Crystal had a great post about saving money on your grocery bill without clipping coupons. While I've clipped (some) coupons in the past, I've never been an avid coupon person, although I'll definitely use ones given to me in store or in the grocery store fliers if it's something I regularly buy. Reading her post made me decide to share how Luke and I keep our grocery bill down without coupon clipping.
My main strategy is to make a menu. I have a long list of all the meals that I can make (which I regularly add to, but that's another post!), and each week before we go grocery shopping Luke and I decide which meals we'll have that week. Some of my meals are more expensive than others, so we alternate which meals we have each week according to what I have on hand and what's on sale. Here's this week's menu...
-Italian Cayenne Chicken
-Prosciutto and Chicken Pasta
-Steak & Cheese Fries
-Chicken & Rice-A-Roni
Our "expensive" meal this week was the steak and cheese fries. The cheese fries are cheap, steak usually isn't. But once a week, Luke and I like to have something like steak or tuna steaks. Our budget can handle that, so why wouldn't we? We also like to try new meals. I try to include one new meal a week, although sometimes we skip a week or two. This week it's the Mexican Skillet...I'm going to improvise as I go along and I'll let you all know how it turns out! The rest of the meals are typically standby meals. Four of those meals stretch out the chicken I have on hand. Each week I also decide on a few desserts to make. I don't plan which days to have which meals because once I have everything for the meals, that means I can make them any time that week, depending on our mood and how tired I am.
Once I have the menu list planned out, I make the shopping list. I go over everything I need for each meal, writing down the ingredients I don't have and remembering what I do have. I always keep frozen vegetables in our freezer, they're quick and easy for sauteing. For side dishes we'll either have fresh veggies or salad, sometimes garlic bread, etc.
Here was this week's list:
Chicken (if it's on sale)
We lucked out this week because not only did we find a nice steak for $4.39, but chicken was marked WAY down. Usually the max packs of chicken breasts are between $10-$13, they were marked down to $3.89 each! I naturally grabbed two; we now have enough chicken to last a few weeks.
Another thing I always do is freeze extras. I buy chicken in big packs and freeze it in meal sizes. Bone-in chicken breasts are usually cheaper, so a lot of times I'll buy that, and de-bone the chicken before I freeze it. Save the bones for chicken stock! When boneless-skinless chicken goes on sale, I buy it because it is a time-saver.
Pasta and rice dishes are a great way to save money. Several of my dishes are one-bowl dishes that have everything in them, the pasta, meat and veggies. Sometimes we'll add a side-salad. These dishes also stretch our meat out farther. If we were eating grilled chicken, we'd each eat half a chicken breast. But for a pasta or rice dish, we can put half a breast in, cut up, and feel just as satisfied.
We just started using cash at the grocery store again. I did this when we were first married, but somehow we got out of the habit for a while. This will save a ton of money though, because you've only got so much money to use in your hand, so you have to stay within your budget.
I also bring a calculator with me. (My cell phone had one on it.) I write down the price of each item next to it on my list, and add up the total as we go along. This way we make sure we stay under our budget.
Finally, I take Luke with me. A lot of people say they spend more money when they take their husbands/kids with them. While sometimes this might be true (like when Luke announces we need ketchup, something I don't eat and wouldn't buy if it weren't for him), I've found that him knowing how much we have to spend in the grocery store and coming along and seeing prices, it makes both of us want to stretch our money as far as possible. Plus, it's something to do together, and he always lifts the heavy stuff for me. ;)
For us, we can eat great all week and still stay under our grocery budget. We've even frequently had weeks where I don't need as much, and we can either spend the extra on more meat or special desserts, or we'll just save it for Luke to take to work and be able to buy lunches or drinks. Luke isn't a big fan (and I'm not really either) of lots of rice and beans and "cheap" food, but we've still found a way to keep our bill down while eating great! We've considered increasing our budget due to rising food costs, but we've still not needed to so at this point it will remain the same. Hopefully I was able to share some good tips with you all!