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Save Money at the Grocery Store


As longtime readers will know, I am a grocery geek. It’s rare that I buy groceries that aren’t on sale. Well, maybe not rare, but certainly painful. I avoid it at all costs. I prefer to stock up on items when they are on sale rather than pay full price when I “need them.”

My shopping and meal planning have evolved accordingly. I plan around what’s on sale. If potatoes aren’t on sale, we just don’t eat potatoes. It’s as simple as that.

However, this past week I went grocery shopping for a few items that I “needed” for recipe development and testing. And I just about had a heart attack.

Prices are rising

FishPapa had warned me a few weeks ago that grocery prices would go up, but I hadn’t really felt it. In fact, since I was practicing my regular methods of shopping from the sales, I saw no difference in prices. Chicken breast, on sale, is the same price it’s always been in my neck of the woods – $0.99/lb for split breasts and $1.99/lb for boneless, skinless.

But, I guess everything else really has been creeping up in price, as I found out on my latest shopping trip. Yikes! What in the world has been going on? The lowest non-sale price on tortillas was 30 cents EACH!

If you aren’t stockpiling, shopping from sales, and learning some frugal ways, things could get a bit dicey, sister!

Now, more than ever, is the time to save some money on groceries. Ya gotta eat, right? But, you don’t have to pay high prices! Not if I can help it.

I’m currently working a great series to help you save money on food costs. Details coming soon. So, wait for it….

Save Money with Grocery University

In the meantime, let me tell you about Grocery University. But, first, a story….

Years ago, I scoured the internet for help in lowering our food costs. My poor husband thought I had become an addict, reading deal blogs, clipping coupons, and otherwise talking about nothing else but the price of tea in, well, anywhere.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time learning how to reduce our grocery spending. Within a few months we went from spending $800 a month to feed a family of 7 to $400 a month — all thanks to sales and matching coupons.

While my family has grown in size, age, and appetites, we’re still able to keep it well under that $800 mark when I’m conscious of what we spend — and when I don’t “need” to get certain ingredients.

Get Your Degree in Couponing In Less Time than I Took

You don’t need to spend hours and weeks learning this couponing gig. In fact, my friend Carrie has put together a great audio series that teaches you virtually everything you need to know to lower your grocery spending.

I didn’t think I would learn anything new… you know because I generally think I know everything. Ha! But, I was pleasantly surprised with what Carrie put together in this 2+ hour course.

Here’s my video review of Grocery University, which explains a little of what this old dog know-it-all had to learn:

I wouldn’t give this product such glowing praise, if I didn’t think it would truly help you. And I think it will. I don’t make infomercials as a profession.

Oh no, no, I don’t.

Grocery University is on sale throughout today for its relaunch.

I am convinced that you will easily make that money back (plus some) within the month if you listen to the series and put into practice even a small fraction of Carrie’s recommendations.

If you are new to the world of couponing or need a refresher course, this is it! Go here to read more and purchase Grocery University!

Have you seen a rise in grocery prices?

What are you doing about it? Let’s chat in the comments.

PS. If you live in Colorado, it is in your best interests to follow Carrie’s Springs Bargains and Denver Bargains to keep you up-to-date on your local deals.

Disclosure: I did receive a review copy and am an affiliate for Grocery University. My opinions are entirely my own.

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Comments

  1. I didn’t shop for a few weeks but when I returned to the store- oh my goodness! Everything was up by 20 cents, 30 cents, 40 cents. EVERYTHING!

    I just posted about it yesterday- I guess everyone’s a little shocked!
    http://www.milehimama.com/2011/02/27/food-prices-rising-prudently-prepared/

    I’m starting a series on my blog journaling my shops as I try to stock up and feed the family on a tiny budget.
    And I’m planting lettuce, because it’s easy to grow and the grocery store prices are just nuts!

  2. Oh yes, it’s ridiculous. In just a week’s time a case of Coke(non negotiable on cutting out) went up $1.50 each. It was putting together a price book, but I’m going to have to go back and redo it all!

  3. I’ve noticed that if prices go up they rarely go back down. Sale prices will soon start to creep up and the standard low price will become the very rare occasion super sale price. And So it goes…

  4. Katherine R says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! My husband and I have been noticing it the past 6 weeks or so. I have to stop my “in-between” trips to the grocery store. What used to cost me $15-$20 in picking up things between grocery trips, is now costing over $30! We’re going to work on planting a garden (even though we live in the desert!) and I will be making more homemade items and visiting our farmer’s market more. I don’t like what I’m seeing at the grocery stores!

