Monday, March 21, 2011

Food Budgeting: Where Do You Shop?

Back in February I posted Food Budgeting:  Building Your Supply.  In January I shared Food Budgeting:  Menu Planning.  Now that we've addressed planning your meals and what you need to have on hand to minimize extra trips to the store, let's talk about the fun part - shopping!

Believe it or not, I love to grocery shop.  I don't even mind when the stores are crowded.  I always shop with a list and I enjoy picking out produce, comparing prices on items, and planning what meals we'll enjoy as a result of a shopping expedition.  My husband and I have been shopping together since we dated in college.  We buy most of our groceries from three places:  ShopRite (regional grocery chain), Costco, and the local farmer's market (indoor, open year-round). 

Although I find Extreme Couponing on TLC very entertaining, I seldom use coupons.  In my experience, coupons are typically for processed items like cereal, frozen desserts, boxed mixes, and cosmetics.  I find very few coupons for fresh produce, raw meat, and pantry staples like flour.  The one exception is that sometimes ShopRite or Costco offer coupons that are only valid in their stores (store coupons, not manufacturer's coupons).  If these coupons are for items that I typically buy (milk, chicken, eggs, pork chops), I may use them.

I limit my shopping to a few stores because I feel comfortable with the layout and the stock of the stores.  I know who has the best price on a gallon of 1% milk (Costco, usually), where to buy unusual produce in small quantities (farmer's market), and where to buy laundry detergent (ShopRite, $1.99).  Since I'm only shopping for two and I'm a very active home cook, I buy whatever we want to eat, I just make sure we pay a great price.  If we want sea scallops or New York strip, we buy it.  We'd rather eat it at home than pay the huge markup to eat it at a restaurant.

I average less than $50 a week on food for two adults, including the occasional  regular bottle of wine or takeout pizza.  We pack our breakfast and lunch on weekdays and I cook dinner at least five nights a week, on average.  It's important for us to keep our food budget under control because other aspects of our household budget (like fuel, tolls, and mobile phone bills) are higher than most families due to our long commutes and long work hours. 

The biggest money drain is last-minute purchases.  Make a list (preferably based on a weekly meal plan) and stick to it.  As much as I enjoy shopping for food, I only hit the stores once a week.  If I don't have a food item and it's not critical, I substitute another item until our next shopping day.

Where do you buy your food?  Do you use coupons?  How many of you end up making multiple trips to the store for forgotten items?


  1. I shop mostly at ShopRite (best prices but 20 minutes from my house) and Safeway (conveniently 1/2 mile away but terribly priced). Sometimes I'll get grocery items, especially snack foods for my son's lunch like Kashi bars, at Target if I'm there for other stuff.

    I mostly use coupons for H&B items. There are rarely coupons available for the kind of food I buy and when they are, it's usually "save a dollar when you buy four boxes." And I'm usually not looking to buy 4 boxes.

    I alsmost never go back for a forgotten item, menu planning and making a detailed list help me avoid that. BUT until a couple of weeks ago, I was going back frequently to replenish soda. I'm in the process of quitting soda (going really well actually) and I expect an immediate lowering of our grocery bills.

  2. I honestly shop wherever I'm near. I have a bad habit of making what I want when I want instead of basing my meals around the sales. I certainly need to work on that!

  3. We are pretty lucky. A lot of grocery stores are either in the vicinity of our home our my job, but we tend to shop near our home.

    Farmer's Market (Amish and general) -meat/veggies
    Acme - meat
    Walmart- general groceries; we can expect to always get the lowest price for our faves like V8fusion, Simply juices, bread, etc. etc.; I never buy fruit or meat from there....ewww
    Giant- general groceries
    BJ's - certain toiletries; frozen veggies, and other items great in bulk. I can't wait till my mom gets her job promo for Costco!

    You are so right about coupons. A lot of them are for junk. I like to use grocery coupons for cereal, toiletries, and other random items. I mostly check for the best sale. I like using coupons at BJs bc you can use BJs coupons AND manufactorer's coupons.

    I'm still learning though. I haven't mastered grocery shopping like I have clothing shopping. You can see where my priorities have been all of these years.

  4. We tend to do one big shopping trip a week for the staples, but I do purchase produce on a "need-to-buy" basis throughout the week. I know it's not the best option cost-wise, but I found that a lot of our fresh produce was going bad before we had the chance to use it. So this is working for us right now.

  5. OMG, you have certainly given me "food for thought" by putting my b.. in gear where the planning of grocery shopping is concerned!I have a lot to learn from this post! I just need to cut out those darn coupons already!

  6. I wish I could plan my meals... I try but never stick to it, so I end up making trips to Kroger (right across the street from my home) every time I fix a meal each week, which is probably expensive!!

  7. You know I'm a wegman's junkie. (no really, I follow them on twitter, lol).I actually abhor grocery shopping though, so I usually average 2 big grocery hauls a month--and always on off hours like friday mornings/evenings.

    I'm not organized enough to plan a weekly menu, but I live and die be my grocery list. Usually I have some idea of dishes that I want to make, or flavors that I'm craving, and try to build my list around that. One of the reasons I love Wegmans is because I can build my list online, and it prints with the items arranged aisle, which really helps with efficient shopping, and I know how much I'm going to spend before I enter the store. Their prices are also the most reasonable of my local grocery chains, so it's totally worth the 20 minute drive. I also pick supplement at Trader Joes, Whole Foods and if I'm desperate, my local market. I swear my grocery shopping options (and inability to get a new job) are one of my biggest reasons to stay in Baltimore.

    You're so right about last minute purchases being a big money drain. I'm trying to get better at stocking up, but I'm working with limited storage, so I can only do so much.

  8. We do most of our shopping at shoprite, but will frequent some of the other stores in the area if they have good deals as well.

    We definitely use coupons in this house! Actually, I post the weekly shoprite deals and coupon match ups on my blog. I like to help my readers who shop at ShopRite as well, stretch their budgets and make wonderful meals at the same time.

    I'm so glad I found your blog through ShopRite! I will be a frequent visitor :o)

  9. I shop at whole foods and trader joe's for my organic and produce.
    Farmers market for produce and meat, seafood
    Aldo-deep discount items
    Kroger/Publix- staples
    It all depends on what I need..a little here a little there. Coupons are not used because I have usually waited to long to use them and they have expired or not for items I purchase. I saw Extreme Couponing was amazed at the savings but why would you want 20 cans of chicken soup when you can make it from scratch eachtime and it be more nutritious than anything out of a can. I live in the atlanta area.


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