November 20, 2017

Grocery Shopping on a Budget


As we begin dissecting our personal finances, we’ve thought about our needs vs. wants, realized that tracking grocery expenses are the best way to understand where all the food money is disappearing, and now for what you’ve all asked – I get to share a typical grocery shopping trip. This was a normal week. It wasn’t a “stockpile/buy ahead” week with Super Doubles or triple coupons, it was a typical shopping Day which will last two weeks.

I realized long ago that I really am an oddity with my shopping.Β  But that’s OK, I shop with eagle eyes, scouring the aisles and 95% of the time, I won’t touch an item unless it’s on sale or marked down. The exception to that rule would be some store brand items and a few choice items at Sam’s Club. πŸ™‚ (I don’t stock up on many things at Sam’s because I still find better deals at the more expensive stores by matching the sales flier with my coupons.

Remember my #1 Money Saving Grocery Tip? This works even if you don’t want to use a single coupon. (Refresh your memory and trust me, the tip is NOT to shop, then plan. πŸ™‚

Encouraging you to pare down your grocery budget is a goal, but based on personalities, lifestyles and even proximity to stores, all ofΒ  us will develop a system just a bit differently. And that is OK. Don’t feel pressure to follow one person’s exact way…(like mine). Some of you may shop once a month with one huge grocery shopping day like my friend, Kate. Others may shop at the commissary and Aldi’s (my fave), always use cash, like my friend Toni, and that works perfectly for their family. The purpose is to develop a system that works for your family, but you MUST start…somewhere. No more excuses for why it won’t work.

Remember that “Nothing is dynamic until it becomes specific.” (This coming from the mom who still struggles with morning routines. :))

Just do it! You may need to tweak it and reevaluate what is working and what isn’t, but making a budget plan is KEY!

We finally hit the grocery stores this week – Sam’s Club (which my hubby did for me…), Harris Teeter for our basic grocery supplies and Earth Fare, a health food store, for some grains and a free pound of organic coffee (yes, the real reason I stopped in there this week.)

saving with coupons_optshopping on budget_opt


marked down meats_opt

  • Angus Short Ribs marked down from $4.54 to $1.89 (Why do I buy marked down meat?)
  • Angus Eye round marked down from $15.89 to $5.48
  • Angus Eye round marked down from $11.93 to $3.48
  • Beef Meatballs – Packaged from the meat department. Regular price $3.99/package, on sale – 2/$6….I got them for $0.50 each. I had three in my cart and then when he said he’d take care of me, I snatched up all nine of them.Β  It’s a win-win. He said he was glad that he could sell them to me rather than throw them away and I was ELATED!
  • Seven gallons of short dated milk – marked down to $1/gallon (4 are already in the freezer)
  • 2 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts marked down $1.99/dozen (yes, total treat and so unhealthy…I know :))
  • Marked down fruit – apples and pears $2.63 for big bag
  • marked down bag of limes (to squeeze in our water) – $1.59
  • Marked down bakery items – sour dough bread and french bread – $0.50 and $1.

