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A Grocery Budget Update and Shoppin’ Safeway Again!

15 December 2009 11,172 views 15 Comments

Well, it has officially been one month since I decided to cut our grocery budget in half.  Just FYI, the “grocery” category consists of food and personal care, eating out, Dutch Bros. coffee runs, grocery papers, whims, etc.

Here is a little bit of history:  Our whole married lives (12 years) we hadn’t really had a solid grocery budget (or any budget).  We just bought whatever we wanted (within reason), which probably amounted to about $600 a month for the “grocery” category for our family of 4 (boys ages 3 and 6).  We paid with our credit card or debit card (but mostly credit).  We have never carried a balance on a credit card (thank goodness), but every month when we got the bill, my heart just sank.  It was hard to write that ginormous check (well, actually, we do online bill-pay, but you get the idea).  It felt like we were always living paycheck to paycheck and never had any money.

Back in September (when I discovered crazy couponing), we decided to freeze our credit card (literally, it is in a cup of ice in the freezer) and make all of our purchases with cash.  We set a pretty tight budget of $400 a month – which (obviously) is $100 a week for the grocery category.

THEN, I realized that if I have money in my envelope, I will spend it.  And, the stuff I was spending it on was kinda silly.  I sort of thought of it as my personal fun money account, and really, that is not very good stewardship.

SO, starting on November 15th (the beginning of our financial month), I cut our grocery budget from $400 a month to $200 a month.  I’ve read some excellent blogs where the moms have successfully done this, and I was so inspired!!  (Thanks Fistful of Coupons and Money Saving Mom!)

Remember when I told you that one of my friends actually told me that I “couldn’t do that”?  Pshaw!  So, of course, I had to prove her wrong.  And I did.

Last month, we spent $174 on groceries. Well, okay, I spent $194, but I’m going to be reimbursed $20 because I bought breakfast for Mitch’s LeTip group.  I’m rolling that over into this month so I can stock up on meat.

How did I do that?  Well, of course, I couponed and stocked up on items at rock-bottom prices.  For example, I bought 3 turkeys for my family at less than $5 each (23¢ a pound – approx 20 lbs.): I cooked them, sliced the breasts for lunch meat and shredded the rest.  I froze the shredded meat in 2 cup portions for use in soups, enchiladas, turkey divan, etc . . anything I would have used chicken in.  I only have a little side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, so I couldn’t really buy any more.  My freezer was totally stocked up with meat and veggies, and now it is looking a little empty!  Well, not really, but I’m down to my last packet of turkey, so . . .

This is an example of how I shop.  It looks a little weird, I admit. (Sorry for the blur.  I had my prime lens on the camera and had to hold it above my head!)

Safeway12-15

You’re thinking:

“Why in the world would she buy 4 boxes of Chex cereal?” Because I paid less than 75¢ each and we love this stuff.  I used Manufacturers Coupons (MC), ecoupons (loaded onto my Safeway Club Card – cellfire and shortcuts – there are links from Safeway.com) and a Safeway doubler (available in the ad in Oregon).  These four boxes are joining the 28 others crammed into my pantry! (Side note: I got 4 boxes of Kashi Go-Lean Crunch for free at Rite-Aid last week (just crazy couponing).  I love that stuff.  I wrote a quick little email to Kashi, just saying, “I love this stuff!” and they wrote back that night saying thank you and they are going to send me some high value coupons!  Wahoo!)

“That’s a lot of coffee creamer!” I know!  It is actually $11.36 worth.  But, I got the two International Delights for free (Smartsource Internet Printable – IP), and the Coffeemate cost me $2.20 (IP, doubler, ecoup).  Oh, sure, it is more than I have been paying for creamer lately, but I figured that 4 creamers for $2.20 is pretty good, so I stocked up.  I currently have about 4 huge creamers and 2 little ones in my refrigerator, and they don’t expire until Feb, March and April.  I’m sure I’ll be through them by the end of January, though.  LOL!

“WOW!  You must love crackers!” We do.  We love to open up a bottle of wine and enjoy cheese and crackers after the kids go to bed.  This is why I weigh 10 pounds more than I should.  The crackers were not the best deal in the world, since I didn’t have all of my coupons in order, but 5 boxes of Wheat Thins and Triscuits for $1.09 each?  I’ll take it.  And, if I buy 5 more, I can submit my receipt for a $10 rebate from Kraft, which would make them practically free.  I’ll probably forget to do that, though.  In the meantime, I have now purchased the crackers for my Spinach Dip that I’ll probably be making before the end of the year.  Cheap appetizers, baby!

The point is, I’m stocking up while prices are low.

Other items to note:

•Grant loves Egg Nog, and it is only $1.49 since it is overstocked!
•The eggs were free as part of Safeway’s 12 Days of Savings.
•The Clementines were $6.99, but I had a $1 off coupon from Safeway.com, and a $1 off coupon (which was doubled) from the 12/6 newspaper insert (can’t remember which one).  Final cost ($4.49) was still too expensive, but ’tis the season, right?  My boys LOVE these so much!
•The Ranchers Reserve Meat was Buy One Get One free (select cuts), so I picked up 2 roasts at $10.57 each, but only paid $8.57 after the BOGO + $2 off coupon from Safeway.com.
•The chicken was 99¢ a pound.
•The ground beef was 50% off (clearanced meat with a sell-by 12/16 date), and will be turned into meat loaf for dinner tonight.  Yum! (Thanks to Jen @ Balancing Beauty and Bedlam for giving me the courage to buy clearanced meat!)
•I did all of this on a single transaction.  I’m known for my multiple transactions, but I didn’t need to do that this time.

This is the “big” grocery shopping trip for this week.  Of course, the new Safeway ad comes out tomorrow, so I’ll probably go back again when I see what the sales are.  I used to shop at Winco, which is a large discount shopping store that has amazing prices for people who don’t want to clip coupons.  However, since I started clipping coupons and stocking up when things are rock-bottom, I haven’t been back to Winco.  Mostly, though, it is because Safeway is so much closer to my house, and they have special promotions that make shopping there affordable.  It’s easy to run into Safeway and drop $100 though, so it does take careful planning.  I actually think it is really fun, so I don’t mind!  PLUS, the wonderful cashiers there get a kick out of seeing how much I’ve saved!

Well, I deposited our paycheck and filled my cash envelopes!  I’m hoping that this $50 a week trend continues to be feasible for my family (especially since I don’t have any turkey left!).  I’ll keep you posted!

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, I’ve been discussing with my friends, and $500-$600 a month for a family of 4 is about average, so please don’t feel weird if you spend more than me! You are normal. I’m the freak. PLUS, this is my hobby, so . . . I’m an even bigger freak.)

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