• Grocery Shopping 101: Rethink Quantity

    January 27, 2011

    Here’s the next installment of my Grocery Shopping 101 series! If you missed the first three posts, here they are:

    It might seem like saving money at the grocery store takes a lot of time and effort. Ok, sometimes, it does, but it’s worth it because you don’t waste money or food. It gets easier too. I promise! I’ve been shopping this way for my whole life, so it’s second nature to me. It doesn’t usually take me more than 10 minutes each week to plan it all out— and, I swear, every minute is worth it!

    With that said, saving money at the grocery store is all about rethinking the quantity of food that you buy. For the most part, I only buy what I need for one week. But, at the same time, I’m constantly looking for deals on my favorite staples, so I can stock up, which saves me money in the long run. (Plus, we never run out of essential foods like peanut butter and oatmeal!) It’s all about knowing when to BUY LESS and when to BUY MORE.

    BUY LESS

    Rethink Quantity on Perishable Items

    Do you really need that huge bunch of bananas or a whole pound of deli meat? Buying in bulk is not always the most cost effective option if the food is never eaten! Instead, I buy what I need for the upcoming week.

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    For instance, I buy 3/4 pound of deli meat, which is usually more than enough for our lunches for the week. Plus, if we run out, we can always pack something else for lunch, which is much better than throwing away spoiled deli meat. Additionally, any recipe that calls for a pound of meat can easily be substituted with less. I don’t even notice the difference. And, of course, those few dollars of savings really add up!

    The same goes for fresh produce: only buy what you will eat in one week. Personally, I buy a lot of produce to encourage myself to eat more of it. (I can’t stand to see food go to waste, so it works for me!) Research from the American Dietetic Association shows that when families add more fruits and vegetables to their diets, their food budgets shrink by 25% (and their waistlines get smaller). Just make sure you EAT all of the produce you buy. Wasted food = wasted money.

    BUY MORE

    Stock Up On Your Favorites

    I know you’ve heard the old ‘make a list and stick to it’ tip when grocery shopping. It’s a great piece advice that I keep in mind, but I also make sure to stock up on my favorite products when they go on sale.

    For example, Mal and I plow through Teddie Peanut Butter, coffee, and rolled oats like it’s our job, so when they go on sale, I made sure to buy them even if we haven’t run out yet. I know that we’re going to eat these items at some point (and they don’t spoil), so I might as well stock up and save a little money.

    Plus, sometimes there are deals that I just can’t turn down. A few weeks ago, New England Coffee was on sale 3 for $11, which was a serious deal. Mal and I drink iced coffee every morning and we love the New England Coffee flavors, so I didn’t hesitate to stock up.

    I also take advantage of Buy One, Get One Free deals on my favorite items, like Arnold bread. I mean, the store was giving me a FREE loaf of bread! (With bread, I throw one loaf in the freezer for later, so it doesn’t spoil.)

    But, remember, stocking up on items only works if you USE them. Otherwise, you are wasting money and space in your house!

    Buy Items in Bulk

    As you know, I’m all about unit price, especially on staples and items that I know I will use. For example, a couple of week ago, a whole bag of russet potatoes was on sale for just $1.98. Less than $2 for five pounds of potatoes!? Sign me up! I love potatoes and knew I would eat them before they went bad, so it made sense to buy so many. And, as you’ve seen on the blog, I’ve incorporated them into quite a lot of meals. Meal planning at its finest, baby.

    Unit price also works on non-food items, so I stocked up on fancy Hefty trash bags. I usually buy the cheapy store brand, but the Hefty ones were less expensive per unit. I also bought a huge box because I know we’d use them at some point. Trash bags don’t go bad.

    How do you rethink quantity when shopping for groceries?

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    { 76 comments… read them below or add one }

    Alyssa January 27, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I think this might be the most important part of grocery shopping. I plan my meals really carefully so I don’t just get to the store and grab everything that looks good. Also, make sure you never go to the grocery store hungry! I absolutely despise throwing away food I’ll freeze it or find some way to incorporate it into a creative meal! My husband totally does not understand this and *swears* he will eat the entire pound of turkey in a week (I don’t eat meat!) and then we throw half of it away. One time he brought home 8 peppers when we already had a fridge full of produce – just for the two of us. He had read some article saying they were good for you (imagine that!) and acted like I was crazy when I told him that was too much!

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    meemsnyc January 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Luckily for us we have an Entemanns Outlet bakery near us so I stock up on bread and freeze them.

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    Christin@purplebirdblog January 27, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I love to stock up on veggie broth and canned beans when they are on sale because I use the constantly! And last week at Costco brussels sprouts were on sale for 1.99 for a 2 pound bag (!) so I bought two and have just been using sprouts as my veggie side in most meals (or eating a whole plate of them for lunch with a sweet potato and PB on the side, like today!)