And For the REST of MY TRIP….find out how much everything in the picture cost –

  • Ragu sauce 1 at $0.99 for HT card holders
  • Polaner’s 100%Β  Fruit Jam – $2.00 (minus $1 coupon) = $1
  • True Lemon Reg. $3 – sale $1.50 (-$1 IP coupon) = $0.50
  • True Orange Reg. $3 – sale $1.50 (-$1 IP coupon) = $0.50
  • Hot Leg Quarters $3.99 Marked down $1.99 (end of night)
  • Guacamole $1.99 (-$1IP) = $1 (These were free during super doubles)
  • 3 lbs yellow onions – $1.99 sale
  • Wheat bread – reg. $2.49 on sale $1.99 ($0.60 coupon doubled – $1.20) = $0.80
  • Palarmo’s pizzas Buy 2 at $6.99, get 3 free. I used 2 $1 Ip coupons) = $2.40/large pizza
  • HT Ice Cream – Buy2,Get 3 So for five ice creams – $10.78 (not as good as Breyer’s with coupons, but we were out of IC)
  • Frozen Bird’s Eye VeggiesΒ  – on sale $1.34 – used three different coupons varying from $0.50 – $0.75 (which doubled) making them between $0.34 and free. For the most part, I never pay more than $0.50 for frozen veggies. These are one of those things you can easily use the buy ahead principle since there are so many coupons available both in the newspaper and on-line. Plus, all the brands take turns having great sales. Just don’t be brand specific and you’re set.
  • Eggs – $2.17 (do you know how it KILLS me to buy eggs when I have CHICKENS…ARG!) πŸ™‚
  • Arizona Ice Tea $0.99 (son snuck it in)
  • This is where a little math and Eagle Eyes come into play…Deli Creation sandwiches $2.50, but they had a yellow $1 peelie for short date, so it brought them to $1.50. Then I had another $1 off coupon. Love when that happens.
  • Yogurts Reg. $2.50 sale 2/$4, double my $0.50 and $0.75 coupons makes them $0.50 – $1 for six pack
  • Free Juicy Juice

All of the food pictured totaled me only UNDER $70. That is a lot of food for that amount and this was a very typical shopping trip. I didn’t spend hours on my coupons. Now, the only atypical deal was all those meatballs for $0.50. That doesn’t happen every week. I find marked down meat often, but not that low.

P.S. I just noticed I forgot to add Hebrew National and some dairy products…yes, all with coupons that doubled and cheap….butter = free.

Earth Fare

  • Organic Oats $1.19lb
  • Organic Raisins $2.99lb
  • Organic Rice $.89lb
  • Sunflower Seeds $3.19lb
  • Flax Seeds marked down $2.79/lb
  • Strawberry/Rasberry Granola $4.59 (only bought .39/lb and decided to make my own)
  • 1 lb of organic Free Trade coffee = free (sign up for Earth Fare’s weekly emails. They include an amazing coupon each time. This week it’s 5 lbs of organic potatoes. Sorry, they’re only in NC, SC, TN, GA, AL)

I only spent $12.50 at Earth Fare. I typically buy oats in 25 pound bags but am out and wanted to make some homemade granola.

Sam’s Club

My amazing hubby went to Sam’s Club for me. That, in and of itself wins him “Husband of the Year” award, but I will add that he splurged on many “wants” vs. needs as he took our kids for a “Hot Dog and Soda” dinner date.

I’m running out of steam typing every price, but here’s what was purchased that I requested he buy-Β  White Tortilla chips, salsa, ham, 5 lb cottage cheese,Β  5 lb shredded cheese, bananas, avacados, syrup, peanut butter, jelly, romaine hearts, spring mix, 50 lbs dog food, Downy, and his additions – gazzillion pound bag of MM’s and Good Humor Ice Cream bars which really put the kids in a great humor….

Considering that the dog food – $19, MM’s – $13, Ice Cream bars – $10, and Downy – $12.48 totaled half of the $120, we’re doing pretty well.

My total for the month is around $200 so far, and I doubt I will be shopping for at least another ten days. I mentioned staying at around $300 for this month. That could very well happen, and then I’d have an additional $200 from our $500/month grocery budget to put else where. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful? πŸ™‚

Whew – this was a lot of grocery shopping talk. Next time I’ll weight in on Aldi.

I am ready for warm weather so that I can get out my spray paint and get back to some great Trash To Treasure redo’s. but hopefully, in the mean time, you’re encouraged that we’re all in this grocery budget process together.


  1. How or where do you find the marked down produce and dairy items? I would like to take that saving advantage.


  2. Thanks for sharing your details. I’ve been trying, but my small (very small) town store just doesn’t have the quantity (and thus the markdowns) that you find! I did ask for produce on it’s way out and got a great deal!


