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Monday, May 16, 2016

Mid-month means it's time for me to start making out next month's grocery list

So, yes, we're only 2 weeks into the month, and I'm already planning next month's shopping.

I begin the planning early, not because I'll be making menu plans 2 weeks ahead of the coming month, but because:

  • by really planning my shopping, down to the last detail, I save money, lot's of money
  • I add items to my list, as I cook and notice we're running low, this gives me 2 weeks to plan where to get the best deal on many items
  • it gives me time to take inventory of some of the frequently used items, but might be overlooked as needing replacements -- shampoo, toothpaste, lightbulbs, vitamins, toothbrushes
  • I have several stores I only hit once per month, and I don't want to backtrack later in the month, saving both time and gas
  • each store has it's own "deal" items, priced lower than the other stores in the area and I want to take advantage of that
  • one store is my bulk-buying store as they sell 50-lb sacks of some of my basics -- Cash & Carry. I limit going to Cash & Carry to just one or two times per month.
  • one store I only go to once per month, even though it's super close -- Dollar Tree. I find DT to be a spending trap for me, too many hard-to-resist things there.
  • one store gives me a 10% discount for being over 55, but only one day per month
  • another store is now my go-to store for bulk bin purchases, but due to distance from my house, I only go there once per month

Every month, around the 15th, I get out a new sheet of paper, put a few headings (names of stores) on it, and clip to the fridge door. This is my shopping list. Items needed go under the appropriate store-heading.

Everyone in the family knows to write down items specific to their needs (like razors and hairbrushes). And when I notice we're running low on something, I write that down.

By beginning 2 weeks before the new month, I know I will take the time needed to seek out, and plan for, purchases at close to their lowest price in my town. I have time to identify "best" regular prices as well as check for coupons and sale/discount prices. I don't always get the very lowest price, but I do well enough that our budget and spending remains pretty low.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it's not. In fact, I believe I save time, by not forgetting items, which I always did when hastily making out my shopping lists.

Companies, large and small, have at least one person designated as the one to order supplies for the operation. It's efficient, with both money and time. I guess you could say that in addition to all of my other titles, I'm also the Supply Manager for our household.


  1. I have a much simpler version of that. I don't think I save as much money as you do, but it helps. I keep a list on the refrigerator where we write down anything we're out of. Then we try to limit our trip to the grocery store (Aldi's) and Walmart and Target to once a week. They aren't that close to our house, so that helps us with time and money. I pass two grocery stores everyday going to work, so I try to read their ads and pick up anything I see a good price on. However, the biggest saving for me is to stay out of the stores. There often seems to be something that makes it into the cart that was not intended when I'm shopping.

    If you're planning for a month, how do you handle the ads/loss leaders that change every week? Do you just buy when the item reaches a certain price point (I do some of that)? Do you wait to see if a better price is coming? Or do you buy enough in bulk you can afford to wait on most things until you see a good price?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      me, too, on just staying out of the stores. I think I save a lot of money in that way.

      As for the regular weekly ads, I do wait for rock-bottom prices on many products. An issue I've had with our "regular" grocery stores that put out a flyer, is they have had very few of those rock-bottom prices. The exception is turkey at Thanksgiving, and ham and eggs at Easter and Christmas, plus milk at Fred Meyer every other week. I can do better, price-wise at places like Cash & Carry and WinCo for basic ingredients. I do watch Cash & Carry's ads, but they only come out every other week. And WinCo doesn't have an ad.

      I think the reason my shopping works as well as it does is because I don't buy packaged foods, for the most part. I buy grains, beans, basic meats, produce, and institutional-size cans/jugs/bags of foods like tomatoes, olives, oil, vinegar, cheese. For example, I don't buy pre-made pie crusts. I buy shortening and flour. I don't buy loaves of bread. I use that same flour I bought for the pie pastry, for the bread, plus yeast, oil and sugar. I use a few ingredients in a variety of ways.

      Plus, there is always a large stock of foods at home that I can afford to wait for great prices on practically everything.

      We're flexible when it comes to meats and produce. As long as I have some sort of meat and produce available, we can come up with something to prepare. In my regular shopping rounds, I'll pick up any produce that is priced well and I know we'd enjoy, and check for marked-down meats. Except for when someone is sick, we never feel like there are specific foods that we just have to have. We try to keep something in stock in the various food groups, but it doesn't matter terribly what those items are. I can find some way to prepare just about every food, especially now with the internet.

      Hope I answered our questions.

    2. I thought that's how it worked for you, but the way I read your post today, I wasn't sure. However you do it, it works very well for your goal of saving money.

  2. You are organized, Lili!

    We live in an area that stores are pretty close to home. May favorite is Save-A-Lot but they don't carry everything. Meijer is less than 3 miles away from home but another one is across the street from work so I have access to just about everything without it breaking the bank. We have a Walmart but that is my least favorite and won't go there. I also do not like Family Fare because you need a little key card in order to get the advertised deals. So I don't shop there either. Making a list and shopping twice a month isn't necessary in my life since my family is smaller most of the time and stores are so close by I can go and get the freshest items and sale items and be back home in 20 minutes.

