Cost Effective Grocery Shopping!

My husband and I don't make great money. Since having our son I have taken it upon myself to make our grocery dollars stretch as far as possible to make room for other things. The three of us have to be fed from my groceries since none of us get "free" lunches. My goal is to spend no more than $250 every 2 weeks at the grocery store. That includes all toiletries, cleaning products, food and litter for the cat, etc. I confess that I don't always make my goal, but I get pretty close most of the time. If you want to learn how I do it, keep reading!

Basic Steps for an Economical Shopping Trip:

1.   Shop For 2 Weeks at a Time!

The less you are in the grocery store, the less you will spend. Also you won't have to spend every weekend there. I don't know about you, but I would much rather be doing other things! I only go back for the perishables I need.

2.   Use Cash!

You are less likely to spend more than you are "supposed" to when using cash. The cash is much more tangible than the money on your debit card. Also, do not ever use credit to buy food! It doesn't make much financial sense to have to pay interest on consumables.

3.   Don't Shop Hungry!

It's really true! You will spend more money on last minute impulse buys when you are hungry. No joke.

4.   Make a Sound Plan!

Having a menu and a specific list when shopping will help to make sure you will succeed. Keep reading to learn how I do it...

Getting Started:
Making my grocery list usually takes me a few days because I never have time to just sit down and do it all at once. Yes, this takes time. Yes, it is worth it! Before I worked all of this out, I used to spend nearly $1000 per month on groceries. Now I spend around $500. No joke! Plans are good, they are very good.

First go through your pantry and fridge. Find out what you have already. You may have some stuff hiding in the back of your pantry that is still good and should be used.  Rearrange your pantry so that all the newer stuff is in the back. In the restaurant biz we call this FIFO (first in, first out). I have worked in restaurants for many years and this is how they do it!

Next begin to jot down some things you could make using the ingredients you already have. If you have lasagne noodles, you could make lasagne roll ups. If you have brown rice, you could make fried rice. I like to use for recipes. They have some really great ideas on there and they are all reviewed so you can see what other people thought of it. There is also a great website called which is awesome if you aren't so great at coming up with recipes. You enter the foods you have in your house right now and it produces recipes using those items! It can be very handy.

Also think about what you would like to have. Write down your ideas. Try to think about ingredients that you have to buy in a larger portion than you will use, and then plan for another meal that will use that ingredient also. I make a ham and potato soup and I buy a Jenni-O turkey ham chunk for it. But we only use half of the ham for the soup. So I also have to plan to make another meal using the other half.

I use the worksheet MEALS to write down the meals for this shopping trip. Print enough for all meals, including breakfasts and lunches.  Write the meals in the circles. The spaces below the circles are for the ingredients of the meals. Use the spaces to list out all of the ingredients you need for each recipe. I don't write down the ingredients I know I already have.

Once you have completed the Meals Worksheet for all of your meals, you can then move on to the LIST worksheet. It may seem redundant, but since I have been doing it this way I haven't accidentally forgotten any important ingredients!

Go down the MEALS worksheet meal by meal and transpose the ingredients from there to the LIST worksheet. Place the items in their corresponding category. I used to make my list by where things were in the store, but then they remodeled my store and I am still unsure of where everything is now! So it makes more sense to put the items in by type. Plus, if you are shopping at multiple stores to get everything, this will make finding things easier for that too.

OK, you are almost done! Now for my favorite part. When my store's (I generally shop at Kroger) weekly ad comes out on Wednesday, I will go through the ad and begin to mark the items I am buying as being on sale!

Notice the colorful boxes on the right side of the worksheet. I color code my list. This makes it really easy for me to decide what will be the best buy for the items in question. I don't just buy things that are on sale. I actually look and see if the item will be cheaper by purchasing a different brand rather than the brand on sale. But this color coded list sure helps me make the right choices!

Sale Items:  I have a red pen that I use for sale items. All items on sale that are on my list I will circle in red pen and then list out the brand and sale price below it.

Any items that are on sale and are not on my list but I may be interested in buying, I will just write in the information under the correct section of my LIST worksheet. This way I know that it is on sale and I can decide while at the store whether I wish to purchase the item.

DID YOU KNOW? The front page of the weekly grocery ad always houses the items that are on sale for 50% off or more!

Special Deals: my grocery store often offers special deals. They have a "Buy 5/Get $5 off" deal, a "Buy 10 for $10" deal, etc. I will use my BLUE highlighter to point out any items on my list that falls into the Special Deals category. Each item that I put in my basket that is part of the Special Deal, I will make a hash mark on the list so I know how many I have. You don't want to get to the register and only have 9 of the 10 and not get the special price!

Once you have everything that is on sale color coded on the list, you can move on to digital coupons!

Digital Coupons: These things are terrific! There is a section of the Kroger website where you can download them directly onto your Kroger Shopper card. When you swipe your card at the register, the register will automatically subtract the savings. Since you don't have an actual coupon in your hand, however, it can be hard to keep track of. The way I am able to manage my Digital Coupons is by going through them and highlighting the items on my list which have a digital coupon I can use. Then I will write the coupon's specifics in pen below the listed item. You can also print out a list of the coupons you have saved to your card. Then you can number them and write the number that corresponds to the coupon below the listed item. Either way works.

Regular Coupons: These are easy! Kroger mails me coupons each week, the register prints them for me, I cut them from the paper, and you can go to web sites and print your own. It is best to keep them in a small plastic file. Organize your file in whatever way works best for you. I like to keep mine by type of food. I don't have a whole lot of these, so this method works well for me.


When you get an item that is on sale AND has a coupon, you have a great bargain! I do not usually buy a bunch of stuff I don't currently need because I don't have a lot of room to store it and I don't have a lot of money. But when you come across a great bargain on something that isn't imminently perishable and you will definitely use STOCK UP! Dry noodles, boxed rice, canned vegetables, toilet paper, and the like are great examples of the things that are worth stocking up on.


Once you have everything purchased and you are patting yourself on the back for saving so much money you are going to need a menu. Planning the recipes out in advance will really help you avoid picking up take out and spending more money. I use this worksheet MEAL PLANNER. I like to plan everything out ahead of time using this sheet. I will try to plan for a crockpot or freezer meal on a day when I know I am going to have a lot to do. I plan to make meals that have a ton of leftovers on the weekend so that there will be lunches for the week. I'm telling you, planning is a life saver!

I really hope that this information will help someone out! It took me a lot of time, energy and stress to come up with all of this. And it takes a while to get the hang of all of this. But now I am a pro! Here are a couple of my best grocery savings in the recent past:

Good luck...

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