    • @Katherine R,

      Do you have a blog? I live in the desert to ( near Mojave) and I am hoping to get a good garden going but its so hard and I LOVE ideas.

      • Katherine R says:

        I don’t have a blog yet (it’s on my to-do in the next couple of months!) nor do I have a green thumb! :-) But this week, we’re going to do 2 raised bed gardens – adding herbs, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes. We’ll see how it goes! Our soil is horrible, so I’m hoping the raised bed will help a lot! Good luck!

        • @Katherine R,
          Hi,
          I live in Southern Arizona in the desert. Everyone used to tell us that it was to hot here and the soil to bad, but we brought in compost and mixed with the soil. This will be our third garden this year. We had huge success last year with using soaker hose and straw to keep weeding down and keeping the water bill down. Good luck and enjoy, it is lots of fun.
          Trudy

  5. I’ve been watching grocery prices go up for awhile here in North Idaho. There are two major reasons.

    1. The Fed is printing money and the congress is monetizing more and more of our debt. These things make inflation zoom upward, which means each of your dollars is worth less and so the store has to charge you more.

    2. The cost of fuel and corn have gone up because of environmentalist policies in government. If we could drill here in the US and build that pipeline from AK we’d have gas at less than 1.5 which would make manufacturing and shipping costs much less, bringing down the cost of food. (Not to mention free us of the dependence on foreign states that hate us.) On that same note we very stupidly decided that corn would make good fuel. Never, never use your food for fuel. Almost everything in the store has corn in it or is dependent on corn (dairy cows have a corn based diet, for example) and when corn became more scarce the price rose, making everything in the store more expensive. Of course both these issues are government decisions, the free market would never behave this way.

    You probably noticed the smaller sized packages for almost all products and the shift from English to metric measuring units. This wasn’t the manufacturers trying to stiff you, this was them trying their best to maintain their market share under rising costs. They were making sure you would still be able to buy something, even if the quantities were smaller.

    • @Michelle,
      Canada is the biggest foreign suppler of petroleum to the United States. We are closer than Alaska, and hate is to strong a word for how most Canadians feel about the US.

      Our Trader Joes raised milk prices last month, but last trip I noticed they were back down again.

      • I wasn’t referring to Canada. I was thinking of the middle east and Venezuela, et al. Canada supplies about 11% of the petroleum consumed in America but most of the rest of our oil comes from people who definitely are antagonistic toward us.

    • Danielle B says:

      @Michelle, Glad to see others awake and aware. Many don’t won’t to wake up and see the facts because it hurts so much initially. Keep at it though. My husband works with three other guys and has spent the last month or so “educating” them. All three are now stockpiling and “preparing” in other ways. For everyone one that doubts there is at least one who wakes up and sees the truth.

  6. FishMama, since you have tried it, I would like you to tell me whether you think Grocery U will honestly save me money. I am highly skeptical of couponing (and bargain food shopping in general), as most coupons are for stuff I don’t want (I do go to the websites for specific brands I like to see if they offer coupons. I am committed to mostly buying in season, local food from farmers directly (whenever possible), and then, beyond that, mostly organic, a little conventional, and very little packaged/processed/prepared food. I spend A LOT on groceries (mostly produce and a little meat, but feel like it is high quality. I already make all our baked goods, purchase wheat berries/rice/legumes super cheap in bulk, and am incorporating more vegetarian main dishes into our diet. I’m not sure how much I believe you can skimp on paying for food without it affecting the quality of your food (or someone else’s livelihood). Any thoughts?

    • @Betsy (Eco-novice), What about using coupons for non-food items? I have many friends who sound similar to you when it comes to food. I am trying to do more of the things you mentioned. But I find I can save a lot of money on non-food items at the grocery store and drug stores: trash bags, ziplock bags, foil, cleaning products, toiletries, paper towels, toilet paper, Water softener salt. I did the Grocery U. a year ago and got a lot of tips that I have used since. Carrie talks how to match coupons with the sales ad, and that applies to all products, not just food.

      I highly recommend the audio resource for those wanting to learn about couponing.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I think you ask some great questions. I’ve been trying to figure out how to answer without writing a whole post in the reply box. My short answer is “I think so.” Carrie’s program is not designed for the type of shopping you describe, it is more for conventional shoppers. However, it does a great job explaining how grocery store ads, newspaper and printable coupons, and catalinas work. I started seriously couponing in 2007/2008. And over the years I gotten a number of organic and all-natural products for free or super cheap. In fact, our overall diet improved once I started couponing.

