I absolutely love to grocery shop and plan meals. I wish I could do it for a living. I am a bit spoiled living Carmel because there are so many options! Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Fresh Thyme, Kroger, Marsh, Trader Joe’s and Market District. It is all a little overwhelming.
Typically, I like to plan my meals for the week and then check the store sales flyer to see if anything I need is on sale. I then check for coupons. I readily admit that I am not the best at couponing. I tend to clip a few here and there and then forget that I have them and then when I do remember to use them they are already expired. In addition, it can be somewhat difficult to find coupons for organic “real” foods. What I mean by this is there seems to be an abundance of coupons for organic packaged products like crackers, cereals and chips. That’s not what I am looking for. I want deals on real food like produce, meat and dairy.
I used to spend way too much on food. It can add up pretty quickly if you are buying all organic foods and do most of your shopping at Whole Foods. They don’t call it “Whole Paycheck” for nothing! It wasn’t that big of a deal when it was just Greg and me, but I’m buying more food now that we have kids – and it will only get worse as they get older and have bigger appetites. I knew I needed to do a better job at staying on budget, but I didn’t want to sacrifice on quality. I feel very strongly that there is a direct link between how/what we eat and our overall health. Therefore, it became my mission to come up with a grocery shopping and meal planning system.
With regard to meat, dairy and produce, local is my first choice and organic is second. This is just my personal preference. I like to support my local farmer and I’ve found that a lot of them don’t use pesticides or antibiotics even though they aren’t “certified organic”.
These are some of the ways I stay on budget:
I used to plan meals with meat/starch/veg in mind. Now my weekly meal plans include “meat as condiment” meals, as well as one or two vegetarian entrees. This provides the biggest bang for my buck. I love meat, but it’s expensive. I buy from local farms as much as possible and routinely check the store sales flyers for the best deals.
Fresh Market: offers antibiotic free boneless skinless chicken breasts and ground beef for $2.99 a pound on Tuesdays.
Costco: bulk prices on organic chicken breasts, thighs and ground beef. Bonus: comes in 1 lb packaging for easy preparation.
Trader Joe’s: great deals on organic chicken, pork and ground beef.
Whole Foods: 15% off of select organic meats when you buy 3 or more pounds.
Local eggs are MUCH BETTER than any kind you can get at the store, so I try my best to buy them from a local farm.
I currently buy organic milk. This might change once we start going through more it more quickly. I have noticed that many stores carry non-organic milk and cheeses that are rBST-free. I routinely find manufacturers coupons on organic cheese (see coupons below).
I used to buy all organic fruits and vegetables. Not anymore. I have the Environmental Working Group’s app downloaded on my phone and refer to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” guides when shopping for produce. I find the best deals on produce at the farmer’s market. If I can’t get to the market then I check sales flyers for specials. I tend to buy one or two fruits per week for snacks and desserts and three to four veggies for side dishes, lunches and snacks. It is almost always more economical to buy produce that is in it’s natural state versus the cleaned, cut and packaged kind. I don’t mind prepping the produce – I usually do this on Sundays so its ready to go when I need it.
Other ways to save
Case discounts: Lots of stores offer case discounts on anything from baby food to Lara Bars. Don’t be shy about asking a store employee. You might be surprised at what case discounts are available!
Bulk bins: My fav – especially for expensive items like nuts. Plus, you can get exactly what you need and no more. We go through a lot of oatmeal so I buy that in bulk as well. Other foods to consider are rice and flours and seeds (chia!). Did you know that you can buy chocolate chips in bulk? I just recently saw the chocolate chip bin at Market District. Love this!
Customer Loyalty Programs a no-brainer when it comes to grocery shopping. It doesn’t cost anything to sign up and most stores offer additional discounts and deals, as well as e-coupons.
Moneysavingmom.com has a great coupon database. Just use the search box to look for coupons for specific products in the database and it will show you if there are any available, with links to the coupons.
Mambo Sprouts is a fantastic source for coupons focused on organic and healthy foods.
Newsletter subscriptions are great way to get good coupons. Sign up for the newsletter or get on the mailing list for specific brands. This is my number one way to get good coupons! I currently subscribe to these brand newsletters (and therefore routinely receive coupons):
- Applegate Farms
- Horizon Organics
- Organic Valley
- Earthbound Farms
- Annie’s Organics
- Immaculate Baking Company
You know those people who are great at couponing and “stack” coupons? It’s possible to do it with organics too! I “stack” manufacturer coupons (found on moneysavingmom or Mambo Sprouts) with the brand coupons I get by e-mail and store coupons.
I hope this helps you in some way. I have consistently stayed within budget ever since I established my meal planning system. It really is working well for me. Please share any tips you have for shopping on a budget.