How I Successfully Cut Our Grocery Bill in Half! (And, No, I Do NOT Use Coupons.)

How I Successfully Cut Our Grocery Bill in Half! (And, No, I Do NOT Use Coupons.)

I know the title of my article sounds like a stupid meme or a fake ad. But, it’s not. I have successfully managed to turn around our expensive foodie habits. And, cooking is still fun!

WHEN YOUR DAUGHTER IS A CHEF, YOU CAN GET PRETTY SPOILED…

Our daughter is a trained chef with two college degrees. Like most parents of chefs, we like to eat well. VERY well. We’re accustomed to it! Our daughter has been spoiling us with gourmet meals and desserts since the days when she needed a step stool to reach the kitchen counter.

As she grew older, we would see odd things in grocery stores, gourmet food stores, and even farmer’s markets. And, we’d buy them, encouraging our daughter to invent amazing meals out of something really, well, weird! Not only was she successful in doing so but she loved it! Her creativity landed her a job just out of college that was coveted by everyone in her culinary school graduating class. She had large glossy photos of unique, delicious meals, accompanied by her own remarkable recipes. They hired her on the spot!

But, with a gourmet chef for a daughter, and our love of delicious, exotic meals, came some pretty hefty grocery bills. She wasn’t the only one getting in on the yummy action. She taught us how to cook unique, delicious meals, too.

STORING FOODIE ITEMS

Unfortunately, also with that type of foodie living came the need to store extra food items that we might have used once in a blue moon…or not at all.

Examples:

Fish sauce – It’s great in specific recipes but it doesn’t last long after you open it so you have to toss the rest. If you’ve ever left fish sauce in the fridge for awhile, and later opened it for a whiff, you know what I’m talking about!

Fresh thyme – You have to buy a package when you only need one sprig. A few days later, it’s brown and slimy.

Mushrooms – I always have some left over, plan to use them “tomorrow,” and then forget they’re in the fridge. They get gross pretty quickly.

SaffronVery expensive and we only used it once. It eventually got tossed.

Horseradish sauce – I made the mistake of not checking the expiration date on an old bottle before pouring it on my steak one time. Later that night, I thought I was going to DIE!

Buy-One-Get-One-Free Jumbo Asparagus – Not a great idea when our daughter and I are the only ones in the family who actually LIKE asparagus. I can’t count how many bundles I’ve thrown out over the years. I should have just bought one bundle of the smaller variety for less.

Weird canned goods that looked interesting at the time but… – You make an impulse buy but you can’t find a good recipe for it later. Then, you’re forced to look at that can of jalapeno and kiwi infused kidney beans for months…and then years. Yet, it was on sale for only 79 cents and you just can’t bring yourself to throw it away!

PRACTICING MINIMALISM WITH FOOD!

When we sold our house, and switched to a minimalism lifestyle, we went through all of those old cans of food. Some had expired years prior. It was very cleansing to toss them! The rest were taken to the local food bank. And, the spices. The SPICES!! We had odd ones that we’d only used once, for one recipe. Into the garbage can they went. We threw away so much food! And, I’m embarrassed to say that many items had never even been opened.

When we moved onto our 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Sailboat almost a year ago, we had a full-sized refrigerator and a deep freeze, but FAR less pantry space. We were forced to buy fewer groceries at a time, which might require more trips to the grocery store. More trips could spell disaster. I mean…you have your list and you swear you’re going to stick to it. But, then you see that Amchur Powder in the baking aisle, made from unripe mangoes, and think…ooooh, what can we make with THAT?!

After reconciling our bank statement one day, I quickly realized that our minimalism lifestyle had not yet reached the galley (kitchen) portion of our vessel. Our grocery bills were still sky high and our pantry was bursting. I had to make a change.

1. FINANCIAL PENALTIES FOR IMPULSE BUYS!

First, I made a new rule. NO MORE IMPULSE BUYS. If somebody buys something that’s not on the list, it comes out of their allowance. (This counted for me and Richard, too!)

2. INVENTORYING BEFORE PLANNING OUR WEEKLY MENU

Each Monday morning, I inventory the food items we have in the freezer, the refrigerator, and the pantry. I then have a list of things we do not need to buy. If we are in need of proteins (chicken, beef, pork, fish, shrimp, etc.), I will need to find simple recipes online for those items that also use ingredients we already have on hand.

3. MENU-PLANNING WITH HEALTHY AND YUMMY (BUT NOT OVERLY-EXOTIC) RECIPES

I like cooking. It gets me away from my laptop for awhile in the evenings. Our 11-year-old, Mason, likes to help me so it’s good mommy/son time and we laugh a lot – especially when we accidentally set off the smoke alarm, which can bring our fellow live-aboards running! Making interesting, unique meals is fun but do we really need to spend lots of money, and eat weird things, just to have a good time in the kitchen each night? No, we do not.

So, after inventorying our existing food items, I would sit down each Monday morning, often with Mason by my side, making a menu for the week. Five days of meals with two nights of planned leftovers. I concentrated on simple yet healthy meals. I don’t mean macaroni and cheese with pork and beans. We didn’t go THAT far but a nice organic steak on the grill, cheesy broccoli rice, and a side of buttered green beans with almonds would be okay…and far cheaper than Tuscan shrimp with creme sauce, crispy artichoke hearts with horseradish aioli, and butternut squash risotto.

The steak is frozen so it won’t go bad (unless we have another hurricane!). We now buy frozen organic veggies whenever possible instead of canned. We can’t over-buy them because there’s only so much freezer space. And, if we load up on too many veggies, there’s no room for my Klondike Bars! Rather than making homemade cheesy broccoli rice, we buy it in a bag, and add water and butter. (SSsshh! Don’t tell our daughter!)

