amount of Grocery Money for Bulk Purchases

The simplest way to slowly integrate bulk purchases into your grocery budget is to squeeze a little extra money out of your grocery budget each week and set it aside for bulk purchases. If you’re on a really tight budget, this might not seem feasible, but even $2 to $3 set aside over the course of two months can give you a large enough amount to make one bulk purchase.

And I’ve found that the more bulk purchases I make, the more it frees up wiggle room in my grocery budget to be able to set aside more money for more bulk purchases. It’s a domino effect — in a good direction.

::Prioritize Your List of Possible Bulk Purchases

I’d suggest writing down a short list of possible bulk purchases you’d like to make and then researching out the best places to purchase in bulk and how much the savings would be. Prioritize the list based upon the savings you’ll reap and the money you are able to set aside each month.

If it helps, you might even set goals. For instance, within two months, set a goal to have purchased two pounds of yeast. In four months, aim to have purchased a 50-pound bag of wheat. And so on. Start with the item(s) which you can afford with the money you’ve set aside.

Prioritizing your list and breaking it down into bite-sized goals will not only help to keep you organized, but it will also enable you to stick with your budget. Sure it might be nice to go plunk down $500 and have a completely stocked bulk pantry, but that’s just not really doable for most people.

Where To Buy in Bulk

There are many different options for buying in bulk. I’d suggest you start with perusing what’s available in your local area as well as online. Ask your friends, check the phone book, search on Craiglist, look for local co-ops and Amish Food Stores and contact local farms which sell to the public.

Getting a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco might be worth it for your family, but I’d encourage you to explore other possibilities before just settling on either of those stores as your only bulk purchasing option.

I’d also suggest you talk to your local grocery store or health food store or couple who run the farmer’s market stand you purchase from and ask what discounts they would give you if you’d purchase items in bulk. They might not give bulk discounts, but you never know until you ask!

If you’re really ambitious, you might even consider starting your own co-op.

What are your best tips for buying in bulk? I’d love to hear!

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Look for Markdowns

New here? Be sure to read the first posts in the 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget.

One way we save up to $25 per week is by buying marked-down groceries. I often receive the question, “How do you find out when a store marks down groceries?”

Each Store is Different

I wish I had some super-secret answer to tell you so that you could just magically find markdowns at your store. However, each store is different and often the policies vary widely even in the same store chain in the same town. Sometimes, a store doesn’t even have policies for markdowns and it is based upon whatever mood the produce manager is in as to what kind of deals you’ll find.

Talk to the Produce Manager

Some store chains have a policy against marking items down. The best way to find out is to just ask. Usually, the produce manager is the person to start with.

Inquire what they do with produce that is going bad or milk that is almost to its expiration date and see if they have a policy on marking these items down. If they don’t, ask if you could get a discount if you found a gallon of milk which was expiring in a few days or produce which was going bad.

Plan Your Shopping Trips Around Markdowns

Some stores routinely mark items down on specific days or at specific times. If so, plan your shopping trips around those times.

For instance, our local health food store usually marks the produce and dairy items down every day between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. So I try to play my shopping outings so I’ll be at this store around lunchtime. If I don’t have a chance to shop around lunchtime, it’s usually not worth stopping by because the markdowns have already been snatched up.

Look For Markdowns First When Shopping

The very first thing I do when I walk into a grocery store is to go around the perimeter of the store and look for the orange markdown stickers on items. I hit the produce section first. Then the meat, dairy and bread items.

By starting with looking for markdowns, I then can rework my grocery list if I hit on a great deal. For example, if I was planning to buy carrots and cucumbers to use as raw veggies during the week, but I found a big bag of marked-down colored peppers and a marked-down head of cauliflower, if they were less expensive than the carrots and cucumbers I was planning to buy, I’d likely swap them and save a dollar or two.

My favorite thing about buying markdowns is that they add some variety to our menu. While I might not pay full price for a roast or salmon, I’ll snatch it up if it’s marked down by 50%.

It Never Hurts to Ask

Just because an item isn’t marked down doesn’t mean you can’t get it discounted. Unless your store has a strict policy against marking down items, don’t hesitate to ask if the store will reduce that past-its-prime bag of apples or that expiring-in-three-days jug of milk.

