Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thrifty Thoughts- Groceries for a non-couponer

I'm not a couponer. I think it's great for those that do, but I've never been able to commit to the idea for a couple of reasons:

1. I'm picky about the food I purchase and from what I've heard you can't be (especially if you're a
     mediocre couponer, which I'd be).
2.  If it is really time consuming or requires me to go to a bunch of stores, I'm out. I HATE running
    errands with the kids. When the weather's nice it's doable, but even then it's difficult for me.
Because of my stipulations, I buy the majority of my food at Costco. This makes a ton of sense for us, because we eat alot of the same things.
I also never go to the grocery store without a plan. A couple days before I shop I create a list of meals for the month, then I'll create my shopping list from that.

Here's my usual shopping list for Costco

Monthly items:
Veggie Straws- not the individual packs
Kettle Chips- not the individual packs
Tortilla chips- the organic strips
Whole wheat bread- kirkland organic
Apple pouches
Muir Glen organic fire rosted diced tomatoes
Milk x2
Eggs x2
Shredded cheddar cheese- I store half in fridge and freeze half of it. Sometimes this is a bi-monthy purchase
Greek Yogurt- one container, not the individuals
Coffee beans
Deli Ham
Frozen chicken breasts
Frozen bare chicken tenders
Red peppers x2
Frozen vegetable medley
Mushrooms x2
Romain lettuce heads
Apples- in season
Salsa x2
Parmesan cheese- shredded
Wine- 2 bottles of Menage a Trois, 1 bottle of cheap white for cooking
Almond milk
Ground Turkey
Blueberries-in season
Strawberries-in season
Apple juice

Kidney beans
Black beans
Tomato sauce
Sliced cheese
Chicken stock

3-6 Months:
Chocolate Chips
Olive oil
Garlic Powder
Sea Salt
Chili Powder
Dried basil
100 % Maple syrup
Organic peanut butter
Turkey bacon
White sugar
Brown sugar
Soy sauce
Almond butter
Gallon ziplocs
Trash bags
Vanilla extract
Flax seed
Chia seeds
Raw sugar
Frozen green beans

A helpful hint: I cut up my red peppers and mushrooms and freeze them. This ensures they'll make it through the month. If I need anything else I shop at Hyvee or Trader Joes. Usually the only items I have left are my squashs, a few red onions, sweet potatoes, garlic, stew meat or a roast, quinoa pasta, cabbage, and any random spices/ sauces I would need.

Fall and winter are my most expensive seasons, specifically November, December, January, and February. These months I have to budget $500 for groceries. This also covers any wine or beer I purchase, entertaining dinner guests, and supplying dishes for various holiday potlucks. To make this increase in our budget work, I pull $50 from our entertainment budget and remove my $50 "home decor/repair category." Usually we're so busy with family holiday events that there's little time to do anything in these two categories anyhow.

Come Spring and Summer I can reduce the amount to $400 and often spend no more than $350.
This happens, because I purchase the majority of my produce at farmer's markets and we typically eat more fresh and light- less meat, breads, etc.

I will say, we do not eat out very much. In fact, I only have $50 set aside for eating out and often that money is pulled into another category, so I need to make sure we have plenty of options at home.

Also, every couple of months,  I have a week or two of "meals from the pantry." I do this to ensure we use what we have and aren't wasting money. Usually, I create soups or stews, breakfast items, and the occasional casserole from these pantry items.

The last tip to keep me on budget are crockpot meals. Crockpot meals seem to last longer and we're less likely to succumb to our exhaustion after a long day or busy weekend by eating out.

Here are some of our favorite crockpot meals:
Chicken Nachos
Balsamic roast beef
Braised beef over pappardelle- I use stew meat (still frozen) and throw everything in crockpot on low for 6-8 hrs.
Italian chicken soup
Turkey Chili
Roasted corn chowder with cilantro lime chicken
New Mexican Stew with ground turkey and green chilies
Mexican crockpot
Beef burritos- I use stew meat

I'm really happy with our grocery budget and plan. When we moved to a smaller budget, food was the one category I knew would be difficult to reduce. Thankfully, I was able to cut out other areas and keep our groceries reasonable.

Thanks for peering into my grocery plan. Good luck as you figure out what works best for you and your family!


  1. wow, this is great! thanks for including so much detail. i'm trying to improve my skills in meal planning and shopping, lol. it's a work in progress.

  2. That's some amazing discipline; I'm quite impressed! I bought a groupon for emeals that I need to activate. I figure emeals is a small investment that I can allow to do my shopping for me so that I don't have to coupon! And as much as I love Costco, it's not practical for me as a single person to buy groceries there...

  3. Love your grocery list! :-) I'm going to print this out and use it at the store! :-) We try to buy as much as we can from Sam's since it is so much cheaper in bulk! :-)

  4. LOVE your list!!! Super excited to try some of your crockpot recipes... you can never go wrong with them:)
    Can't wait to read more of your tips!!!

  5. These are great tips! I'm going to pin this so I can save it for the future. I'm big on shopping my pantry too! I love to use things I forgot I had! Such great tips! You're a master at this! And I'm with you....NO COUPONS for me!

  6. I would call myself a mediocre couponer. I don't get all crazy about it but I do match my store coupons with manufacturers when I see good deals on products I use. They key for me is to only get stuff I know I am already going to buy anyways and then I stock up a bit. I usually coupon for things like paper towels, toilet paper, cereal (that's a big one!) and beans. I generally save anywhere between $10.00 and $20.00! It does take some time but I don't go all over to different stores. I just stick to Fred Meyer (kroger) and Costco.

  7. I am also a mediocre couponer :) We don't have a Costco where my hubby is stationed right now, but we had one back home and loved it! They have the best customer service!

  8. This is an excellent idea for looking into a future Costco membership. I wasn't ever certain if it would helpful for a smallish-normal sized family, but I've heard more and more good things lately. One friend told me that a higher membership level awards you with a percentage of cash back at the end of each year?! She said she's always made back the money she's spent to have those greater membership privileges. You may already do that, if not it could be worth looking into!

    1. Yes! We have the American Express Costco offers (and are Executive members) and use it for all purchases (except bills) and pay it off each month. This year we got $400 back! The year before Bob purchased materials for two construction jobs with the AMEX and we got $1,000 back! The extra money has been so helpful for things like Christmas gifts and birthday parties. I highly recommend it!

  9. GREAT post!!!! I do the same. I dontl think there is anything I might dislike more than clipping coupons. blech, It gives me anxiety just thinking of it! Plus I;m also picky!! SO i plan meals weeks in advanec adn we shop in bulk too.

    love your blog. new follower. i found you on the vanilla tulip!

    1. Thank you!! And I'm a big fan of yours :)