    Barb Reply:

    @Abbie, I’m in the same boat – we only have Aldi and Walmart. Other stores (target, rite-aid, walgreens, etc.) are an hour away. So I feel I am at the mercy of those 2 stores. Walmart rarely has markdowns, it seems. No double coupons. Aldi doesn’t take coupons. Sorry I’m a bit whining here but am I playing the victim when I think my limited shopping possibilities encourages a higher grocery bill? And I’m curious about the use of coupons – using 2 on one item, waiting to use when the item goes on sale, your basic coupon strategy.
    Thanks again for a wonderful learning moment.


  3. I always find that my grocery bill goes up when the hubby comes with me. :0)


  4. Meredith says:

    I didn’t know you could freeze milk?? How long can you keep it frozen?


  5. I’m just laughing away over here! Those husbands….they can be the goodwill killers. I’ve never sent my husband on a major grocery shopping trip. I him that if I’d have to, he should only go to Adlis, where’s there only one type (Aldis brand)of skim milk, bread etc. and usaully at a basic/known price. Exactly what happened with you, would happen with me, and it would be the candy & frozen treats he’d come home with. And he’d be the momentary hero with the kids! It’s just funny! I love the reality of this post. Thanks for your hard work.


  6. I just found your site this past weekend. We are almost 2 years into the Total Money Makeover. It was hard for my husband who makes a good salary to get on board at first, but now that we are down to only our mortgage and a rental mortgage and both homes are worth more than double what we owe on them, he is completely on board.
    I am stealing your idea of “eating down the pantry and freezer” this month and trying to keep my grocery bill under $150. We budget $700 for dining and groceries, but we usually never use it all so the rest goes to paying down our mortgage.
    I am sharing your site with all my friends who say they can’t stick to a grocery budget!
    Thanks for the great work!


  7. You rock, girlfriend! I love reading about your grocery deals. πŸ™‚

    I’m hoping the weather warms just a bit here in VA so I can spray paint too. I’ve been missing it. πŸ˜‰


  8. I am curious where in NC you are? We have a Harris Teeter here in Fayetteville, though I’ve never, ever seen any marked down meats in my store. Good job and wish they would do that here.Thanks for the insight.


    Jens Reply:

    @Carla, Carla – I would encourage you to approach the meat manager and ask if they mark down short dated items. Many stores do it first thing in the morning (7am)and they may be sold out by the time you get there. If they don’t, just ask….that’s how I started getting my marked down dairy. πŸ™‚


  9. Dear Jen,

    You are very inspiring. Your posts have been awesome and I know how hard you have been working to make a difference. Great job and keep up the good work.



  10. We are in no couponland/no meat markdown land. Well, actually sometimes the meats (and dairy) are marked down, but it’s still not a good deal.

    The best thing for our grocery budget that I do, is to buy whatever the loss leader deal of the week is and stock up on that meat. Sometimes it’s ground beef at $1.69/lb, sometimes it’s chicken for $.69/lb. Once you have built up your freezer inventory a bit, you have a variety of meats that you can prepare at a fraction of the regular price.

    I’ve found the trick with sending my wonderful husband to the store. Only send enough cash from the grocery budget for the items I’ve requested. I once sent a $20 bill for some cheese. Big mistake! Now, I send whatever amount I know he’ll need. If he wants something else, it comes out of a different cash envelope, but not my grocery envelope.


    Kelleigh @ Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs Reply:

    @Johnlyn, I do the same thing with my husband! He is totally on board with the budget, however if I give him a $20 to buy bread and eggs, he comes back with a gallon of ice cream and some M&Ms! Now, I know to send smaller bills. LOL!


  11. I have a very limited amount of freezer space, so freezing milk is not an option. Besides, we like to splurge from a local dairy when ever possible (the milk is SOOO much better!).

    I recommend checking out Angel Food Ministries for those with limited shopping options. They can offer some great bargains!


    Jens Reply:

    @Kathryn Lang, So true…I can only stock up on milk because we have an extra freezer. Before that, I would only have room for an additional one gallon.
    Angel Ministry is wonderful for those not picky about their food choices…they have a great ministry, for sure.


  12. I love seeing everything that you purchased!! Will you zoom your picture out so we can see a better pic. Love your blog!!