I’ve rarely been turned down when asking if a store will mark down an obviously-close-to-expiring item. And on a few occasions, they’ve even just given it to me for free!

Don’t Buy Something Just Because It’s Marked Down

Like I often say, “If you don’t need something, it’s not a good deal — no matter how inexpensive it is!” If you don’t like squash, don’t get suckered into buying five big bags of squash marked down to $1 each. Save your $5 and use it on something you’ll actually eat.

Before I will put a marked down item in my cart, I always make sure I can fit it into our grocery budget and also that I have a plan for how I’m going to use it. Oftentimes, upon careful consideration, I’ll end up passing up some of the markdowns just because I’m not entirely sure we’ll use them before they go bad.

What are your best tips for finding marked-down groceries? Share them in the comments.

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Don’t Be Brand Dependent

One way to save a great deal of money on your grocery budget is to learn to like and use a variety of brands. The sooner you can get over being a brand-snob, the more your pocketbook will thank you.

Be Brave; Try New Things!

I have a confession to make: when we first started shopping at Aldi, I was really leery of buying their products. I figured they’d taste icky and cheap.

But since my husband and I were living on a beans-and-rice budget, we had to make a meager budget work. It was either that – or pretty much starve! So we hesitantly started trying different items from Aldi.

And guess what? We were pleasantly surprised! Not only was most of it not icky or cheap-tasting, we actually liked some of the food better than the brands we were used to buying.

Base Your Purchases on the Price Rather Than the Brand

Let’s say your shampoo stockpile is running low and it’s time to build it back up. If you’re stuck on only buying Herbal Essence shampoo, the cheapest you may be able to buy it is for $1.50 by combining a sale with a coupon. If, however, you’re willing to look for the lowest price on any brand of shampoo, you may very well be able to find shampoo priced at $0.50 per bottle after coupon and sale.

While the savings of $1 per bottle of shampoo might not seem too significant, think about how the savings could add up if you saved $1 on 15 different items each week at the grocery store because you choose price over brand. That would be a savings of $60 per month — or$720 per year. And in most people’s cases, the savings would likely be much more than that.

Don’t Stockpile 35 Bottles of Something If You’ve Never Tried the Brand Before

While I’m all for trying new things and looking at the purchase price rather than the brand, I do want to caution you not to go overboard. If you’ve never tried Cheeseburger and Cream shampoo before and it’s on a great sale and there’s a good coupon out for it, I’d suggest you buy a bottle or two and determine whether you like it or not before you stock up for the rest of the year.

It’s not saving money if you get a sweet deal on 30 bottles of shampoo and then they stay in the stockpile closet for five years because no one will use them!

Yes, Brand Does Matter Sometimes — But Not Much of the Time

Okay, before any diehard brand-dependent person flips out on me, I must clarify that I believe it’s totally acceptable to have a few items where you are stuck 100% on a certain brand.

For instance, we only use Pampers diapers. I have two children with extremely sensitive skin and we’ve tried multiple brands of cloth diapers, Huggies, Luvs, store-brand, you name it and Pampers are the only diapers who don’t break them out in severe diaper rash. So it’s worth it to me to spend the extra money on Pampers (though, since the advent of Swagbucks, I’ve not been paying for diapers out of pocket, so the extra costs don’t hurt as much!).

We also use Shout almost exclusively for stain removal. We have three young children and oh do we have need of a good stain remover! Shout is the only stain remover I’ve found which consistently gets out pretty much 100% of the stains. However, I can usually get it for under $0.75 per bottle by matching a coupon with a great sale, so I’m not really spending much more on it.

Other than Shout and Pampers, we try to keep a pretty open mind when it comes to brands and shopping. And we save so much money by doing so!

What brands are you non-negotiable on? Have you been pleasantly surprised when trying new brands?

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Don’t Waste

“Waste not, want not.” We’ve all heard the phrase, but are we following it? Purposing to not waste food is a simple thing, but it can make a big difference in our grocery budget. Here are a few ideas for eliminating waste:

1. Make the Most of What You Have

Back when my husband was in law school, we often only had $17 to $20 to spend on groceries for an entire week (all 21 meals). I quickly learned that creativity was a poor cook’s best friend.