      Now, I do most of my baking and cooking from scratch and I shop Azure Standard when the price is competitive. And Sprouts and Henrys, my two local health food stores have fantastic deals that I often match with coupons. I think it is possible to blend coupons and organic living. But, I think it’s like investing, you have to follow it for a long time to reap the rewards. Organic product coupons are not as prevalent as processed, that is true, but they are there. It’s when I am regularly following the coupon scene that I find them.

      And usually I find clearance organic for cheap that I pair with the coupon to further lower the price. Another resource from Keeper of the Home that might help some out there is Real Food on a Real Budget. I can’t remember if she mentions coupons in there, but it’s about lowering food costs.

      Also, as Memory Making Mom pointed out, coupons are available for a range of non-food items, even organic and all-natural products. So there are small ways to save in areas you might not think of.

      That’s my two cents. But, since I don’t walk in your shoes, I can’t say for absolute positive that this would work for you.

      • @Jessica Fisher,
        Thank you for the replies above! I am glad to know that you have saved money while eating more organic, Jessica. I think I am more interested in investing my time into learning to make more of my own cleaning/personal products, and replace disposables (Ziploc baggies) with reuseables, than with learning how to coupon/bargain shop at this point. I really appreciate your perspective and know where to go for couponing if I ever decide to go that route.

  7. Sorry about the crazy parentheses going on in that comment. I should have edited it.

    • @Betsy (Eco-novice),
      Betsy, You CAN coupon and buy organic. Try these websites to get info. Organicdeals.com , yourgreenhelper.blogspot.com, and frugallyfarmingfamilyblogspot.com. They have coupon lists, helpful hints and you will change your mind about the coupon thing, I just KNOW it!!!
      Blessings to you, Lindy :o)

  8. Groceries are certainly going up in price, as well as gas. The crazy weather across the country does not help either. I am certainly watching our food budget and changing my shopping accordingly. And I am working on planning the garden and saving for a freezer.

  9. Yep, the prices are creeping. We will continue to use our coupons and shop as usual. We order some of our groceries from AzureStandard and we pick them up in San Marcos which is east for us. While we are out there we go to Sprouts to get our grass-fed beef and whatever else looks cheap and good. We sometimes go out to Temecula to Winco and the Sprouts out there. It’s a bit different than the Sprouts here. We don’t spend money on processed food unless it’s a clearance basket, like the Annies mac & cheese. Even then I only used the box as an add-in to enhance the meal I fixed. Most stores have a clearance area and you never know what you’ll find. We usually buy organic as often as possible, but most of the local grocery stores have a small selection, and our farmers market is not the greatest. So when I do find a good deal, like the squash for .33cents a lb. I do the freezer trick. Now we have a bunch of squash fries, potatoes, onions, strawberries, vegies from the garden and of course my batch cooking meals.
    If anyone knows of good places for organic in north san diego county, please share.

  10. Yes, I thought maybe because I was doing the pantry challenge for almost 8 weeks, but wow, I was surprised and actually put a few things back to hold off on. I think with the increase of gas lately, prices will continue to increase, which is B.A.D. news for the economy. I myself will be doing Costco (conservatively) and Aldis and filling in at Publix with the steals and deals they offer. No more random shopping here.

  11. Heather In Michigan says:

    Never got into the coupon thing. They rarely have coupons for fruit and veg and since we try to eat less processed foods that’s (kinda) all we buy. I do get some good coupons for TP and the like, though. I’m just waiting for summer and the farmer’s markets to start!

    I’ve noticed the kids are eating more. They must be growing. That’s going to cost us a pretty penny in the future.

    • @Heather In Michigan,
      Not sure how old the kids are but I’ve got mini adults (18 and 20) and can remember when the food consumption when through the roof … then the boy has the band members over and whoa … luckily they like to eat healthier things and don’t protest too much about carrot sticks!

  12. It is hard to coupon for the things I buy but I am going to continue to try. Looking forward to your saving money series! The prices of groceries here in NY have risen and it is really effecting my budget. I am so glad to hear the Grocery Geek reference…I thought that series was over and would be missed forever!

  13. There was a time when I spent a lot of my time with coupons, looking through flyers, travelling to 3 or 4 different grocery stores each week, and keeping a spreadsheet with the lowest price of each item that we typically buy. For a while, I also subscribed to a service that sounds a lot like Grocery University. All of this took way too much time away from my kids. By simplifying my weekly menus, reducing the amount of meat we consume, eating seasonally and locally, being choosy in what I buy, doubling recipes and freezing half, and starting my own vegetable garden, I have saved a lot while providing healthy, comforting meals for my family.

