• Grocery Budget Experiment {Weeks 3 & 4}

    March 17, 2014

    I’m still trucking along with my grocery budget experiment! I am learning a lot about my shopping habits and what works best for us. Even though I still haven’t nailed down the best shopping option yet, I’m enjoying the opportunity to experiment and try new methods in order to buy quality foods and cook delicious meals at home while saving money at the same time.

    If you remember back to my big shopping at Trader Joe’s, I wanted to make those groceries last for two weeks. We were sort of successful, but I still ended up taking two small, mid-week shopping trips.

    Target: $19.45

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    Whole Foods: $30.93

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    Not too shabby. If I combine the totals from the past two weeks, we’re averaging a little less than $100 per week, which I think is reasonable, especially since a bunch of the food I purchased at Trader Joe’s was stock-up and freezer items that still haven’t been eaten.

    Ok, onto week 4!

    Stop & Shop was the next location on my list, so, on Saturday morning, I sat down with the weekly specials flyer and got to work planning our meals based on what was on sale.

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    I received a bunch of coupons in the mail from Stop & Shop the week before, so I considered them too when planning our meals.

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    Here’s how I plan my shopping list and meal plan for the week—see, you don’t need a fancy pad of paper:

    • In the right hand column, I list Sunday – Friday (Saturday is always a wing-it day) and then I start writing down the meals that I want to make for the week. In the left hand column, I list the ingredients needed to make each of those meals as well as items that we’re out of and need replenishing (i.e. eggs, bread).
    • I also note which items are on sale—this time I used an exclamation point—as well as which items I have a coupon for. This makes shopping so much easier, so I don’t miss the sales or forget to use my coupons.
    • And, finally, I make a list of foods/recipes that I want to prep on Sunday for the upcoming week and list them below my meal plan. The ingredients for those are also added to the left hand column.

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    This week’s meal plan:

    Sunday prep:

    As you can see, my meal plan changed a little bit from planning at home to actually blogging about it. I didn’t have a great experience at Stop & Shop with regard to the quality and selection of their products, so I swapped things around and actually ended up at Whole Foods yesterday afternoon for a couple of more items.

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    Stop & Shop: $84.25

    Even though I bought a lot of food at Stop & Shop, I’m surprised it wasn’t that much cheaper than Whole Foods. And if I didn’t have the Stop & Shop coupons that were mailed to me, it would have cost $11 more. Next week, I’m going to try meal planning and shopping sales at Whole Foods and see how I do. Maybe that is the winning combo?

    Question of the Day

    If you’re a Whole Foods shopper, what are you best tips and tricks for saving money there?

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    { 65 comments… read them below or add one }

    Stephanie @ Whole Health Dork March 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    In terms of WF, I usually only buy when they’re having a crazy deal that I can’t find anywhere else. Otherwise, Market Basket is the place to be, even for organic. MB had a sale on grass-fed beef, so I stocked up. Gotta love it!

    Reply

    Lindsay March 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I love this post! I am feeling like I FINALLY have control over our monthly food budget, but it has taken time and consideration, especially now that the tables have turned and my main man is deploying. Cooking for one, I need to get motivated again. I used to make menus and really plan, but now I’m down to scrape together whatevers at the end of my work day! I love seeing that you can keep cost down, even with a healthful diet.

    Reply

    Alison March 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    My fiance calls Stop and Shop “Stop and Rob”. Obviously we don’t find it much more economical either!

    Reply

    Anel March 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I love the exclamation point idea! What a great way to organize your list. When shopping at Whole Foods I tend to stick to things that I know I can not get anywhere else; it’s more of a splurge. That is pretty much all I buy from there. I think if I lived closer to one then I would check it out more often for “real” groceries.

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    Kelly March 19, 2014 at 8:17 am

    I am so impressed. Keith and I usually spend about $150-$200 a week on food. GAH! I know.

    Reply

    Jd March 19, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Does your shop include breakfasts and lunches for both you and Mal? We usually average closer to $250 but that includes ingredients for breakfasts and lunches (plus NYC) so maybe that is the difference?

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    Tina March 19, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Yep, it does, but we only plan out our dinners.

    Reply

    Mary March 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Whole Foods is actually the cheapest option for high quality produce where I live. All of my other grocery stores (King Soopers, Sprouts, Safeway) have higher or similar prices on organic items compared to WFs, and usually the selection and quality is not as good. I don’t buy everything organic but I won’t compromise on things like apples and any type of greens (bagged or loose).

    I use the old “shop the perimeter” trick at Whole Foods. I only venture into the aisles for very specific items and then get right back out. My area recently got our very first Trader Joe’s (SO EXCITING), so I’ve switched over to buying “aisle” items there because they are so much cheaper. I also like to get certain conventional produce items at TJ’s (bell peppers, avocados, bananas).

    Reply

    Tessa | Balancing Active March 20, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I’ve been comparing WF and S&S for a couple years now (I live in Connecticut). I really think it comes out to a wash, given the atrocious shopping experience that can be Stop and Shop. At WF, I don’t buy organic unless I “have to”, and I ask about prices on unmarked items. I discovered the huge tub of baby spinach was $2(!!!!) cheaper–it was a local (NY) farm, and I swear WF had left it unmarked on purpose to get you to buy the expensive national brand and assume that you’d pay a premium for the local “artisan” one. I also don’t really buy meat at WF–expensive and not that good. I could go to a local specialty butcher and get personal service for the same or sometimes a lower price. I do wonder, though, why WF doesn’t at least do SOME kind of shopper loyalty card like S&S or other chains.

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    Tina March 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Do you happen to have an Aldi in your area, and have you ever been there? That’s my favorite grocery store BY FAR, and they now sell almond milk and Greek yogurt, and it’s CHEAP. I am not a huge fan of their produce, as it seems to go bad more quickly than produce from other stores, but for many other products, it’s Aldi all the way! (I also shop at Kroger and another store here in Ohio called Marc’s (101 fl oz of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil for $13.99!)). I am all about hitting up several grocery stores in order to get the best prices. I love reading about your shopping trips, as I LOVE grocery shopping!

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    Tina March 24, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Sadly, I don’t. The cheapest option near me is Stop & Shop, and it’s not even that cheap for what you get!

    Reply

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