  13. Yeah, I vote for bigger pictures, too! LOL! I love seeing all of your scores, Jen. You are so inspiring!


  14. I recently switched to the same moto you have of cooking by what I have in the pantry. With me and my husband, I can often leave the grocery store only buying five items. It is amazing how this little change has saved us so much money and has used up all our food. Now, I love seeing the pantry and freezer get empty…a sign we are eating our food and not wasting! I love what you said about being okay with our frugal ways. A lady at target was giving me major attitude the other day as I jumped on their sales and my coupons. She was obviously annoyed with me. But it is worth it…and it is okay to be crazy frugal!!! πŸ˜‰


  15. Great post. Our budget for 4 each month is $390 which I find really isn’t much, so I need to really take my time shopping, finding the deals, etc.. I shop at Coscto (my chicken, TP, Bananas and a few other things now and then), Winco, Grocery Outlet (for whatever I find that is a great deal…especially organic things). We also have a local produce store where I often get discounted produce and they have huge bins of “damaged” goods marked down at great prices. A few weeks ago I bought a box of 8 clif bars for $1.00! SCORE…My favorites are their canned goods for .50.

    I think part keeping the budget is what you buy…for example because we have a particular budget (and hubby’s preference) we rarely eat beef and if we do it’s not expensive cuts. We usually eat Veggie, chicken or salmon. Lots of soups!! I don’t purchase a lot of processed or high priced packaged foods. If something I typically buy goes up in price one week, I simply bypass it, waiting for it to down.

    I shop with cash and a calculator AND a list!! I pre-make my menu’s so I know what I need. My shopping trips can take awhile, but it’s worth it.


  16. I really appreciate you taking the time to teach the rest of us your tips! And I really, really appreciate furniture redos! Woo hoo!


  17. I had run out of wheat. Mine arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to try your cinnamon roll recipe. I did all freshly ground hard white instead of the all-purpose. I added an extra tablespoon of yeast. Everything else I kept the same. SO WONDERFUL! I’ve tried lots of recipes, but this is the favorite. The rest are going in the trash. No need to try others. It can’t be beat. Just wanted to thank you SO much for the time and energy to putting together the perfect recipe. I’m sure your family didn’t mind all the additional taste tests. πŸ™‚ Thanks for all I learn from you. Due to finances, my daughter and I are learning the art of thrift shopping and loving the thrill. πŸ™‚


  18. I love the Dave Ramsey quote, I put it on my facebook status today!


  19. Stephanie says:

    Jen that’s awesome I totally agree TALK to the meat and produce mgrs. they will seek you out when you come in if they have something to get rid of. We are always game to try something new.


  20. I agree – love these posts. I have a HT right around the corner from me and get marked down meat all the time. I espcially love it when they mark down the organic chicken. I really love these posts – I learn so much from them and they inspire me to really get that grocery bill down! Now I really need to buy an extra freezer. We have another fridge/freezer in the garage – but the freezer is so small. Plan to eat from the pantry these next 3 weeks!


  21. Good tips all around! I really enjoy your blog and seeing how others save money.

    2 hours left for my giveaway of The Coupon Mom’s new book:


  22. Ironically, my college attending son got me hooked on looking for those yellow label make down meats! I use coupons and don’t drive around to a bunch of stores for “deals”. We eat what is on sale or what I have coupons for. By sticking to one store I save on gas and time. I actually spend less and have very little waste. It was also good to read about the realistic food budgets. I have never fed my family on the low amounts I read about sometimes. Remembering home management is part of my job, I don’t get frustrated or discouraged at the amount of time planning and shopping takes. Thanks for the encouragement to keep on keeping on.


  23. Do you shop with a list? Do you plan your meals before you shop? DO you plan those meals around what you already have in the pantry? Do you then get good deals like the meat you mentioned to “stock up” even though it wasn’t on your list? My grocery budget including diapers and household is $500 for a family of 5 is that bad?

    Just wondering those things…would love your answers. Thanks!


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