  14. I first noticed it in the rising price of sugar. Sugar was $2.09/4lbs around here for a long time. Now it’s up to $2.19! I try to keep a good handle on the prices of our everyday foods and my grocery app on my phone helps me do that. I can stand in one grocery store and see what I paid in another store for the same item, which really helps. I’m not usually a coupon user but I’ve just discovered that Target has online coupons for some of their store brand items!

  15. I go through the newspaper coupons every week, but most of the coupons seem to be for processesed foods that we don’t buy. I’m lucky to live in an area with a lot of grocery stores so I do check the circulars to see which store has the most items I need on sale. I used to try to shop the sales at multiple stores, but found that too time-consuming and probably more expensive in the long run. I’ve definitely noticed prices creeping up. The Farmer’s Markets will be opening in April (I’m in the Philly area), and I REALLY need to learn how to freeze more produce this year.

  16. In my area, I have noticed the rising price of bananas! Giant Eagle is now up to $0.54/#! I have to keep shopping at Aldi’s for those because they are holding their price at $0.39/#. Milk prices are also on the rise, it is hard to keep up when we drink 2+ gallons per week in my house!

  17. There are some good coupons out there for pantry staples… lately I have gotten Muir Glen tomatoes, rice, sour cream, yogurt, old fashioned oatmeal.

  18. I started couponing about 3 years ago. We also eat mostly whole foods, avoid processed food, and I like to buy local meat and garden. I have found coupons for whole grain pasta, Earth Bound Organics, hummus, dairy products, as well as almost all of our non-food items (OT medicines, vitamins, hygiene items). I feed my family of 6 for around $250 a month – with help from a staples stock pile, using coupons, and buying lost leaders. At this point, it’s just not possible for me to buy a lot of organic (but I get what I can). I recently compared Aldi prices to loss leader and here’s what I came up with, if you’re interested:
    http://simplifylivelove.blogspot.com/2011/01/which-is-cheaper-loss-leader-or-aldi.html

    • @Michelle, Thanks for that post. I’m a big Aldi shopper and generally assume that if Aldi has something it’s inevitably cheaper than anywhere else. It’s very interesting to see that that isn’t always true!

  19. This university is great. This would be good for our youth and young adults to learn as well! : )

    Now I would like to know… Do you say coupon, cupe-on or coop-on? lol We southerners at our house say cupe-on. *giggle* Enjoyed your video dahlin. : )

  20. I forgot to mention…I have noticed the prices going crazy too…Even in makeup. Cover Girl bottled old fashioned liquid makeup has at least doubled in price in ten years… At least 100 % inflation. Scary.

    Lentils are a good food to stockpile by the way, cheap and useful, quick to cook. : )

  21. I saw zucchini for 2.98 a lb! Even at the cheaper store I shop at. I was getting it for .58 a month ago. It’s hurting our family of 7 but your blog has given me so many ideas!

  22. Same story here in Ohio. Last month when I went shopping after a month of pantry challenge I was amazed at how much prices had jumped. Getting ready to do my March shopping this week and am NOT looking forward to seeing the prices. (sigh) My husband used to be a professional chef so I feel a bit more pressure to provide good wholesome meals that actually taste really good too. He has taught me a lot in our 10 yrs of marriage but since he works full time I do most of the cooking at home. So I think this month I am going to make sure I have a good menu planned out for the month, shop Aldi and then supplement at Kroger. I think regardless of whether you use coupons or not, it’s all about having a plan and sticking to it. I am NOT a great planner so this has been a learning experience for me as I have adjusted our grocery budget to less.
    Oh, and I am SO thankful for a friend who has offered me a space on their newly bought farmland this year to do a big garden!! We’ll head out there a few days a week with our boys and garden together!

  23. Great post. I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t noticed the rising prices. Which tells you what my biggest problem in grocery shopping is — I have no baseline. I could no more tell you what I normally pay for individual items than fly. And that’s stuff I buy every week! How do you do it? Do you just remember? Keep a notebook? Use an app?

    • Gina S. says:

      @Kate,

      I agree with you, I didn’t really notice except for meat prices. I live in So Cal so I have a Ralph’s (Kroger affiliate). They used to advertise lots and lots of meat for $1.99/lb. but recently it’s been $2.49+/lb. I’m irritated. I just recently started shopping at Henry’s. I thought they had really good quality stuff, but I keep finding the produce is rotten already. It clearly has mold on it. I’m very disappointed and disgusted by that fact.

