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Weaving My Financial Security Blanket - Grocery Shopping

Updated on October 27, 2008

In an effort to reduce my grocery expenses, I've been making a concentrated effort to grocery shop just once each week.

Studies have evidently shown that people who do all of their weekly shopping in one fell swoop spend less than those who pick up a few things at a time. I guess the idea behind it is that if you spend, say, $5 on impulse purchases on any given shopping trip but shop only once per week, you're out only $5 on impulse buys for the week. However, if you make three trips to the store during the course of a week, you'll probably be out $15 on impulse purchases for the same period of time (three trips X 5 bucks wasted per trip). Looking back at my older receipts, it looks like this was true for me. It also looks like $5 should probably have a multiplier associated with it. Hey, I'm an Aries! We're an impulsive lot.

Anyway, today is grocery shopping day. I have some rules for myself:

  • Decide on seven meals that I'm going to cook this week and figure out which ingredients I need to purchase. At least 3 meals must incorporate things I already have on hand. For instance, Husband and I have a hard time using even a ten pound bag of potatoes because we forget we have 'em. Mashed potatoes are going on the menu plan for one night, and another night we'll have roasted potatoes.
  • Another rule is that at least two meals must be meat free. Luckily, we both love beans - or, perhaps it is unlucky for me that my husband loves beans. (Note to self: add Beano to the list.)
  • The last rule is that at least two meals must provide enough leftovers to cover the next day.

Now, I'm not a fancy cook. I'm a good cook when I want to be (read, when I actually follow a recipe instead of just making things up), but I don't especially enjoy cooking. I used to have great culinary aspirations, with my subscription to Gourmet magazine and all my Williams Sonoma cookbooks. What I found is that whether I spend 30 minutes making dinner or three hours, Husband still inhales it in ten minutes or less, we still eat it on the couch with at least one dog nose hanging over the edge of the plate, and I still procrastinate on doing the dishes afterward. To summarize: Simple meals generally suffice. And simple meals require simple, inexpensive ingredients.

Because I'm lazy, I have no intention of putting a lot of effort into grocery shopping. I've read the stories and admire the women who visit six different grocery stores with two shopping carts (one for purchases, the other to tote their coupon collection), and I'm mildly jealous that their strategizing allows them to walk out with $300 worth of groceries for $0.99, but I just can't do it. That kind of planning takes time, and I have a lot of Internet left to browse. Priorities, people.

To that end, I visit one store. Wal-Mart. Are they conveniently located? Not too bad. Do they have everything I need? Yep. Do they have the best prices? Don't know, don't care. The second question trumps the third, in my mind. I love, love, love walking in and getting everything I need in one shot. Raisin Bran? Check. Tampons? Check. Cat litter? Check. Lawn mower? Check.

Still, the point is to save money. The one trip per week thing has eliminated most of the impulse buying. Additionally, we've eliminated from our diets a lot of the crap that used to drive the bill up quickly like chips, 100-calorie snack packs, etc. The specific meal planning has helped as well, because instead of buying zucchini because I like zucchini and might cook it one night, now I buy zucchini because I know I'm going to saute it with olive oil and garlic on Tuesday night to serve with the baked chicken breast and roast potatoes. I'm throwing away FAR less food than I did previously, which is nice.

The one hitch in my giddyup (or maybe the four hitches in my giddyup) is the pets. Two cats, two dogs. Granted, one dog isn't here most of the time because he's with his trainer- that's another expense category that, fortunately, Husband covers. The other three critters are here fulltime, and they're expensive little buggers. The cats eat only dry food, but they've got good appetites. Cat litter isn't cheap either. I insist on using the scoopable kind because it lasts longer and stinks less, as long as it is cleaned regularly. Dog food isn't too bad because one 40 pound bag lasts a couple of months, but toys and rawhide add up quickly. I'd rather that the dog have HER things to destroy rather than taking out her boredom on my shoe collection. My kind of leather is a lot more expensive than her kind.

So, that's the story with me and grocery shopping. Am I saving money? You bet! I know I could definitely save a lot more, but there are some things I'm just not yet willing to change.

As always, thanks for reading!


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    • dineane profile image

      dineane 9 years ago from North Carolina

      I know you are right that menu-planning is the first step to efficient grocery shopping, but I procrastinate so terribly! Maybe your hub will help me jump-start my planning again. Good advice!