Friday, August 12, 2011

Meal Planning Part 2: Grocery Shopping

This is the second post of a 3-part series in which I will attempt to share some insights on how to plan meals.  Planning for meals is a way to be more frugal, efficient and organized about something that takes place every day in your home.  When I started thinking about doing a post on meal planning, I realized that there are some background topics that go into my meal planning, so I wanted to be sure to include those.  Hope you enjoy this series and maybe even learn something along the way.

If you missed my first post in this series, go ahead and click here for how to stock your pantry.


First off, I have to say that I LOVE grocery shopping!  I know some people don't, but it's a necessity for most of us, so here are a few tips for you that will hopefully help in making your shopping experience more budget-friendly and maybe even a bit more enjoyable. 

1. Read the Weekly Store Ads

Call me old-fashioned, a dork, or whatever you will, but I love to read all of the grocery store fliers that come in the mail.  Whether or not that truly is an oddity, it is one of the first steps to being a frugal shopper.  The deals at the grocery store are generally how I determine what to buy that week. Unless it's an absolute necessity, I won't buy something unless it's on sale.  Comparing each store's deals is also helpful in knowing where to buy what that week.  It might mean driving around town a bit, but if something is less expensive at Kroger one week, I will go there instead of Publix.  Yes, this does take some time, but in the end it's worth saving quite a bit of money and getting the biggest 'bang for your buck'.

2. Take Stock of your Kitchen

After browsing the ads and taking note of what's on sale, look through your pantry, fridge, and freezer to determine what is needed.  Undoubtedly there are certain items that you will buy each week, but there are also staple items that may need restocking.  I haven't ever done this, but it's a great idea to keep a running list on your fridge, or maybe make a chalkboard sign to hang inside of your pantry (this is my plan) so that when you run out of something, you can write it down.  This would save time and help you know exactly what is lacking.

3. Make a List
We've all done it before, wandering around the grocery store with our mouths watering, sweeping the shelves of everything that looks appealing.  This really is fun, but when you go to pay, you'll be forking over a lot more green than if you had made a list and purchased those items.  A little bit of planning will go a long way in helping your budget.

4. Gather Your Coupons
You don't have to be an 'extreme' coupon expert to save some money by using coupons.  It's as easy as buying a Sunday paper to have coupons to utilize each week.  There are TONS of websites out there to help match the coupons with the deals in the stores.  I will not even attempt to come close to the experts on this, so instead here are some great websites for help in being a savvy couponer.

The one I use is The Grocery Game.  I like this because the deals are matched up with a specific store, and it tells me what percentage I'll be saving on each item.  It's not a free service, but I just add the price (charge per store, on an 8 week cycle) to my grocery budget.  On several occasions I have saved more than I spent using this system, so that works for me!  There is a free 8-week trial, so try it out for awhile, and if you're satisfied you can join.

*I will say when I lived in CA, this didn't always work for me; often the list didn't match my actual stores.  Since moving to GA, though, I've had more success than failure.*

Southern Savers is another excellent resource to use, although, just like the name, it's specific to the South.  This is a free site.

Grocery Smarts covers primarily the West, so if you're in that area, this would be a great one for you, and this is also free.  There are even workshops that you can attend to learn how to make the most of the information offered.

There are MANY more sites like this; just google coupon sites and you'll find a ton!

5. Look for Manager's Specials
Generally, sticking to your list is a good rule of thumb.  However, there are many 'manager's specials' in most stores.  I always browse the meat department and usually come out with some awesome meat deals to stick in the freezer.  Sometimes I'll find a cut of meat that I don't normally buy, and I have no idea how I'm going to cook it!  But, if it is marked down really well, I'll stick it in the freezer and google a way to make it later on.  This has helped to save money AND to learn how to cook some new things!  Stores also have specials on other items, so as long as you can use it within in the "Use By" date, you're golden!

I hope these few tips are helpful to you as you try to be a better grocery shopper!  

Do you enjoy or endure grocery shopping?
Do you have a favorite coupon website?


  1. This is the perfect post for me. I loathe grocery shopping and I am not a huge fan of cooking. However, I have vowed to do better at both now that it is time for school to start. Summer is hard because we are so busy. You are now my inspiration! Thanks.

  2. Great post! I also enjoy grocery shopping and since I started using coupons, it's become even more of a game for me. :) I have found that shopping every 2 weeks saves me money as I can buy larger containers of things (like sour cream) which usually end up being less expensive (not always, but usually). 2 of my favorite coupon sites are Time2Save and Hip2Save. And, can I just say that I'm very jealous you have Publix AND Kroger. Publix is about 30 minutes away, but I still go there if the deals are good enough, and we're *supposed* to be getting a Kroger...but it's been over a year and they still haven't broken ground. sigh.

  3. Don't forget to bring your grocery bags, some stores (Like Sprouts and I think Target) give you a 5 cent credit for every bag of yours you use! It may only be some change, but in the long run the savings will add up and it is less wasteful on the environment as well :)

    I love grocery shopping! It is my shopping fix since my hubby and I are on a tight budget. It is like a challenge trying to get a whole weeks worth of food for they family in a set price.

    My biggest coupon secret is having my coupons sorted and bringing them to the store with me. I used to do the grocery game but after a year, I had figured out how to do the same on my own while I am at the store. If I have my coupons sorted and all up to date, it only takes a couple minutes longer. Plus, by going through them quickly on Sundays to make sure they are not expired, I get a little mental photograph of what I do have!

    I love that you are doing this series!
    Andie @ pretty much nuts

  4. Great advice! I never used to look at the ads until I starting couponing! Of course it's small couponing lol not extreme! :)

  5. I used to love grocery shopping...then it became a chore. I liken it to my initial fascination with shaving my legs, only with less bleeding. Usually. :)

    I do coupon, but not as wisely as you do! Great tips on those websites; I never knew things like that existed.

  6. Great Post !! I only like shopping at 6:30 am on Sat, with Starbucks, NO kids !

  7. One of the best grocery shopping tips I've ever heard is to categorize your list according to the sections of the store. I usually do just four: produce, shelves, frozen, and meat/dairy. When I make my list, I put each item in its proper category. It makes me much less likely to forget things and have to go back!

  8. Fabulous post and thanks for the links! Love your blog and all the yummy recipes!
    Thanks for your visit!

  9. Thank you for commenting on my made me find you, and i could certainly use help in cooking! Happy to be following :)

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