A Meeting With the Grocery Shopping Guru

Posted by on Feb 4, 2009 in Blog Posts | 4 comments

I met with my friend who knows how to grocery shop well yesterday. It was time well-spent. While a benefit was picking her brain for good tips and advice regarding grocery shopping, the main benefit was just visiting with her.

She has progressed so far in her shopping, that she makes her own bread. I mean she grinds her own wheat…that kind of making bread. She also has bought a side of beef some years and has a butcher cut it up. I kid you not. I was impressed. A half a cow is enough to feed her family of four for a little more than a year. She makes sure the cow has not been given antibiotics or hormones and that it is grain fed. Once the cow gets to the butcher, she tells him the parts she wants and always requests the cuts to be lean (fat removed). It fills up her upright freezer with a little left for a few other things.

I’m not sure I want to get to that point, but it was really an interesting prospect. I guess I only thought you could get food from your own farm or from the grocery store. I have much to learn. Hey, but I do grow my own herbs. Yea, me!

Some of you wanted to know her tips, so I’m going to share the highlights from our time together. Some of this you may already do so see it as an encouraging reminder. Some of this may be new and a good habit to begin.

Tips from Laurel:
1. Know your budget amount. How much per week or month. Will you be calculating cleaning products, pet food, toiletries in? If so, allow for that in addition to groceries. Take cash or if you are disciplined, use the plastic for the set amount. Tally up what you’re spending as you put items in the cart (she suggested using lines for each $5) so you aren’t caught off guard at the check-out and have to put items back of most likely go over your limit. Also, put the “must haves” in first.
2. Plan your shopping list. Keep a list where others in the family know to find it and insist they put items on the list as they use them up or run out. Put only those items you need on the list. Categorize them by the store layout (Wal Mart’s layout changes all the time, she says. That makes it a bit of a challenge). You can categorize by main titles: dairy, meat, paper, cleaning, frozen, canned/bottled, beverages, etc.
3. Only purchase what’s on your list. If you have a few dollars left over, then you can get the “don’t have to haves” or save the money for the next trip. Or, you can stock up on the staple items you want to keep on hand (extra spaghetti ingredients, for example). Take advantage of the buy one get one free deals at this point…but ONLY if these are items you use. Also, the meat BOGO’s are not always good deals. Sometimes, the stores will mark them up per pound for the week so you’re not really saving anything.
4. Situations that can take you over your budget: parties, school functions, etc. So, you have to either plan ahead and put money aside or you have to use the money from another area of your budget.

Other things I learned:
1. Wal Mart really is less expensive than the grocery stores.
2. Marvin’s Market is a great place to purchase your produce.
3. A Sam’s membership can save you money on the things you use frequently. She gets Tyson bagged frozen chicken breasts there. Also, this company doesn’t use antibiotics or growth hormones in their chicken. Good to know. She also likes to get the packages of deli meat there to keep on hand for lunches. Their tub of organic salad greens is also a good deal.
4. She uses the grocery stores for convenience but knows she’s paying more than she likes on those spur of the moment things.
5. She shops the sales fliers each week to determine her menu for the week and possibly to stock up on good BOGOS. You have to pay attention to the package sizes on the BOGOs or sale items. She’s noticed a trend of the sizes on sale being the smaller sizes and not the larger ones. Sometimes, it’s still less expensive in the long run to get the larger size. Look at the per ounce costs (the tag is on the front of the shelf under the item). She buys soft drinks for her husband when they are on sale and doesn’t buy them if they are more than $3 per 12-pack. They are on sale somewhere often. Check the fliers from the Wednesday papers. Take the fliers to the store with you when you shop.
6. Know that the sales fliers will repeat their sales and that if you didn’t get the good deal this time, it’ll be back around.
7. Be flexible as you’re shopping. Sometimes, sales in the store that weren’t advertised can be a better advantage and you have to shift your menu. Or if they don’t have a certain item you were counting on, you may have to change the plan.
8. Water is “free”. So, if you don’t have money for beverages that week, water will do just fine.
9. Cereals are a staple item for her. Sometimes, that’s supper.
10. Generally, she plans for 5 suppers each week.
11. Stocking up on items on sale has given her “free” meals on some weeks. That makes her feel good. She sees saving money not as a challenge but as a game and she wants to please her husband by being a good steward and sticking to their budget.
12. First starting out can be a bit difficult to incorporate these habits, but the longer you stick with it, the easier it becomes and the more familiar you are with prices you’ve paide on items in the past.

No time to check type-os. I hope these tips help you and me. We just have to put them to practice now. A big thanks to Laurel S. for her wisdom and time in sharing!


  1. Fabulous tips!!! Tell Laurel I said thank you!!!

  2. I don’t want just cereal for supper. And as you know, David requires a full-on meal (or two).

  3. Great Job, Amy! Thanks for sharing.
    By the way, Cereal is not a planned supper item in our home. Cereal is for those nights when the cook is sick, get’s home too late, or the kids don’t like what Mom and Dad are having (i.e. fish, casseroles, etc.)
    As always, it is fun getting together with you. I look forward to the next time!

  4. Sorry guys on the cereal confusion. I did not make that clear that it’s an “in case” kind of substitute meal…not a regular supper. Thanks for clarifying that Laurel. Don’t worry, Rob, you don’t have to have Cap’n Crunch for supper…unless you just want to. : )

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