Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January Grocery Update

If you have been following my $175 Monthly Grocery Series, than you know that this year I am aiming to spend about $175 on groceries each month. Right now I just want to update on how we did in January. If you missed the series, check here.

This was my initial trip. 

Mini Trip (Stock up on good deals) #1

Mini Trip #2

Money Spent: $193.37
- Cashback: $16.50
Total: $176.87

So that you can get a better idea of what we eat and how much $176.87 can really get you, here is the meal plan we followed throughout January. 

Cereal and Milk
 Oatmeal with fruit
Yogurt Parfaits
 Breakfast Burritos

Tuna Salad
Pasta Salad
Baked Beans

Alfredo Penne and Peppers
Turkey Pot Pies
Creamy Spinach and Tomato Pasta
Chili and Garlic Toast
Burritos and Salad
Shepherds Pie
Chicken and Bean Quesadillas
Jamaican Chicken w/ Rice
Chili Cheese Fries
Apple Harvest Chicken Salad
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Fiesta Nachos

Veggies and Dip
Fruit Cups
Banana Bread
Crackers and Cheese

Thursday, January 22, 2015

$175 Grocery Budget Part 4

Click here for Part 3

If you're like me, you probably want to walk through the door after a shopping trip, drop your bags in the entryway, flop down on the couch with a cozy blanket and take a nap while loose apples roll down the hallway. Reality is, a grocery trip doesn't end the second you walk in the front door. The things that I do once I get home from the store are a large part of how I save money on groceries. 

First, I make sure that all my pantry and fresh food items are stored properly. The last thing I want to do is throw out unused food because it went bad. 

Second, I prepare my freezer items. When I go shopping, I often come home with a ton of items which will go straight into my freezer. I take all the soon to expire cartons of milk that I got 50% off and toss them in the freezer. Then I clean and cut up all of the discounted fruits and vegetables that I am going to freeze. These are usually things like peppers, peaches, bananas etc. I also stock up on cheese when it is on sale and freeze it for later. 

Next, I divide up my meat. It is a lot cheaper to buy meat in the larger packages, but I never need that much at once. I use freezer bags to split big packs of ground beef, chicken breasts, drumsticks, pork chops and sausages into smaller portions. Most of these also go straight into the freezer. 

The last thing I do, not usually on the same day, is cook and bake a ton of homemade things. There are so many items that are cheaper to make homemade than to buy at all. My favourite things to DIY in order to save money are homemade buns/bread, baked beans, granola bars, protein bars, fruit cups, muffins and scones. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

$175 Grocery Budget - Part 3

Click HERE if you missed Part 1. Click HERE for Part 2.

Actually going to the store is probably the hardest part of keeping my grocery bill under $175. Even with a well organized meal plan and grocery list, it can be tempting to throw in 'just a few' extras. Before you know it, you've got a bag of chips, some frozen waffles, a tub of ice cream and a $250 grocery bill. Here's what I do to keep my grocery bill down while at the store.

First, choosing which day to go shopping makes a big difference. The store that I shop at starts a new flyer every Friday and they start marking things down around Tuesday. I found that if I go on Wednesday, I will find a ton of fruit, milk, bread and yogurt, usually about 4 days away from the best before date, for 50% off. I love those big pink 50% off stickers. However, if I wait until Thursday, there isn't as much left.

Next, there are certain things that I always bring to the store that help me stay organized and save money. First, my own shopping bags. I have quite a few reusable ones and then I grab a handful of plastic ones. This saves me from buying bags and it's good for the environment. Also, I have my grocery list, a pen to check off what I have already grabbed, my ipad so I can double check the cashback items, any flyers from other stores that I plan to price match and, of course, a ziplock full of coupons.

The first thing I do when I get to the store is make a mad dash for the clearance rack. I go here first so that I can grab anything that's on my list for 50% off before grabbing it at regular price. Also, the sooner I get there, the more stuff that will be left. Then I make a quick trip to the dairy aisle to snag any yogurt, milk or juice that's marked down, but only if it's on my list.