I usually stocked up on mark-downs, loss-leaders and the rock-bottom deals and then concocted the best menu I could based upon these. I rarely ever followed a recipe exactly as written, because we usually didn’t have all the ingredients and couldn’t afford to buy them. But I discovered you don’t always have to follow a recipe perfectly in order to get a fabulous end result!

AllRecipes is a great resource if you’re working with an odd assortment of ingredients. You can plug in what ingredients you have and don’t have and it will pull up recipes you can make. You also can find lots of great substitution ideas online, such as at these sites: Emergency Kitchen Substitutions and Ingredient Substitutions.

2. Repurpose Leftovers

Instead of pitching those leftover mashed potatoes or vegetables, why not repurpose them? Once again, AllRecipes is a great resource. There are also some excellent ideas in these articles: How to Turn Leftovers Into Scrumptious Meals, Creative Uses for Leftovers and Leftover Recipe Ideas.

3. Use Up the Last of the Bottle

My mom taught me never to throw out a bottle of anything unless you’ve used up the last drop. When the bottle of ketchup or salad dressing or laundry detergent is almost empty, add some water, put the lid back on, and shake it up to get the last remains cleaned out of the bottle and stretch it just a wee bit longer. It’s a small little thing, but the little things can add up to make significant differences.

4. Use Half the Recommended Amount

Did you know that you can get by with using a whole lot less than the recommended amount of shampoo, laundry detergent and so forth? Challenge yourself to try it and see how little you can get by with using without noticing any difference.

Want to do something really radical and inexpensive? Try the No Shampoo Experiment. I’ve not gotten that brave yet, but I have friends who have done it with success.

Put a rubber band around the neck of pump-style soap dispensers to limit the amount of soap dispensed per pump. — 40 Practical Tips for an Ordinary Rubber Band

What simple things have you implemented in your home to eliminate waste? I’d love to hear your ideas to possibly try!

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Follow a Few Helpful Blogs

Once you’ve started getting your toes a little wet in this whole lowering your grocery budget thing, you’ll find that one of your biggest helps will be finding and following a few blogs.

When I first started back in 2007, there weren’t any other blogs posting deals. (Yes, seriously, can you believe that?!) There were deal forums, but they were hard to follow — and very overwhelming for a newbie.

I searched for a blog which had the deals at Walgreens and CVS mapped out for me and came up empty. Since I was already compiling the best deals for myself and a few other friends, I figured I might as well do what I wished someone else were doing and start a blog with the best deals all outlined each week in a neat and tidy manner.

Well, the idea caught on a little bit. And a few years later, there are now thousands of deal blogs of every size, shape, kind and color available. There are bloggers covering just about every store out there from every angle imaginable.

The good news is that there are so many deal blogs out there, there’s something for everyone.

The bad news is that there are so many deal blogs out there you can get a little overwhelmed or spend too much time reading them.

Choose Wisely

Just like you want to be a wise steward of your money, you also want to be a wise steward of your time. When it comes to deal blogs, I suggest choosing no more than five to follow.

Pick blogs which inspire you, give you new and creative ideas, which routinely cover stores you shop at and which you find easy to follow. If a blog isn’t inspiring or helping you, stop following it. (That goes for this blog, as well. There’s no point in you wasting time reading here if you’re not getting anything out of it!)

If you find five quality blogs which regularly post the best deals and which cover the stores in your area, you’ll likely be notified of just about every truly great deal out there. Oh, I’m sure if you followed 35 deal blogs, you’d probably find a few more deals than you’d find just following five deal blogs, but I honestly doubt you’d really miss much. I follow 5-10 deal blogs at any given time myself and I find that it’s rare I miss some really amazing deal — and if I were only following them for myself (instead of also looking for deals to share with a nationwide audience), five would totally suffice.

Now, please don’t feel like I’m saying you’re wrong to follow more than five blogs. You can do whatever works for you! I’m just trying to alleviate you of the feeling that you’re missing out on all sorts of great stuff if you don’t follow at least 76 different blogs! 🙂

You’re better off following a few blogs and spending the rest of your time implementing what you’re learning, than spending hours reading about all these great ways to save money but never actually doing anything.

Use Feed Subscriptions

I’ve found that it’s much more efficient to read blogs through a feed reader, rather than visiting each of them individually. I personally use Bloglines, though I’ve been told repeatedly that Google Reader is better. Most blogs also now offer the option of email subscriptions, so you can get an email in your inbox once per day with all the posts from the previous 24 hours in one concise little email — saving you from even having to visit a blog if you’d like!

