My Tips for Spending a Ridiculous Amount of Money at the Grocery Store

Just in case you were starting to think we had it all together over at Casa de Ally, here is a reality check. First of all, I do not want anyone to feel guilty reading this blog. There is a 99.9% chance you are more disciplined in spending than I am; therefore, you do not need to do a year long fast to keep you away from buying yet another striped shirt. Secondly, yes we are on a spending fast when it comes to many items but we are still ALL IN when it comes to the grocery store.

I see posts all the time about how people are getting cash back using coupons, cutting their bill in half while still shopping organic, and even one  blogger who grocery shops once a month (and her family of four lives off 14,000 a year and paid cash for their house and cars, amazing!). These people have it TOGETHER. They are blessing their families with their wisdom and planning. They are the ones that are making us feel guilty. Don't put me in that camp!

When I told Hubby that I was going to not spend money on myself for a year, HE DIDN'T EVEN CARE. He said, "Okay... but when are you going to start cutting back on groceries? " Seriously.

We have talks all the time about what the grocery budget really is. And I have no idea! It is wild.

We are starting Financial Peace University at our church, and one of the questions this past week was: "Where does most of your money go, that you wish it didn't?" Many people said they were paying off a car they hated, school loans, their homes, kids college... My answer? Walmart! Hy-vee! Fareway! Trader Joes! Whole Foods! Cost-Co! I give it all to them. Every week.

Here are my tips for spending an asinine amount of money at the grocery store:

1. Don't use coupons, ever.
I love to look at coupons when they come in the mail. I try to find coupons for things I regularly buy. "Oooh, look, that's my brand of toilet paper- right there! It made it into the paper!" Then I cut it out. Of course it can't be used for a few days because of the date in fine print. So I carefully set it on the counter. Then I carefully set a pile of mail on top of it. Then on top of that I set a dirty napkin. And later a few crayons and a banana peel. Then by the time I throw it all out... the coupon has expired- shoot! Happens every week.

2. Meal plan.
This seemed like the gateway step into being a mother and wife of excellence. When I started casually mentioning that I meal plan around my friends, they sounded very impressed. "Yes girls, I make a list of all the meals we're having this week. Then sometimes we eat them. I am amazing." But apparently this is a budget buster. Because when I grocery shop, I am shopping for things that are on my list, NOT things that are on sale that week. The real domestic divas meal plan based on what is in the grocery ad or what they already have on hand.

3. Have everyone in your house follow a different diet.
Following a grain, sugar and dairy free diet helps me deal with my variety of GI and auto-immune issues. So I make all my food from scratch, out of necessity. I am not bragging about this, in fact I find it rather depressing (and incredibly time consuming!). There are definitely worse things, but there are better things too- like being able to eat mozzarella sticks. Through trial and error, we learned that Lou doesn't digest wheat well so we try to keep her gluten-free. My hubby is on a heavy-dairy, high fat, bacon-diet and he eats like a teenager in a growth spurt. Our 9 month old Mack is vegan.

4. Have your husband grocery shop occasionally. 
This is self-explanatory. He buys ridiculous things. The best part is when he comes home and explains each purchase and why he's so excited about it... "See this jar of pickles? It is the right kind, not the wrong kind." Whatever.

5. Bring your children with you to the grocery store. 
Mack still rides in his infant car seat so he rides in the base of the shopping cart, then Lou sits facing me in the toddler seat. So where do the groceries go? On my arms. I literally wear them all. I bring my bags: one for produce, one for meat, one for dairy, and one for packaged goods. I used to pack things around Mack but stopped when he started choking on a green onion in Trader Joes. Embarrassing. But actually, it is all embarrassing so I do not make eye-contact with anyone in the grocery store while I am doing this. And I know I buy more than I should because I am completely frazzled.

6. Try to feed your family healthy, nutritious things that don't come in a box.
If we didn't have food allergies in our house, we would eat Kraft Mac and Cheese, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets every night. I do not kid, and then we would use all the extra money we saved to go to Disney World.

7. Don't make a grocery list, just make it in your head when you're on your way there. 
I lose my list in between my house and the store so I end up making a mental list. Then I forget it, and frantically hustle through the aisles once Lou starts pointing and yelling "I'M HUNGRY FOR THAT" or "SUCKER, PLEASE!" (they hand them out at the check-out, which she is well aware of).  

