Monday, March 1, 2010

Learning to be a saver

I will admit that I'm bad at saving money (except maybe when I was a kid), but now that I live with a total tight-wad I've found it easier to save money. The biggest expense in our household seems to be food, at first I would spend close to $175 on food for the two of us and it would last for two weeks (most of the time). I didn't understand why I was spending so much, but one day I cleaned out my pantry and found I was continually buying things I already had multiples of. I never made a list and I never checked to see what we were really out of besides staple foods like milk, bread and eggs. Needless to say, I have started making lists and checking my supplies a few times before I head to the store.

Part of my saving has consisted of going to two grocery stores each week - Aldi and Meijer. If you live near an Aldi, go there, ignore the people who say "oooo its all off brand food and why would you want to go there" - off brand = amazing savings. Here are my tips for shopping at Aldi:
  1. Bring your own bags: Or you can buy the shopping bags they have that are huge and reusable for about $2. I have two and I can fill them both for around $40 depending on what I get. They have paper bags you can buy for $0.06 as well but I don't care for them.
  2. Buy your staple foods and dry goods: Their prices on canned goods, pasta, sugar, flour, cooking oils and other kitchen staples cannot be beat. They have 3 cup bags of shredded cheese for $2.89, which is what a small bag would cost at most other stores. Even there butter is cheaper and its the real stuff too!
  3. Be careful of the produce: Unless you are going to use it right away or its an item that will stay fresh for a while you might want to buy it somewhere else. There onions I've found start to get nasty faster, same with the potatoes and bell peppers. But the lettuces and apples are usually good just as long as food from other stores.
  4. Bakery items: I get all my bread and buns there, super cheap, sometimes under a dollar for a pack of hamburger buns or around a dollar for a loaf of wheat bread, and they have all kinds of stuff. Donuts, english muffins, dinner rolls and a variety of bread loafs from Italian to Whole Grain. Sometimes I buy a little extra and freeze it when possible.
  5. Meat: I do purchase some meat here, but not all of it. One thing I love are the little Cornish Game Hens, they make a great crockpot meal during the week, for two people I make two hens and just put in some onions, lemon slices, chicken stock and salt and pepper, set the crock pot on low and let it go for 8 hours while we're at work. The meat will just fall off the bone. Other good meat items: Frozen chicken breasts or tenders, frozen shrimp and ground turkey (fresh or frozen).
  6. Personal tips on what NOT to buy: There "Velvetta" it doesn't melt right, salsa, potato chips, cleaning products (there paper products are fine though, paper towels and toilet paper if its 2-ply), frozen meals are hit or miss you have to try them to see if you like them, frozen hamburger patties, frozen fish (it all still has the skin on it, gross). What will always be a GREAT buy: The Fit n Active line of lower fat foods (salad dressings and wheat crackers are my personal fave), cheese, baking staples, canned goods.
Once I get everything I need at Aldi, I go to Meijer, which I've found is much cheaper than Kroger or Giant Eagle (again if you have one, shop there, its kinda like WalMart but with better stuff). I get some of my produce and seasonings at Meijer, as well as my milk and eggs since they seem to have a longer shelf life than the items at Aldi. I try to only buy items that are on sale and buy the Meijer brand - I've come to learn that it all tastes just the same and will save lots of money! They also have a line of organic items that are pretty reasonable!

What do you do to save money on groceries or food? We also don't eat out for lunch and only go out to dinner once every other week. Any tips I could add for another frugal food blog?

Next installment of being a saver will be about thrifting and consignment stores!


Summer said...

Sadly, we don't have those stores....

And after watching Food Inc (dang that movie!), my husband was all over having us go organic.

Talk about NOT CHEAP! Ick!

Amanda said...

Yeah, stores are making an effort around here to carry store brand organic, but its still pretty pricey!

Good luck!!!!

Katie said...

Ha ha I loved your post! Its true you spend less if you make a list. And having worked at Meijer, I hope you fill out your survey, you would put their scores through the roof! You could do a commercial for them!

Amanda said...

I talk to everyone that I know about Meijer, I am a walking billboard for that I have only done the survey once and all the years I've been shopping there I've only called once to complain.