Pick the Best Deals, Leave the Rest

I’ve said it repeatedly, but it bears repeating again: you don’t have to hit every deal. Once you’ve subscribed to the five or so blogs you want to follow, just skim through the posts on a regular basis and pick and choose what deals you have the time and energy to do and have no guilt in leaving all the others behind.

Sometimes I get emails from readers who are all flustered trying to figure out how I do all the deals I post about. Um, want to know something? I probably actually do around 5-15% of the deals I post here. And I don’t feel one bit of guilt over the others I choose not to do. If I did all the deals I posted here, we’d be way over-budget, our house would be bursting with stuff we didn’t need and I’d have my priorities way out of whack.

Instead I just pick and choose what deals work for our family based upon our budget, our needs and the time I have. By doing this, we get plenty of great deals and save a boatload of money — and I have time for many other more important things in my life.

Blogs are so helpful when it comes to saving money on your grocery bill as they share the best deals with you in a concise, step-by-step manner. But remember that they are there to serve as a tool, not a burden.

Do you find that following blogs helps you to save on your grocery bill? What tips do you have for streamlining your blog reading?

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!

31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Sign Up for Freebies

Want to know a simple way I save an average of $3 to $5 off my grocery bill every week? I sign up for freebies!

Now, I have to tell you, I used to think signing up for freebies was a waste of time. I knew this one girl who was all into freebies and she spent what seemed like enormous amounts of time finding and signing up for freebies online. She’d post pictures on her blog of what she got in the mail and it pretty much looked like junk to me.

It seemed like signing up for freebies meant spending lots of time searching online and filling out forms all just to get tiny little samples of stuff I didn’t need and wouldn’t use in the first place. Needless to say, I was unimpressed.

However, this friend kept raving about her free samples and I finally decided, “Okay, what’s it going to hurt me just to try it for a few months?”

So I did… and, ahem, now I’m hooked. And I’ve quickly realized that signing up for freebies doesn’t have to be a waste of time. In fact, it is fun — and it can save you a nice little amount on your grocery bill.

After all, when you get a coupon for free Tropicana Orange Juice, a free Gillette razor and coupons for 2 free packages of yogurt in just one day’s mail, it’s hard to conclude that it’s a waste of time to sign up for freebies!

Not only can you get full-sized products and free product coupons, but the sample sized products can help decrease how often you have to buy shampoo, deodorant, laundry detergent and body wash, and they also often have high-value coupons in them which can net you a full-sized product for a great deal!

How To Fill Your Mailbox With Great Freebies in Less Than 15 Minutes Per Week

1. Set Up A Separate Email Account

Do NOT sign up for freebies with your main email account. I promise you’ll be inundated with advertisement emails. Instead, set up a separate account through GMail or Juno or some other free service and only give out that email address when signing up.

2. Download An Automatic Form Filler

You don’t have to re-type the same information every time you fill out a form. Just download RoboForm or FormFiller and they do almost all the work for you at the touch of a button. Saves you a great deal of time and makes it so much faster to sign up for freebies!

3. Check Often

I do my best to keep you updated on the best freebies which are available — from samples to free coupons to full-sized products. Often, the really hot freebies only last for a few hours, so if you’re able to, I’d recommend checking in at least one to three times per day in order not to miss out. You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter to be notified when something new has been posted.

4. Sign Up for Freebies Which Interest You

When you see a freebie I’ve posted that you’re interested in, I’d recommend signing up immediately so you don’t miss out in case supplies are exhausted. However, I recommend that you don’t sign up for every freebie posted — only those you know you’ll use. If you won’t use it, there’s no point in having it clutter up your home, right?

5. Be Patient

It usually takes around 4-6 weeks for freebies to start arriving. It’s easy to be discouraged if you sign up for freebies faithfully for a few weeks and see nothing in return. Don’t be disheartened. Just keep plugging away at signing up for those you’re interested and by week four or six, you should start to see a real return on your effort.

Do you think it’s worth it to sign up for freebies? Why or why not?

Get the latest coupons delivered right to your door for
as low as $1 per week with Discounted Newspapers!