If there's one thing that I hope I've been getting across it's the idea of thinking ahead and shopping smart. Going to the grocery store with a list is an important idea, but that list isn't cast in stone. Why? Because often there are unadvertized sales when you get there, or things that were advertised are out of stock.
To help this make more sense, let me give concrete examples from our weekly shopping. This week, we went to a different store than we normally do because they have a good price on gas, which I needed. I only get gas about once a month (again, I live so close to work and the bus stop that I can walk in under 15 minutes, which I timed one day this past week-12 minutes), and we use that trip to stock up on a few things that this store has for less than our regular store.
When we got into the store, however, we hit the sales jackpot. A brand of turkey hot dogs that I like for my lunches because they taste good, have adequate protein, and are low fat/calorie, was on sale for $1 for a package of 10, no limit. Four packages gives me lunch for at least the next month, and saved me about $2 on the normal price.
Produce-a 4 pound bag of Texas oranges for $1, and asparagus for $1.47 a pound (probably my favorite vegetable and extremely low calorie.) Two pound bags of rice were priced at $.99, which is cheaper than the 10 and 20 pound bags by about $.10 a pound (normal price), so I got 3 bags, saving about $.60. Split peas were $.71 a pound, which is a good price, so 3 pounds of those, and dry pinto beans were $.62 a pound, at least $.10 a pound less than the lowest normal price, and I got 3 pounds of those.
And then, the pasta. One brand of small 7 oz bags were priced at 4/$1, which is about $.57 a pound and included stars and small shells, so I bought 8 bags, about 3.5 pounds for $2, saving about $1.12 over normal sale prices of $.89 a pound (they also has spaghetti and vermicelli and other pastas at this price). But even better, they had another brand of 7 oz. bags on clearance at $.16, and I picked up 8 bags of pente, shells, and alphabets for $1.28, saving about $1.84. Boxes of store brand mac and cheese at $.33 a box, and we bought 2 (not an item we normally buy, but fixed with a bit of pre-cooked ham, this makes a quick and cheap supper).
tomato sauce at $.25 a can (bought 6)
Cream of chicken and mushroom soup at $.54 a can (bought 6)
A very good quality brand of choc. chips for $1.50 (bought 6)
In addition, we bought the frozen ground turkey (7 chubs) and corn tortillas (50 ct) that are our main reason for stopping at this store, plus other produce, baking powder, baking soda, juice, bread, soy sauce, butter (yes, the real thing), and milk. Our total for the week was $75.76, with more than $25 of that total spent on "pantry" items (i.e. bulk purchasing in advance.) Next week, I expect to spend about $40, unless there's an unusually good sale. I'd have bought larger quantities, but our cabinets are overflowing. I could feed two people well off what we bought for 3 weeks, with minor additions. And I saved about $15 above what I normally consider an acceptable price.
There are two things on our list that surprise people. One, the real butter. We go through it slowly, so I don't mind the extra cost, and I prefer the taste. Butter may or may not contribute to heart disease, but the hydrogenated fats in margarine have their own negative health issues. The other is the milk. We spend the extra to get organic milk.
Why? A few years ago, two friends of mine suggested my older daughter's bad acne that nothing seemed to help was due to hormones in non-organic milk (dermatologists were out of the question), and she drank at least a gallon and a half a week. I was skeptical, but figured it was worth a try. Within a month, most of the acne had cleared up, and within three months, she rarely had a problem. I switched us completely over to it, because I occasionally had problems still in my 40s and my younger daughter was approaching the age when it usually starts. Since then, I've had almost no problem, and my younger daughter went through that stage with far less than I've ever seen on a member of my family. So, yes, I spend an extra $2 or $3 a week on it, but we don't have to buy acne medications or pay for a dermatologist. I don't know if the hormones in regular milk are the problem or not, all I know is it works. At this point, if we were so pinched for money that we couldn't afford the organic, I might give milk up entirely and take lots of extra calcium.