So now you know. I am especially imperfect. All joking aside, I really would like to grow in this area now that we moved and are no longer close to a Whole Foods (who can save money with guacamole that good?!).

I would love any advice and tips of how others are saving money on groceries, do I need one of those accordion files to keep my coupons in? Is anyone really doing that?!


  1. So true on all points Ally. In our house our grocery budget continues to increase. I try my hardest to feed healthy meals on a budget. There is a huge trade off though - eat healthy, pay big money. Eat cheap and pay later with health issues. We save by doing a garden and hunting. But that can get costly too when you husband buys 3 tags and doesn't fill one of them!!!
    I've basically stopped couponing though. Years ago you could do really well with it - but most coupons are for items that are "boxed" goods. So I've stopped. Also, we have had to increase our amount of good that we actually buy, so it's off to Costco for us.Used to have an accordion file and do coupon clipping and printing every week. NOw the only coupons I use are the ones printed out at checkout and Cartwheel.

    For us it really is making a menu and sticking to it; buying only what's on the list and then if there is a great sale, stock up on that. Many times I make my menu from items I have on hand. I try to only buy one item of meat a week - meats spendy stuff.
    Remember, fruit is fast food too. A bag of apples for 3.99 allows several snacks for my kids and is healthy. A bag of chips for 3.00 doesn't fill us up and isn't healthy - like $3 wasted. I know this doesn't work for all - b/c I love chips!! but if I can keep myself from the chip aisle entirely this would be a full proof plan.
    I have come to grips with a growing family and children that our grocery budget will continue to increase and there is no way around it. Add into that the fact that groceries actually cost more than they used to it doesn't help. I remember my mom buying a gallon of milk for $1.25 when I was in high school, so that's 3 times cheaper.
    Oh and for the kiddos with you - I usually go with my kids and I know that's hard. I have one that walks, one in the front, and either wearing Lyndie or she's in the carseat. I have no advice for this part. It's kind of survival mode really.
    The husband shopping - have you taken Mike with you at all? I have taken Kevin with me before to "teach" him what to get sometimes. Or if it's from an ad I circle it or it has to be really specific on the list.

    I thought these were really funny though and a reminder that we all have similar situations and live to tell about it:

    1. Thanks Leah- you are my role model mama especially with the gardening. If we still lived in WDM I would love for you to teach me your green-thumb-ways! And yes, that is a good point about the chips, we can stretch our money better buy buying fruit or things that can't be eaten in one sitting, those snacks are the most expensive thing and are always an after-thought (because I'm hungry). I feel like we should have a mom's group discussion just on this topic because I would love to hear more about what other people are doing- I can't imagine feeding more than two kids though I can barely keep up, you are doing great! -Ally

  2. When my kids were babies & took up all the space in the cart, I clipped carabener hooks to the side of the cart & put my reusable shopping bags on them. I also just moved & have found a store, Aldi, that helps save $. You have to use cash, so that also helps you think through your purchases a bit more. Good luck!!

    1. Thanks for the tips! That is especially genius about the hooks on the side of the cart- I am not very strong so I look especially pathetic carrying those bags. I'm glad to hear you say you like Aldi, I have been meaning to try it and definitely will now. Thanks! -Ally

  3. Hi Ally! On my best weeks we do meal plan because with both of us working we need a game plan when we walk in the door in the evenings but you can usually sign up for emails from your local grocery stores so that you can incorporate whats on sale into your meal plans. Again that is my best week :) Worst weeks we try to keep things like frozen shrimp, canned beans, canned tomatoes and pasta on hand. And almost always have onions and garlic. I know those are random but we make shrimp tacos, pastas (w shrimp or whatever else we have on hand), veggie and bean burritos (sometimes even just beans with whatever cheese and salsa etc)and even just steamed shrimp. Those are random and just a few ideas but we have tried to come up with concepts that we know keep well and work in a pinch and always purchase those when they're on sale. Last week we didnt go to the store at all and survived off of our little staples hah. Keep in mind we're childless - I do think that helps. Good luck! Also just remember it's tough, no one said it is easy or quick for that family to live off of $14K, it takes a lot of work!


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