4. PRE-PLANNING AND MY BELOVED CROCK-POT®!

When you own your own business, and homeschool your children, time is everything. If you don’t plan ahead, and get your work done, you don’t get to spend time that evening with your family. Your work never ends but, if you plan correctly, you can find an hour of free time each day for meal preparation.

But, you don’t need a whole hour if you have a Crock-pot. My menu items always include one or two days of Crock-pot meals. I LOVE my Crock-pot! If I know I’m going to have an extraordinarily busy day, I can throw everything into the pot in the morning, and dinner is ready at night. Another benefit is that the boat smells AMAZING all day long. On busy days, the Crock-pot is what prevents us from spending money on take-out…provided I have planned our menu accordingly. Yes, I do err on occasion and those errors usually lead to (expensive) pizza delivery. Of course, nobody complains on those nights!

HERE’S MY BIG SECRET – I NOW USE A GROCERY DELIVERY SERVICE

This is how I REALLY kicked our money-saving into gear!

You know how it goes. You send your husband or adult kiddo to the store with a specific list and they come back with a LOT more than you asked for. Getting stern didn’t work. Begging didn’t work. Deducting the money from their allowance didn’t work (they didn’t earn enough!). Heck, I was as bad as everyone else at impulse buying! So, what did I do? I opened an account with a grocery delivery service (Shipt.com to be exact). And,no, I’m not earning anything by linking to them in this article.

After making my menu and list, I place my order online through shipt and my groceries are delivered right to our boat dock, usually within a couple of hours. And, when I’m unpacking my grocery delivery order, I never find surprise bags of Snicker Bars and Hersheys, strawberry-infused green tea, an institutional-sized can of mixed nuts, or a jumbo “new car” scented candle.

The best part is you can search for specific food items, and see the prices listed side-by-side on one page. No more scanning the shelves, trying to decipher the prices of almost-identical items. And, once you order one item, if you search for it again, the website will make the last brand you ordered pop up on top, saving you even more time. I LOVE that part of the ordering process.

And that, my busy writer friends, is how I managed to cut our grocery bill in half each month. I’d love to read your comments if you have additional ideas! Please post them below. 🙂

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Angela Hoy lives on a 52' Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch (sailboat) with her family and pets. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, BookLocker.com, and AbuzzPress, and the author of 19 books. Keep up with her family's adventurous liveaboard lifestyle at GotNoTanLines.com.

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11 Responses to "How I Successfully Cut Our Grocery Bill in Half! (And, No, I Do NOT Use Coupons.)"

  1. DeAnn  May 8, 2018 at 12:58 am

    I have a friend who has written an ebook on saving at the grocery store, and she pointed my family toward a grocery store that is a little out of the way, but has huge savings on groceries. We regularly spend $100 less on groceries there that last for about two weeks. Her family is larger than mine, and more active, so she makes dinners in advance for the weekdays and freezes them and then cooks or reheats them each day of the week. She also recommends gleaning fruit from neighbors trees (they often don’t want or use all the fruit on the trees in their yard) and for the past couple of years she’s been bringing her teenage kids over to pick pears off our trees which they then can and use all winter for recipes.

  2. Woodrow Wilson  May 4, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    “The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook”–available from booklocker–offers great-tasting money-saving meal ideas. Most are fast enough for a busy day, and easy enough Mason can cook them without you watching over his shoulder.

  3. calamityjaimie  May 3, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    When we worked and traveled in our RV and shopped every 4 or even 6 weeks, I had a chart with columns for categories like canned goods, meat, dairy & eggs, etc. As I planned out the menu for that time period, I would check what ingredients I needed and add them to the list. If I ran low or out of something between trips, I immediately put it on the chart. Shopping was a breeze. That helped us shop in unfamiliar stores but might be useful in grouping like items for when you fill out your online order.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  May 4, 2018 at 8:17 am

      Great idea, CalamityJaimie! Thank you!! 🙂

      -Angela

  4. Wendy Jones  May 3, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    I have tried this type of shopping with Walmart — forget it! Your order is broken up and shipped in pieces over about a week. No more!

    We have reasonably recently seen Hy Vee and Natural Grocers jump into the local delivery business or at least, the ‘call it in and then you drive through and pick it up’ routine. I haven’t tried that one yet.

    I can honestly say, online shopping cuts impulse buying to absolute ‘0’, saving at least $35 per trip — and this is huge!

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  May 4, 2018 at 8:18 am

      Right, Wendy! And, it helps with the waistline, too!! 😉

      -Angela

  5. cgiblets  May 3, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Whole Foods sells small sizes of spices. Some organic stores may have bulk spice that you can buy just a small baggie of.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  May 3, 2018 at 9:25 pm

      Thank you, Carol! I’ll remember that!! 🙂

  6. writerleenda  May 3, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    I buy a gift certificate for the grocery store and put the month’s food money on it. Every shopping day I spend only what is allotted for that week. If I go over, I have to go under next time. I cook sauces and stews en masse so I am not buying meat every week plus I have my chicken thighs skinned and frozen separately by the store so I can freeze them and get out what I need for a meal. I get my order delivered by the store for $5. I don’t buy anything prepared or organic (they admitted to spraying it) and most of my food is fresh vegetables (California etc although we are in orchard country Canada we don’t grow some of the stuff we get from the US et al). I gave away my crock pot. And my impulse spending! You are a smart lady!

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  May 3, 2018 at 7:21 pm

      LOVE LOVE LOVE the gift certificate idea!!! 🙂

      -Angela