After I mark off any clearance items from my shopping list, I start at the front of the store and go around like normal. I avoid going down any aisle that I don't need stuff from, and I don't stop to look at items that aren't on my list.

Before I check out, I separate all the items that require coupons or price matching. If I have time, I also double check the coupons/cashback deals to make sure I didn't grab the wrong item since I won't have time to go back once I'm in line. I put all of those items up last. I do all the pricematching at once and then I have the coupon items scanned last and give the cashier my coupons with each item so that she doesn't have to pull them back out to double check. Then I always hand over my PC Plus Points card, even if I don't think I'm getting any points that week... sometimes I am pleasantly surprised.

The last major "must do" before leaving the store is making sure that I have my receipt safely in my wallet and not just in a bag or box where it could fly away. Without that receipt, I can't get any cashback! 

Check back to hear what I do at home that saves me money on groceries.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

$175 Grocery Budget - Part 2

Click HERE if you missed Part 1 of the series. 

As you probably guessed, attempting a monthly budget of $175 takes lots of planning. My monthly grocery trip starts wayyy before I step through the doors of the store. It involves flyers, lists, meal plans and more.

The first thing I do is look through my pantry and freezer and make a list of what I already have and DON'T need to buy. This often includes the staples, like meat, cheese, butter, cereal, and crackers because I stock up on these items when I find a good sale.

Next, I go through all the flyers and write down the REALLY good sales on my grocery list. Now that I've been doing this for a while, I have what I consider really good sales and sales that are just okay. Really good sales are items that I'm going to stock up on no matter what because the price is good (Ex. Crispers for $1 at Walmart, I bought 6 bags. When cheese is under $5 I buy at least 3). Sales that are just "Okay" I keep in the back of my mind to check if I have a coupon, cashback or PC Plus pts to make the deal even better.

Third, I pull up PC Plus in my browser so I can load my offers for the week. If you haven't heard of this, it's a points program available at Loblaws, Superstore, Independent and No Frills. Purchasing certain in-store items gives you points plus you can get extra offers, personalized to your shopping habits, by signing your card up online and loading your offers every week. I have had this for about a year and I have almost 50,000 points which will give me $50 in free groceries when I redeem them.

At the same time, I grab my Ipad, to look through my cachback offers, and pull out my ziplock full of coupons. Although there are a few different cashback apps out there, the ones that I consider best are Checkout51 and Zweet. I have had Checkout51 for less than 6 months and have already earned over $50 back and I have had Zweet for a few weeks and already have $5 in my account. Coupons I get from all over. I mainly print or mail order them from websites like Smartsource, Websaver, P&G Everyday and but I also often find them on the coupon board on my way into the store or in the aisles.

Once I have everything pulled up, I check for overlaps. I often find that I have cashback or PCPlus pts (or both) for a sale item. Also, the Checkout51 and Zweet offers will often overlap or I'll have a coupon for something that is also offering Cashback. If I have offers or coupons for an item that I don't often buy or isn't on sale, I will go on to check the price and see if it's still a good deal. I add all good deals to the grocery list that I have going. I always write the price beside the item and note if it has a coupon, cashback, pts, pricematch etc. That way, when I am at the store, I won't grab the wrong item because I will notice the price difference and I won't forget which coupons I need to use.

Finally, once the deals are written down, I look over what I am buying, and what I already have and figure out a meal plan. Then I add missing items to my grocery list. For example, if ground beef and pasta sauce are on my list of good deals then I will make spaghetti part of my meal plan and add noodles to my grocery list. For extra items like these, I will usually buy the no name brand or whatever is cheapest at the store.

Once I have a general meal plan and a grocery list, complete with prices, it's time to review. I add up the prices and hope that my total is under $175.00. If it isn't, I will go back over the list and see if there's anything that we don't really need for the month and then cross it off. I also check if there's anything missing that I may be running out of. Potatoes and carrots, for example, are something I always keep in the house since they are generally cheap anyways.

It may sound like a ton of work but it isn't as bad as it sounds. It totally pays out in the end. Plus, I love feeling completely organized and prepared when I head to the grocery store.

Stay tuned for Part 3 and find out what I do while at the store to keep my bill under $175.