How We Shed $200 From Our Grocery Budget. Next Month FoodMaxx For More Savings

by Scott on February 5, 2009

I recently wrote about Mint.com and how I started using the site to track our personal finances. After a few weeks I am still very impressed with Mint and the ability to track daily transactions for our bank accounts and our credit cards. In fact, I think it has already saved us about $500 a month in our living expenses. I actually enjoy games and challenges and have started to establish some tight restrictions on spending categories. My goal is to be more aggressive and start saving more money with our grocery budget. I feel that with a little work I can make some smarter decisions with our grocery item and still buy quality food for our family. I’m not willing to sacrifice quality, but I will drive a little further for a bargain.

How did we save $200 on groceries in January?
Since I abandoned my old excel spreadsheet I was able to watch our transactions hit Mint the very next day. This allowed me to track spending more closely and defer or hold off on several purchases. For instance, our grocery budget was set to $500 which might seem a bit high for a family of 4, but still well below our average of $600-$700. As we approached the $500 in our food budget I would buy only the necessities to make it through the end of the month. Milk, eggs, cereal and some basics helped stretch our budget to $500 for groceries in January. I didn’t buy large containers of fresh fruit from Costco and stayed away from store bought cookies or soda. In fact my wife bought an ice cream maker and we have been enjoying some wonderful treats. Could I save even more each month? Sure. You might be feeding your family of 4 for far less and I would love to hear your feedback on your personal budget. Could I be using the cash envelope system to help lower my grocery bills? Probably, but I’m happy to see the progress so far with over $100-$200 in grocery savings.

We didn’t use coupons and I’m actually very bad at clipping coupons from the newspaper and trying to find coupons for products we actually use each month. I remember when we were first married that I would fall for buying items just because we had a coupon. I think I bought a huge bottle of Tums when we were 25 years old. I think I ate two of them and finally threw the bottle away. Some of you coupon clippers could probably help me shed another $40 or more of my monthly grocery budget. I would appreciate any tips you might have. Any fun and easy website you would recommend would be appreciated.

We bought 90% of our groceries from Raley’s supermarket.
This is not a discount grocery store like Walmart or FoodMaxx, but a regular grocery store chain. Could we save more by shopping at a deep discount store like FoodMaxx? Probably, and in February I plan to do most of our shopping at Foodmaxx. Why haven’t I done this before? Foodmaxx is about 10 miles from my house and it’s not convenient. I know I should probably buy more bulk items and go twice a month to save more money. Believe me, my frugal friends who have a $350 grocery budget remind me all the time. In case you are wondering, the other 10% of groceries are purchased from Costco. I mostly buy coffee and paper items from them. What is my food budget going to be for February? I’m hoping to spend $450 on groceries from Foodmaxx.

How about you? Are you making any changes to your grocery budget next month? How have you saved money on groceries? I would love to hear some of your stories.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John February 5, 2009 at 10:16 am

My grocery budget is still a little high, but I am working on bringing it down. I highly recommend coupons; they add up in the long run. Remember to only clip coupons for products you normally buy or you will start spending more!

I subscribe to my local newspaper and only get the Sunday edition delivered. There are usually 2-3 flyers of coupons in there.

2 Monroe on a Budget February 5, 2009 at 10:28 am

Don’t just save the coupons “for products you use.” Save the coupons for products you might use if you run across a coupon + sale deal that’s worth taking up on.

You also have to watch the sales fliers. Some stores feature sales on coupon-able products during the week the coupons are released. But some of those sales may happen a week or two after coupon release.

You can follow one of the national coupon sites if you want to watch for sale match-up opportunities, but in my city it’s too complicated to do that. We’ve got three Sunday newspapers whose circulation areas overlap in my county. (Yeah, coupon bonanza! Our double coupon stores only double up to 50 cents but the coupon discounts still add up fast.)

I keep my coupons in an index box, with index cards dividing them by categories. I carry that with me to every drugstore or grocery store trip.

3 Scott February 5, 2009 at 10:34 am

@ John

We have friends that receive an extra copy of the Sunday paper and I just need to start making myself clip coupons. I’m really bad at taking the time to do this each week. I’m still trying to find an online solution for coupons that would send products we buy to our email. Any ideas anyone?