  24. I can’t wait to read your new grocery series! I hope that you talk about ways to save on real food. I’ve read the Real Food on a Real Budget book, and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. For a newbie, it’s a great book for getting started, but for me, I didn’t learn anything new.

    I feel a bit frustrated because the real food bloggers talk about making nutritious food, and the couponers talk about saving money on food, but no one really, truly talks about saving money on real food. I think saving money on real food is about cooking knowledge – the cheapest cuts of meat, making stock, getting as much as possible out of every thing we use, growing what we can, and yes knowing when to buy organic, and when not to. Having a price book helps, too. I’m not sure if all that makes sense. :)

  25. One thing that really helps us is once a month cooking. The majority of our food is purchased the first week of the month and then I have a cooking day or two. It causes me to be more deliberate in what I buy instead of running to the store a couple of times a week and spending way too much.

    We do have to supplement with fresh produce and milk through the month which is usually picked up at Aldi when we’re near it.

    • Kristen says:

      I love to do once a month cooking, but I have noticed that the prices in my area tend to be a bit higher for the first 5 days of the month as compared to the middle. Not sure if it is because Food Stamps, etc. renew at the beginning or something else, but I thought it was interesting. I now try to do my OAC in the middle of the month.

  26. Our prices are going nuts in Southern Missouri. Our local grocer had green peppers for $1.99/EACH! What?! And that’s just the beginning. Everything else has raised with it.

    Thankfully, we’ve started our seedlings for our garden–and fresh produce won’t be a problem anymore.

  27. Increased gas prices is causing food to go up. Ouch! Therefore, I am making more covenience foods, http://cookandplay.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/pepperoni-and-cheese-stromboli-slices-for-the-freezer/

  28. Yes! And check your receipts before walking out the door! We were overcharged for $12.42 last week!!!

  29. Jessica, have you noticed prices rising at Costco? We just went last weekend and I didn’t think most things were any higher than they were a month or two ago… in fact, I think maple syrup, heavy cream, sour cream, and eggs were all a little bit lower than they were 2 weeks ago! Still trying to decide what all I should really try to stock up on from Costco…

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Tammy L, so far Costco is okay here. It was a little sketchy at Christmas time. Things like bacon and butter were higher priced. But, last week I was relieved to get tortillas for 10 cents a piece instead of 30!

      • @Jessica Fisher, Oh, I just double-checked and heavy cream wasn’t lower — but pinto beans were only $11.99 instead of $12.85 for 25 pounds! Good thing we love beans! (I know you guys do too!) And organic brown basmati rice at Costco was 10 pounds for $8.99!

        I agree, butter is still high ($9.19 for 4 pounds — 1/4 pound sticks — Joshua forgot to look for 1-lb blocks!) but not highER… :)

        And milk has gone up from $2/gallon for whole milk to $2.19/gallon at Costco… but milk (plain, or made into kefir) is still affordable for the nutrition/calories it provides compared to a lot of stuff! :)

  30. To cut our grocery bill, I will be getting our garden out earlier and using seeds started indoors (i/o transplants) in recycled seed pots made from toilet/paper towel rolls, rolled newspapers and cut up girl scout cookie boxes. With things that I know that we will use, I plan to stock up before the rising fuel costs get passed on to us. I’ll really be putting our free stand up freezer to use this year!

  31. Reading all of your post has shown me how different prices are around our great nation. I live in the Buffalo, N.Y. area and just recieved wonderful news from one of our stores. Wegmans promised not to raise the price on 40 certain products. http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/HomepageView?storeId=10052&catalogId=10002&langId=-1&clear=true

    Club packs of boneless chicken breast and 80/20 ground beef will always be $1.99 a pound. That is my favorite one. I buy 1 chicken each week and about 1 ground beef every 2 weeks.

    There are many other items on the list. Some I don’t buy some I do. It all helps. plus they double coupons up to .99.

    I also have Aldi and Save-A-Lot nearby. I go to Aldi to get 80% of our groceries.

    I have lowered our family of 8’s food bill about $100 for the last 2 months. No more convience foods, baking more, cooking from scratch and batch cooking plus freezing items. Every little bit helps.

    thanks your for your posts!

  32. Thank you so much for sharing this! I feel the same way! I am just starting to tweak my grocery shopping habits. I am starting to clip more coupons and want to start stockpiling. I have accumulated a lot of toothpaste for free through CVS and Kroger deals! I think we’re set for at least 6 months! Trying to get everything else set up.

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