    We do, however, live by a grocery list but I have people in the family who DO NOT use the list and wonder why "we're still out of _____". Put it on the list people and I'll be sure to buy it!

    This weekend I think I was at the store at least twice per day. We kept running out of things and then daughter needed stuff, the MIL called and needed us to get things for her since she has a terrible cold. But I made her a couple of different kinds of soup and had enough for my family for meals for Sat. and Sun. and it was perfect because the weather was so cold. This week we'll be hitting the freezer hard for our meals. I did make six loaves of bread but also bought bread at the day old bread store because we're having all the kids home plus one and I know I won't be able to keep up on homemade bread this summer. I got bagels, english muffins, and sandwich bread for lunches next week.


    P.S. The egg deal at Aldi bit me! I bought several dozen at .79 a dozen only to drive by another Aldi where the sign said .59 per dozen so they got me good! I overpaid by .20 per dozen!!!

    1. Hi Alice,
      don't think of it as losing on the Aldi egg deal. While it's true you could have bought them for less than you paid, you still bought them for far less than they had been selling for. And now, you know the new "bottom" for egg prices in your area (and the store/area where you could find that price).

      Will your Family Fare allow you to use your phone number as an alternate ID for carrying around the card? I do have to have a card for many of the regular grocery stores, to get the deals. But all of those stores that require a card, allow you to use phone number instead of bringing your card with you to every store. One of our stores eventually dropped the whole card-thing.

      I started taking a hard line with one family member who would "suddenly" be out of deodorant or toothpaste or need a new toothbrush. I began just saying, write it on the list and I'll pick it up on my regular shopping rounds. Before, I was jumping to it and reorganizing my next day's work, so that I could pick up that one person's stuff. That was nuts. With shared food items it's a little more difficult. But I've started to just ask around the family what they've noticed we're running low on, about a week before the end of the month.

      That's smart to pick up bread for the freezer, as well as do some bulk home-baking of bread. You may want to factor in a stop once per month, just for the summer, to supplement any home-baking you can do. Even though purchased bread costs more than home-made, bakery thrift bread is cheaper than grocery store bread, and pound for pound, loaves of bread are cheaper than specialty bread items.

      Have a good day, Alice!

    2. Alice, the price of eggs yesterday at my Aldi's was $0.95/dozen which was good for us. You can never know the cost of everything.

  3. Since being retired (living on unearned income), we're watching our cash outflow like a hawk, which means having to be more organized and disciplined (thanks in large part to finding your blog). I must say we're doing better than expected. But to achieve this level of low spend, we've had to think and rethink every purchase, which was the goal when we decided to retire before receiving any retirement income. These months of self imposed low spend is critical to finding our lowest levels, where we are still eating well and have ample things to do and enjoy. That is where life is not too much of a stand still and exercise in self denial lol.

    Therefore....our shopping is put off until we absolutely have to run an errand, to save on gas and to prevent old shopping habits from creeping back. By then, we have a long list of items. Most of the stores are along the way, we just have to decide how far out we want to drive, can the items at the farthest store be bought later? A great money saver has been buying what we need at thrift stores, and being patient to find the items at the right price. Of course, senior discount day on Tuesdays are usually reserved as the designated day to shop if we need anything by then. Otherwise it is make do or do without. We have a wedding to go this Saturday, and I'm rather pleased that I managed to find a top and bottom to wear, and footwear. We only needed a new pants for my husband which we bought with SYWR points discounted $40 off $60.

    Have a wonderful day!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      I'm curious, do you and your husband shop together? If you do, do you find it easier to maintain your resolve to stick to your list, or harder? I could see having a partner with you as being a "help" in keeping to the plan, but i can also see it as a hindrance (one more person to put something extra in the cart). For our family, there are some stores that I like having one of my daughters with me. And others where I find it's easier for me to shop alone.

      I take the same attitude as you with grocery shopping -- it's make-do and/or do without. It's not a huge catastrophe if we're out of milk, or fresh fruit, or bread. We substitute something else. I can only see one circumstance where this philosophy doesn't work with groceries, when you have someone in the house on a restricted diet (like babies and formula, or a seriously ill person and fortified drinks). For the rest of us, I think we can manage okay, being out of a favorite food, every once in a while.

      Great job on finding appropriate wedding attire while staying on your budget!

      Have a great day!

    2. We've discussed our "plan" in great lengths, so we're very much on the same page. Except, I'm still very much the one who decides our shopping since I'm more adept at finding store promotions and using the internet to find coupons and rebates, so he's not fully in charge of food spending as was initially proposed. But we still have a $200 food spend goal for ourselves, so we monitor and decide together what we should postpone or forgo as the numbers head higher during the month. We're so used to shopping this way, since I hate to drive anywhere, even down a few blocks to neighborhood stores (I should every once in awhile or I'll lose my confidence.)


    3. I think some couples can shop together more efficiently and frugally than others. Plus, it's "couple time". It sounds like how you and your husband do the shopping (and budgeting) works very well for the both of you.

  4. The next time someone asks for something that isnt on your master list, you can let them know you didn't receive their purchase order!

    1. Oh, that's a good one, Jen! I'll remember that!


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