    Reply

    AJ January 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Your grocery series has inspired me to clean up my kitchen shelves and start being a bit more organised! You know that rolled oats do go bad right, you should actually store them in the fridge if you can, and if you are going to buy bulk coffee, you should try to buy beans and grind them just before using, ground coffee goes stale pretty fast, even still in its packaging, (roasted beans do too, but not as much).

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    Kate (What Kate is Cooking) January 27, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I buy bulk a lot, even though I’m the only one eating it. I freeze things like bananas, but a lot of fruit and vegetables I eat fresh. I never waste them!

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    Angela (the diet book junkie) January 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    excellent tips! i walk to the grocery store 4 times a week so we always have fresh produce and hardly waste anything (plus i get extra exercise!) the only problem with buying in bulk is that the more you have, the more you use. (or so they say. our apartment is so small, we don’t have the luxury. :))

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    Alaina January 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I admit to sometimes having a problem with quantity. I end up wasting certain items. I definitely need to be more aware of what we use the most and what we don’t. I love seeing this grocery shopping tips! :-)

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    Ella January 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    This is a great series, Tina. I feel like so many Americans make excuses not to buy groceries, saying healthy food is too expensive and it takes too long to cook and they just waste stuff. But you are showing how it’s cheap and can be easy with a little planning and can be completely unwasteful. Thank you for showing skills that were once so commonplace but now are so rare!

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    Hannah January 27, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I need to email my dad your comments abotu buying less. The number of times mum and I have had to explain that five kilos of potatoes is not a bargain when we can’t use them all and they go off…

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    Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin January 27, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I definitely agree with stocking up on staples when they’re on sale. My favourite Kashi cereal is usually $5.99 a box, but every so often it goes on sale for $3.99, so when it does I stock up on 4 or 5 boxes!

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    Annie@stronghealthyfit January 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Love your tips!

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    Lisa@ Dishes of Mrs. Fish January 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Great tips! We always stockpile, the best we can in our tiny kitchen when our favorites go on sale. I also only try to buy the produce that is on sale that week to get the best deals.

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    Leslie January 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks for the tips– I am in the midst of an effort to spend less money on groceries, and this is exactly the kind of advice I need! I’ve never noticed unit price until you pointed it out, for one. Keep ‘em coming!

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    SuperChunky January 27, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    WE ARE SMILING BIG SMILES!! Thanks for the LUV!! – SuperChunky at Teddie :D

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    SuperChunky January 27, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    In fact … Teddie Peanut Butter has a 12 month shelf life from date of manufacturing. Keep an eye on the USE BY DATE – thx

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    Ellie@fitforthesoul January 28, 2011 at 2:21 am

    I’m trying to learn to do this and oh my mother would luuuuuuvvvvvv this post :P Between Korean food and my own crazy/healthy/”hippie-ish” food there is a loss of space somewhere inside the fridge teehee

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    Roxanne January 28, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I think I’ve been shopping exactly like you for my whole (not yet very long) adult life! I remember all to often when I was little and having to throw out a tonne of vegetables and fruit because they didn’t get used before going bad. Now hubby and I hit the store at least a couple times a week. The first trip is the main trip. Getting things we know we need. The second(and sometimes third and forth) is for vegetables and fruit that I need for THAT night. Less chance of food going bad and leaves more space in the fridge.

    =^.^=

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    Casie January 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Tina,
    I wanted to say thanks for the info on unit prices. I had honestly never paid attention. After shopping last night, i now notice the difference!!

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    Brita January 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Whenever I’m in a food rut, I try to buy whatever vegetable is on sale, then go home and find a recipe for it. It saves a ton of money and I get to try new things!

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    MARTI2395 January 30, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I FEED A FAMILY OF FIVE. BY KNOWING WHAT I ‘M MAKING FOR THE HOLE WEEK. BY GROCERY SHOPPING LIST. IF THEY DO NOT LIKE WHAT I COOK.I’M SORRY BUT THEY CAN COOK TOO.

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    feliciarn January 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I shop in a similar way to you and I also read supermarket sale ads to find out in advance and make a list. I also coordinate with manufacturer coupons whenever I can. I sometimes buy less at a time and go more frequently so that I have fresh produce and meats!!

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    Cole January 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Great advice! I’m going back to read the rest of the series!

    Reply

    Laura @ Unchartered 20s August 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I know this is old but its the first time i’m seeing it.
    Great tips! I especially love it b/c you go to S&S and so do we. Sometimes they feel sorta pricey, but good to know deals ARE possible there!

    Reply

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