4 Scott February 5, 2009 at 10:35 am

@ Monroe

You are extremely organized with your coupons. Three Sunday newspapers? Wow, that’s some serious coupon clipping. I need to look into the double coupon option at Foodmaxx. I wonder if they offer this as it would help our grocery budget out for February.

5 Monroe on a Budget February 5, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I do get two of the three Sunday papers delivered to my house.

Now the neat trick is people also let me have coupon packets that they don’t need or want. I get about five more coupon packets that way … although I don’t get some of those until the newspapers are about two weeks old and heading to a recycling bin.

The coupons I don’t need get handed down to other people. I have two friends who’ve gladly taken my leftovers, and lately I’ve been putting the cut-up coupons in a trade box at my library.

It does take time, but it can be done while watching TV.

And a trick my mother often used to save time: have the kids cut up the coupons for you (a little “negotiation” on chores or allowance may be called for), then mom sorts them into her coupon box.

6 Scott February 5, 2009 at 1:58 pm

@ Monroe

I love the tv coupon clipping idea. Now if I start clipping it will compete with my Twitter time. Thanks for sharing your tips. My kids would love to practice using scissors, adult supervision required :)

7 Zack February 5, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Ahh, Coupons….now you are talking my language :)

I see a lot of comments here about Coupons from the Sunday paper. That is one of the great resources.

However like most things now days the Internet is a huge resource for Coupons as well. Not only coupons but you can find free samples, discount codes for things like free shipping, % off and spend X get X $’s off.

Not just on groceries either, but clothes, health and beauty items, book, magazines…the list goes on and on. Almost anything you buy you can find some sort of special deal or coupon for.

The idea is to find a site you like and that is kept up with (meaning they remove links as they expire or no longer are available).

Of course like I said Coupons are my language – reason being I run one of these sites so I am kind of partial to it.

It is called Coupon Dad – here is the url:

http://coupondad.net

Of course there are many sites out there so here are a couple of more I recommend:

Couponing 101 – http://www.couponing101.com

Bargain Briana – http://www.bargainbriana.com

Coupon Cabin – http://www.couponcabin.com

But like someone said in an earlier comment – be careful not to buy something just because you have a coupon. If you get in the habit of printing / clipping coupons regularly though you can really save a lot of money off your grocery bill.

My grocery bill used to average about $1200 – $1400 a month (family of 9), but now we are down to around $700 – $800.

The trick is to stock pile when things you use are on sale and then use a coupon on top of the sale.

Coupon Dad

8 Scott February 5, 2009 at 3:26 pm

@ Zak

Those are some impressive results for your family of 9. Looks like you cut your grocery bill in half. I can’t even imagine cutting our bill down to $250. Thanks for the link and I’ll be sure to check it out.

9 Miranda February 5, 2009 at 7:59 pm

We actually save a bunch by buying at the local grocery and avoiding Wal-Mart. (No more tempting impulse “bargains”). We also stock up on non-perishables when they go on sale, so that we save a lot in the long run.

10 carol at A Second Cup February 5, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Wow, that is an impressive cut I your food budget. I have never heard on foodmaxx. I am looking forward to finding out about it.

11 Scott February 6, 2009 at 1:39 am

@ Carol

Foodmaxx is a discount grocery store here in California. They purchased Food For Less a couple of years ago. We also have Trader Joes which does not accept coupons as they don’t sell name brand food. They have an excellent selection and value for top quality food. Some items can be purchased cheaper though, such as juice and coffe.

12 Scott February 6, 2009 at 1:41 am

@ Miranda

We don’t have a Super Walmart near us in California where they sell groceries. I have been to one on a trip to Arkansas and was blown away by the size of the store. And yes, I would be tempted to buy other items as well.

13 Greener Pastures February 6, 2009 at 8:09 am

Another thing you might try is shopping for bulk items on line. If you keep an eye out, Amazon grocery has some great bargains. If you spend over $25 dollars, the shipping is free. And they have this subscribe and save program, that will give you 15% off some items- if you sign up to have them delivered regularly. They ask you before they ship the item. You have the option of cancelling without penalty.

And no, I don’t own Amazon stock!!!!

Also I noticed Target and Walmart sell groceries through ebates on-line. Target offers a 3% rebate, and Walmart a 1%. I’ve never ordered from these companies, so I don’t know if they offer free shipping.

