More Green For Less Green

Living more eco-friendly for less money


Food Shopping- Part 1

Our grocery budget is $250 per month*, but we are under enough that we can afford to do Let's Dish 2-3 times per year. Since we live in a high cost of living area (DC 'burbs), it amazes me that we keep things at this price, but I track our spending every month so I know that I'm not deluding myself :)

Here are some of our strategies:

  1. We cut coupons and pair them with sales found in print ads and on

  2. I shop with a calculator and calculate the cheapest per unit price. Calculating the unit price is the only formula for knowing if generic or brand name on sale plus a coupon is cheaper.

  3. When calculating unit price watch out for packages that look to be the same size but actually contain different amount of product (e.g. the meager but delicious Yoplait Whips v. normal Yoplait)

  4. We mostly drink water, so no soda or coffee costs. (Okay, okay, when soda is on super sale we do stock up for parties.) We do get one thing of juice and milk per week.

  5. We almost never buy prepared foods and try to buy to minimize the packaging in what we buy (environmental concern as well). If the price comes out about even we try to go with the less packaging choice. For example, purchased pudding cups versus making my own is about the same, price wise. But, if I make my own then there is almost no waste. Plus, though pudding isn't the most amazingly fun thing to make, it is free entertainment (at some level right?). :)

  6. We cook in large quantities and freeze the leftovers in lunch and dinner-size portions. Once you get a good stock going variety isn't an issue. Fewer recipes means fewer ingredients bought. It also means fewer dishes to wash – saving water, soap, time etc.

  7. We repurpose food so that nothing goes to waste. Leftover salad becomes sandwich lettuce the next day, an extra chicken breast goes on top of a chef salad for lunch, etc.

  8. We don't buy things if they aren't at the best price. For example, that means we only buy chicken when it is <$2 a pound. When it is that price we stock up. If it is over that, we just don't buy it. We use our freezer and pantry to load up on good deals.

  9. Knowing the best price is worth your time. We kept a price book for six months. I compared the prices for the same, cheapest per unit item at several different grocery stores. That way I would know if a sale was really a deal with stocking up on. We also learned which sales were worthwhile. For example, in our area $0.50 yogurt is a normal sale price, so that is our "best price". We won't buy yogurt for more than that unless we need a yogurt splurge for some crazy reason; $0.33 yogurt is truly a sale; and $0.25 yogurt is worth some serious fridge space.

  10. When stocking up on dairy deals buy low or no fat items. They have a really long shelf life. Fat = spoilage

  11. What can you buy in a large quantity for cheap and then make into you own convenience food? For example, we buy 2lb of blocks cheese and shred it with our food processor or Kitchen Aid with shredder attachment. We then put the shredded cheese straight into the freezer and pull out handfuls as we need it (it defrosts almost instantly). When we buy those huge family packs of chicken breasts, we separate them into our own cooking-size packages before freezing. While the chicken is out for repackaging, we trim them. No expensive pre-trimmed Perdue for us! When I cut off the white stuff, little bits of extra, good, pink chicken tend to come off, too. I put all of those good bits in a separate freezer container for a quick stir-fry or chicken nuggets meal.

  12. What can you grow instead of buy? If space permits, consider gardening for cheap food and a cheap hobby.

*No, we don't eat out a ton to keep our grocery budget low :) Our dinging out budget is $80 per month for eating out together. Any lunches out come from our fun money (a set amount we each get to spend or save each month without being accountable to the other for it), but we each only eat out about once lunch per week.

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At January 12, 2009 at 11:28 AM , Blogger Brett said...

Sounds like you're doing great without an obessesive amount of effort. Ever look at That site has all of the flyers for all of the grocery stores, supermarkets and drugstores in your area. You can see where the best prices are found for almost everything on a normal grocery shopping list and know you're saving big time even before you leave the house. It is a pretty easy way to bring houselhold expenses down even further.

At January 14, 2009 at 9:02 PM , Blogger Meghan said...

wow, you have this down to a science. i will definitely be borrowing some of your tips. thanks!

At June 20, 2009 at 9:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, you recommend no fat dairy? that's crazy coming from someone who seems so (happily) focused on what's natural and good. no fat dairy is a technological feat that is not at all based in healthy, natural living. full of chemicals! yuck. you shun canned beans because of BPA but you eat fat free sour cream? just doesn't make sense to me. some of your tips are great (albeit very common sense ones!) but some really squeeze the fun out of life! no coffee? god bless you.


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