My Plate on My Budget: Save on groceries

Feeding a family can be expensive. Choosing to make healthy food a priority can increase that expense to a level that feels out of reach for many families. In our budget food is the second greatest expense after our mortgage. I enjoy cooking from scratch but we rely on many packaged foods to get us through the week with a little more ease. Yesterday I shared my method for cutting the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables. Today let’s take a chunk out of the grocery bill as a whole.

Do you know where the discount grocery stores are in your area? These are the stores whose merchandise often comes from the overstock of national chain stores and they generally offer less amenities than the larger stores. In a discount grocery store you are less likely to find a deli, bakery or coffee stand. The ones I frequent carry a decent, though ever changing, selection of dry and frozen foods, with a modest offering of meats, produce, dairy case items, and dry goods.

About a year ago I did a detailed comparison between the receipts from my trips to the discount grocery store and the prices at our local supermarket. Across the board the name-brand items I purchased were less than or equal to the price of the store brand or sale items at the supermarket. The items I picked up at the discount store were generally brand names and there were more organic and “natural” varieties. I don’t expect to fulfill my entire list at the discount grocery store (though I often do) I go expecting to significantly offset the cost of our overall grocery spending. Several times a month I cruise through and stock up on what is available.

I find it especially helpful to visit the discount grocery when stocking up for a party, holiday or big cooking project. There are always staples like some baking ingredients, beans, pasta, milk, yogurt cereal, and frozen lunches for Mr. Second Helpings. They just aren’t always my first or second choice of brand or flavor. In those cases I have to decide whether the cost and convenience out weighs visiting a second store.

Some of our family’s favorite items to grab when they are in stock:

  • Greek yogurt individual containers often $.50 – $.70 each
  • Higher fiber cereals generally $2 – $2.50 per box
  • Kashi granola bars for $2 – $3 per 6 ct box
  • Graham Crackers under $2.00 a box
  • Lean Cuisine frozen meals $1.50 – $1.99 each
  • Shredded cheese around $2.50 per 8 oz. package
  • Low fat Milk $2.59 per gallon
  • Dry beans, peas, and lentils $.80 – $1.20 per pound
  • Frozen mixed vegetables, 3lb bag $2.79

I particularly enjoy checking the section featuring organic and specialty products. I may not purchase these items at all in our supermarket due to the price but happily toss them into my cart at the discount store.

Here are a few examples with prices from a recent shopping trip:

  • Organic Jasmine Brown Rice, 2 lbs $2.99
  • Organic Gluten Free Cereal, 26.4 oz $3.99
  • Organic “stop light” peppers, 3 ct. bag $5.99
  • Soy, Coconut, or Almond Milk $2 – $3 per half gallon
  • Frozen blueberries $4.99 for 2lbs
  • Organic Potatoes $2.49 per 5lb bag of Russet, Red, or Yukon Gold
  • Organic mixed salad greens $2.99 for a 5 oz tub

Fresh fruits and vegetables can be a bit hit and miss. However, they generally carry bagged whole fruits at a decent price. Mr. Second Helpings takes his lunch to work and these make great grab and go options for him.

  • Bananas, 3 pounds, $1.99
  • Bosc Pears, 3 pounds, $2.99
  • Navel Oranges, 3 pounds, $1.99
  • Red Delicious Apples, 3 pounds, $2.99
  • Tangelos, 3 pounds, $2.99

As I mentioned the prices are not always lower but often come within pennies and if I can purchase my entire list at one store you better believe the time savings is worth the pennies. There are a variety of ways to reduce grocery bills — if you have never tried this method give it a shot. With or without a tight budget why spend money you don’t have to? Save the difference and take a vacation — you’ll have earned it!

All the prices I have listed were found at Grocery Outlet. Not all discount grocery stores will be the same. Some are bright and clean while others may smell like old onions. The stores I have been to in this region offer a pleasant, normal smelling, shopping experience so I keep going back. These stores will vary by region, products change frequently, and may have different parent companies, managers, and supply chains. If the one closest to you does not offer the shopping experience you want try another location or chain.

How do you save money on groceries? Share your ideas with us!

Don’t forget to check in on Jenny’s blog to see how she is managing her limited food budget.

And follow all our posts and thrifty ideas on the MyPlate on My Budget Pinterest Board!

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