PS – if you’re not a member of e-bates, and you sign up through the link on my site, and buy something through them, I’ll get $5. This offer is good for you, too. Sometimes they have sign up bonuses, but I don’t see anything going on right now.

14 megs February 6, 2009 at 9:18 am

I don’t just save coupons that I will use. I save them ALL. I have a bin that I keep the inserts stored and sorted in. Because there are some sales that are so good that you can MAKE money on the products, and donate them if you don’t need them. My local women’s shelter was in heaven this Christmas with all the stuff I donated that I’d gotten free or made money on over the year.

Just yesterday I saved over $95 on my grocery bill using coupons. And it was just a regular grocery store (Albertsons) where the prices aren’t always the lowest, but when you combine coupons, with their special doubler coupons, and sale prices you can get great deals. I got several free things of food and super cheap yogurt.

And really, using coupons has not taken up THAT much of my time. For the amount that I save on grocery bills it’s really worth it. I don’t sit and pour over the ads…there are websites with people who do the match-ups for you (just contribute if you find one they haven’t) like Hot Coupon World.

I’m amazed at the amount of savings I’ve achieved in the last 8 months. =)

15 Scott February 6, 2009 at 11:51 am

@ Megs

Saving $95 is very impressive. We have an Albertsons near us so I should look into the coupon doubling opportunities. I wonder if it’s just once a week or do you need a certain coupon to double from Albertson’s? I guess I can stop by and ask.

16 Maria -- WriterGig February 7, 2009 at 12:45 pm

That’s a great savings. We buy our beef by the side and our grains, wheat berries, rice and beans in bulk (as in 50 lbs+ at a time) through natural food co-ops. We save quite a bit of money this way and eat more nutritiously than before.

17 Scott February 7, 2009 at 12:54 pm

@ Maria

50 lbs at a time would definitely save some serious money. I know Costco sells rice in bulk, but I don’t know how we would store such a large amount of rice and keep it fresh. We do go through a lot of pasta, so that could be a big savings if purchased in bulk. I wonder if Costco sells huge bags of pasta. I’ll have to look next time I’m there.

18 pita February 8, 2009 at 6:38 pm

the biggest money saver for me is to plan my meals and then look in my pantry to see what i already have before making my list. i usually plan 2 weeks at a time so i only have to go to the store every other week. look at the sales papers to match up sales to what you want to make. then after you have your list, go through your coupons. i have a 3 ring binder that i have baseball card sleeves in to hold the coupons. i mark which items on my list have a coupon so i know to pull that coupon and stick it in my envelope while i’m shopping. as i go through my list at home, i take the coupons out of the sleeves and put them in one sleeve at the front so they are all there at my fingertips while i’m shopping. put the item in the cart, mark it off the list, put the coupon for that item in the envelope. then when i get to the register, all the coupons i wanted to use are in one spot. i haven’t forgotten to pull a coupon and i haven’t pulled coupons for items i haven’t put in the cart.
trader joes will take coupons for the few name brand items they sell, though i have found i’m better off just buying those few items at my regular grocery store. laughing cow cheese is one of the items i have used a coupon on while at trader joes.
when you look into the doubling of coupons, you need to find out if it is only on certain days and if it is only on certain coupons. some stores will only double up to 50 cents or 75 cents. one of our local grocery stores here on the east coast will double coupons up to $1.00 on wednesday. they have a limit of 20 coupons doubled as well. that’s another thing to check on too. when we lived in new england, shaw’s would sometimes have a coupon in the flyer to triple coupons up to 50 cents or something. usually the double and triple coupon days are mentioned in the sales flyers. otherwise check your store’s website. most post their coupon policies.

19 Bella Casa February 8, 2009 at 6:45 pm

We struggle with this ourselves!

When I was couponing, I liked: http://hotcouponworld.com ‘s forums. They are broken up by store, so it makes it very easy to just go there and get the info you need.

20 Scott February 8, 2009 at 7:28 pm

@ Bella Casa

Thank you for this coupon source. I was clipping coupons today from the Sunday paper and noticed that we don’t use many of the products advertised. I hope to find a source of coupons online that we can utilize and save more money.

