Supermarket Money Saving Tips For 2009

by Scott on January 2, 2009

Rows of muffins
photo credit: jslander

You might not have over a dozen children at home like the Jeub family, but you are looking to stretch your dollar at the grocery store and buy quality food for the month. Were you successful making your supermarket money last longer or did you struggle each month? Do you have a plan for 2009 that will make your grocery money stretch even further? Will you eat out less or maybe eat leftovers more often?

Here are some supermarket money saving tips that I’ve tried in the past and my thoughts for new food saving money advice for 2009.

1. Set a grocery budget. What did you spend each month is 2008 on groceries? Do you include eating out and entertainment in your grocery budget? Are you wondering what a food budget for a family of four should be each month? I would as well. We have friends that are very frugal food shoppers and have a family of 5 eat for under $400 a month. I don’t know how this is done, but they make it happen. They say that they buy a lot of pasta and chicken and stay away from name brand items.

2. Make a list. Sounds easy, but I never do it. My wife is great at creating lists and will offer to create one for me when I do the grocery shopping. I tend to be an impulse food shopper and buy food at the worst possible time when I’m hungry. Usually I’m tempted to buy a deli sandwich if I shop at lunch time or a pizza or cooked chicken at dinner time. A list helps me organize my food items needed for the week and keeps me focused. I also tend to waste a lot more time when I’m just wandering from isle to isle trying to put items together for a meal. Also, I tend to buy more cookies and chips if I don’t have a list.

3. Whole Food or Food Maxx? We have friends that shop exclusively at both and you can imagine how the food budget would be vastly different. Yes, the argument can be made that vegetables and some organic food cannot be found at Food Maxx, but some of the staples like cereal and pasta are basically the same. I know someone will disagree, but you can always try Trader Joe’s that seems to beat Whole Foods in many categories. Maybe if you shopped Whole Foods in 2008 and are looking to trim your food budget in 2009, Trader Joe’s might be a good option. If you shopped Safeway, Kroger’s, or another national supermarket in 2008, you might consider trying a discounter like Walmart or Food Maxx. Do you buy groceries at Costco in bulk? Do you wonder if you are saving money? Me too.

4. Use a calculator. If you are not sure if the 12 pack of Doll peaches is a good price at Costco, pull out your calculator. They usually have the price per ounce listed on the price tag. You might need to look closely as they make it very fine print. You might be surprised that you are paying over $1.00 a can when you might be able to buy the same item at your local supermarket cheaper. Same idea goes for toothpaste, napkins, juice, soda, or any bulk food item at Costco. I’ve noticed the big savings occur when we purchase contact solution and Costco coffee. I can’t find the items cheaper anywhere else, including Walmart or Target.

5. Costco Food Coop? I had an interesting idea go through my head the last time I was shopping at Costco. I was in line waiting over 20 minutes to pick up our family Christmas picture and was looking in other carts and thought many of the items looked amazing. I’ve never tried many of the meats, pastries, pies, cookies, fruit and vegetables at Costco because we are only a family of four. I still am amazed how Costco seems to cater to restaurants or people with multiple children. Take the 12 pack of muffins as an example. I love the chocolate Costco muffins and have had them probably 5 times in my life. We always buy them, eat the chocolate and then put the rest in the freezer. We either forget to eat them or need the space for meat or another frozen food item. How do people eat 12 huge Costco muffins in a week? What about the fresh Cosco fruit? I love mango, but a flat of 10 to 12 mango’s? I guess you could cut them up and freeze them. My thought was a Costco food coop that would arrange to share items with multiple families. Several families could split the cost and also enjoy trying new foods for the first time. Buying Costco meat can be substantially cheaper if purchase in bulk bags. One summer I found Costco Tri tip bbq for $3.00 a pound if purchased in a bag of 10. My freezer doesn’t hold 10 of anything. Well, actually is can hold 10 Otter Pops, but not 10 tri tip roasts. Creating a coop with a friend and splitting the 10 pack would save everyone money.

What are your food saving tips for 2009?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Russell Cavanagh January 2, 2009 at 8:29 am

Great advice on an informative and slightly unusual site. Thanks.
I plan to eat more vegetarian – help the planet, my own health, my own wallet …

All the best for 2009 from the UK!

2 Mark Framness January 2, 2009 at 10:03 am

Make lists, never grocery shop (or shop in general) when hungry, don’t assume a store’s reputation for deals means a deal on every item, and don’t assume buying in bulk means cheaper units.

We try to plan out meals a bit in advance around the Sunday paper deals & coupons. We rarely buy prepared or overly processed foods (however there are exceptions, my wife likes to have a pile of frozen microwave meals on hand in case she has nothing ready for lunch at work, frozen pizza is a good expedient and since we have many friends who work at a national pizza manufacturer we can get rejects on the cheap).

We do a lot of our own cooking & baking and do so in bulk.

I noticed too when tracking expenses our grocery spending fluctuates fairly wildly. We go and drop some good coin at the grocery store one week and then we are set for the next two – three weeks and are a fair amount under our weekly budget. I need to do a better job of expense tracking this year, though.

3 Scott January 11, 2009 at 6:52 pm

@Russell

Vegetarian dishes would be good to try in 2009. We have a friend who shares some great recipes with us and I actually enjoyed eating a quiche she had prepared. It wasn’t the traditional quiche, but had some great potatoes and other veggies in it.

@Mark

I can’t agree more that we shouldn’t shop while hungry. I always make poor choices and buy more cookies, crackers, or bread when I’m starving. We have a friend that goes grocery shopping at 2am and says that he can get most items as they have just stocked the store. I can’t imagine staying up until 2am to go shopping, but it works for them.

4 Monroe on a Budget January 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

I have been known to go grocery shopping at 6 a.m. : )

5 Scott January 21, 2009 at 2:35 pm

@ Monroe

6am is amazing! Maybe I could do it if the store offered free coffee and bagels :)

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