Cutting My Grocery Bill in Half

receipts
“receipts” by josephbergen on flickr

I can hardly believe it, but our recent receipts show that I’ve been spending HALF of what I was usually spending every week at the grocery store. No kidding!

For the last year, our grocery bills have totalled over $800/month for our family of four, sometimes up to $900 or $1000. I could easily spend over $200 on just one trip to Superstore, and then hit Costco a couple of days later and drop no less than $100.

The last few shops I’ve done have been less than $100 a week! I haven’t had to shop more than once each week, and I haven’t had to grab milk at the corner store either.

So what the heck was I buying that was costing me DOUBLE what I’ve spent the last few weeks?

Thinking back, I was buying a lot of bread, cereal and crackers, bagels, gourmet organic chocolate bars, individually packaged granola bars, and yogurt cups. I often took my kids shopping with me, and rarely said no to their requests. I frequently bought sandwich meat, and sometimes also frozen casseroles or ribs when my defences were lowered.

The last few weeks I’ve been making a lot of the things I had gotten used to buying:

  • I’ve been baking bread once or twice a week
  • I’ve been making sourdough rye crackers regularly
  • I’ve been packing my kids mason jar yogurt cups (plain yogurt, chopped cherries & a bit of maple syrup) (actually I’ve got a batch of yogurt going right now for this week’s snacks)
  • I’ve limited my shopping to just one box of cereal per week
  • The kids have been getting oatmeal for breakfast every day
  • I made my own granola bars
  • I also made flour tortillas, a few of which I turned into crackers

I’ve been sticking to shopping mostly at Food Basics. I find I can fill my cart and buy whatever I feel like, and it always costs around $100, whereas at Superstore I can easily go over $200 on a weekly shop.

I’m also getting more organized about planning my meals, and have really delved into the subject of Meal Planning which has taken me down a few interesting rabbit holes which I will write about in a future post. For now let me say that I BELIEVE advanced meal planning might be able to get my grocery bills down to $400 per month.

Can I spend just $400 per month on groceries?

I consider this a challenge for the months of October and November! Full disclosure, I will be starting the month of October off with a fairly well-stocked pantry and a couple of meals in the freezer, but I will try to end the same way to start November off right.

For these prices, I have not been buying much organic, except for some of our meat which I usually purchase from a local farmer on ClickFork, Sudbury’s new online Farmer’s Market. Dalew Farms has amazing grass-fed beef, and Three Forks Farms offers certified organic pastured chicken. I also sometimes splurge on organic berries from Costco for my smoothies.

These harvest months in Ontario are also the time for the best prices for local fruit & veggies, so it’s a good time to challenge myself like this.

My second part-time job

I have a wonderful friend who does mystery shopping as one of her main sources of income. Yes, it’s a legitimate way to make money, and there are definitely companies that won’t scam you–but that is a post for another day.

Basically, after working two part time jobs from January to April of this past year, I  figured out that I really only want ONE job right now. I had to lose a twonie-sized patch of hair on the back of my head to show me how much stress I was under, to be convinced not to look for another opportunity to start raking in more cash.

But looking at how much I’m saving on groceries has shown me that I AM EARNING THE EQUIVALENT OF A little PART-TIME JOB just by getting smarter about my grocery shopping, and cooking everything from scratch.

The difference between this “job” and the other options? I LOVE THIS ONE!

This is very similar to where I was back when I was writing the most on this blog, at home with my two kids and trying to make our little one-income lifestyle work. Now I’ve got the hours when the kids are in school to focus on meal planning, baking and studying more ways to be frugal, and I couldn’t be happier!

So, what’s the plan?

  • I will continue to shop at Food Basics, hitting up Costco and Superstore only once a month each
  • I’m going to try a monthly meal plan to get my expenses evened out over more time
  • Sunday Soup, and Meatless Monday
  • continue to take advantage of sales, price matching at Superstore, and the Flipp app to find best prices on my preferred brands
  • oatmeal or home-made bread for kids’ breakfasts
  • keep on making from scratch everything I can possibly save money on
  • Stay out of stores as much as possible!

October hasn’t started yet, so I will post my meal plan when I get it ready. We do have my son’s birthday in October, so that might increase food costs a little, but I will try to keep it reasonable, and may even earmark some funds for “party food” that will be separate from the main grocery budget.

I’m up for the challenge!

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