21 Scott February 8, 2009 at 7:30 pm

@ Pita

I didn’t realize that Trader Joes’ accepts coupons. I guess I never thought that they would accept them and this could really help save some additional money if I find a product sold at Trader Joes. I like so many of the Trader Joe’s products and they are priced very reasonable.
The double coupon promotions will take some additional work and planning on my part. I’m really bad at planning ahead when I grocery shop, and need to get more organized. I hope to find a store like Food Maxx or Albertsons that offers double coupon days.

22 T Edwards February 9, 2009 at 9:28 am

My wife is a coupon NUT. In fact, she WON’T buy anything unless she has a coupon for it or it’s on advertised sale. At first I thought it was a hassle and an embarrassment to go couponing but then I saw the money she was saving…

23 Scott February 9, 2009 at 10:29 am

@ T Edwards

I share similar feelings with coupons and thought they were a hassle as well. Also, I hate keeping people waiting in line. But, if it can help us keep our grocery bill under $500 a month it’s worth it.

24 Meg February 9, 2009 at 11:45 am

I just stared on a quest to reduce our family’s grocery budget by 25%. It’s really hard some weeks- especially when we need a lot of household stuff like detergents and tp.
I second the previous commenter about menu planning. I do 14 days at a time and try to stock the freezer for a couple of meals for the next food cycle, too. This really helps on the ordering out front.
I’m just starting coupons, too, so this is a great resource for me.

25 Scott February 9, 2009 at 11:49 am

@ Meg

25% is a wonderful goal. Keep me posted on your progress so we can all share your savings tips.

26 Keya February 9, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Lots of good tips here. I do use coupons as has been mentioned before I hold on to the coupon for a few weeks and wait for the product to come on sale, and then use the coupon on top of the sale. For instance if you can get something on a BOGO sale and then add a $1 coupon, you’re doing really well.

Another thing I do is plan my menus around the meats that are on sale. I usually don’t pay more than $1.50/lb for meat ( I don’t by beef)) and no more than $3.00 for fish. Which is really easy if you just wait on the sales.

The biggest and most recent thing I’ve done to cut my grocery bill by $50/month (my family of 4 is down to 250/month in groceries) is to NOT buy “pre made” products.

So I stopped buying, pancake mix, and frozen waffles, and instant oatmeal, or pre-made cookies. I don’t even by canned soups for recipes. Those kinds of things can easily be made at home. and in the case of waffles just make a bunch on a Sunday and freeze them. Same with pancakes if you like.

Even for you cleaning products. I’ve found that if you have vinegar, baking soda, and laundry detergent you can clean anything. Just make your own mixture and put it in the empty cleaning prduct bottles that you don’t buy anymore.

Cutting out the ready made products really helps you cut your bill.

27 Scott February 9, 2009 at 10:01 pm

@ Keya

What an amazing job you’ve done cutting down your grocery budget to $250. Feeding a family of four can really be expensive and you’ve really managed to live frugally. It also sounds like you are eating wholesome home cooked meals too. My wife makes some great waffles and pancakes and I really enjoy them once a week. We should take your suggestion and freeze some waffles and reheat them for the kids. Thanks for your suggestions.

28 Andrea August 7, 2009 at 8:17 am

When I became a vegetarian just over a year ago I was AMAZED by how much I saved on our groceries. I really didn’t believe that the two of us could eat for almost a month on $130 (Cdn)!! It helps a lot that my partner is a chef, whereas I am completely fridge blind…I look in the fridge and say there’s nothing to eat and he looks in the fridge and produces a 5 course meal.

So two things can help you save money on your groceries – one, eat less or no meat and two, learn to cook or do what I did and find a boyfriend who’s a chef ;-) .

Now we freak out over how much we spend on dairy products because it’s the only thing on our bill that ever goes over $5 for an individual item so we try to limit that as well.

There are SO many advantages for eating less meat and the last thing I want to do is start a debate in this forum, but trust me it will definitely save you money!!

29 twinsmomof4 March 17, 2010 at 11:18 pm

There are some great tips at twinsandtriplets.com on how to save money from parents on tight budgets with twins or triplets.

When grocery shopping wait to get the grocery store sale paper in your mailbox on Wednesday. Shop on Wednesday and thursday for double or triple coupons. Plan your meals around sales and discounts.

Go to local fundraiser silent auctions bid on free milk for a year and items your family will use.

For babies 6+ months use the Help Yourself Feeding Solution you insert baby food containers direct no dirty bowls to wash — saves water! shop.markindustriesllc.com

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