Grocery Shopping Strategy: How I Save Money on Food

Kacie from Sense to Save asked me to share how I go about my grocery shopping each week. I actually have two methods, depending on how organized (or not) I am on any given week.

The Planned and Organized Method

First I’ll share with you my preferred method of grocery shopping. This is what I do on those weeks that I take the time to do some major planning. On Sunday mornings I log into the Grocery Game to see what the list of bargains looks like for the week and how many coupon inserts are in the paper. Then on the way to church, I stop by the grocery store to pick up the Portland Oregonian, making sure all of the coupon inserts are in the paper before I pay for it. We get the local paper delivered, but the big city paper has much better coupons.

After I get home from church and have some lunch, I grab both papers, my coupon binder, and the laptop and head into the bedroom to plan for the week. I make a menu for the week. based on what I have in my pantry. Then I check the Grocery Game list to see if there’s anything I need or use frequently. I plan to stock up on those items.

I make 2-4 lists, depending on who has what on sale that week.

  • I check the Walgreens deals at Money Saving Mom and make my Walgreens list. I usually only buy things that are free after rebate, or free with register rewards.
  • Then I check the Rite Aid flyer and see if I need any free after rebate items.
  • I make my Albertson‘s list based on the deals at the Grocery Game.
  • Finally, everything I need for my menu that isn’t on the previous three lists goes on my Winco list.

I flip through my coupon flyers, and grab the coupons I need, separating them into different envelopes for each store. I paper clip the coupon envelopes to the corresponding lists and put everything in my purse, so it’s ready to go in the morning.

On Monday morning I throw a cooler in the back of the van and leave for town as soon as I get the kids off to school. I start at Rite Aid, then go to Walgreens, then do the bulk of my shopping at Winco. I shop at Winco for my non-sale items, because it’s one of those bare bones stores where the prices are typically much lower than the big-name stores. I load my refrigerated items into the cooler, and head for Albertson’s to stock up on sale items.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, and sometimes the planning part can take a couple of hours. But most weeks I only hit 2-3 stores. I rarely go to Rite Aid and Walgreens in the same week. And fortunately Walgreens and Winco are right across the street from each other, and Albertson’s is on the way home, so I’m not driving all over town.

On any given week, I try to keep my grocery bill under $100 including my regular grocery shopping and my stocking up. I hope that as my stockpile grows, I can cut the bill down further.

The Spontaneous Method

Now that I’ve told you my super-organized grocery shopping method, I’ll tell you what I do on weeks where the menu planning doesn’t happen. I actually used this method on Monday morning.

I wake up on Monday morning and go to Menus4Moms before getting the kids up for school. I find a menu that my family will eat and print out the recipes and shopping list. I cross off everything on the shopping list that we already have, then retype it in Word based on the Winco store layout. I add stuff I need for breakfast, lunch, and snacks and print out my list. When the kids leave to school, I go shopping.

Fortunately the Menus4Moms menu plans usually cost under $100 for all the ingredients, so I usually stay within my budget on bad weeks.

So now you all know how I plan my shopping. How do you plan yours?


By , on Feb 6, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Wow, I thought my shopping plan was good, but You are awesome!

  2. Joan:

    I don’t know if it would benefit me to join or not because the only list that exists for my town is Walgreens?

  3. Joan:

    I love menus4moms! I also love your blog so much so that I subscribed to your RSS feed sometime back. I am heading over to the Grocery Game and if I decide to join, I will certainly use you as my referrer. ;)

  4. Vicki:

    Just out of curiousity, how many children do you have? I have 6; so I am feeding 8–all day long because we homeschool. I still manage to keep my groceries under $100 (just barely now)most weeks without going to that many places. I often shop a small store in San Antonio called Sun Harvest; the rest comes from Walmart. Our Albertsons closed a few years ago. Sams is right next door to Walmart; so I can buy bulk there. But I don’t go every week. You have to be careful of their prices. I Cannot go organic; the funds just aren’t there, but we eat lots of veggies and have a healthy diet overall.

  5. I am continually seeking methods of frugality, but none of them include wal-mart, walgreens or any of those other box stores because cheap and frugal aren’t the same things.

    I shop once a week and have dairy and eggs delivered from local co-ops. Some things cost a little bit more, but we waste less and have far less recycling to do because our milk comes in glass bottles, and that was pretty much our last bastion of recycleables.

    It’s entirely necessary to consider the global cost of items, not ONLY your pocket book, also the health risks and the societal issues that a person faces when shopping at a store that promotes profit over people.

    For two grown adults, we spend about $50/wk on food. If it’s all organic, it’s about $75. Sometimes we can’t afford organic; that’s just ow it goes. We buy local first, organic second, international rarely if ever. And never ever do we purchase anything we know to be genetically modified. If we could just follow France’s lead…

    • Carrie:

      Very good points, thank you for sharing. Especially the point you made on buying the size you need and can use during that week so it does not go to waste. My mother and I argue over that one all the time. She wants me to go buy the 5 pound blocks of cheese at Costco because overall the cost is less. But the cost is less only if I use all of it before the cheese spoils; which I never do. So I buy smaller packages at WINCO or another grocery store because I know that even though the cost per ounce is more, I am not wasting a large portion which goes bad, then spending the same amount to buy another 5 pound block of cheese when I will only use a fifth of it.

  6. Shannon:

    Coupon Mom is the same as the grocery game except its free!

    My grocery shopping plan is pretty similar to yours, from walgreens / rite aid to albertsons and winco. I often shop fred meyer’s sales too

  7. OH I LOVE THIS!! I am going to have to share yet ANOTHER one of your GREAT posts on my blog! :) I usually have a grocery list for the weeks menu and then go shopping, but then I find great deals and add that and come right to (and even at times go just over) the budget. I believe that if I make a menu based on what I already have, THEN make a grocery list for items on sale and coupons and such and STOCKPILE then I can do better!! :) Thank you so much for sharing this and for your blog!!! :)

  8. MichelleH:

    Hey Lynnae,
    Wow – you are so organized! I’m nowhere near that detailed. I’m sure I’m overspending too. I usually get most items at Wal-Mart and then get loss-leader items at our local grocery store. I would definitely like to get our bill down some. We spend about $350./mo but there’s only the two of us and our daughter on weekends when she’s home from college. I may try to slowly incorporate some of your coupon ideas. Keep up the good work!

  9. That really is a good gameplan. Me and my girlfriend will have to try out some of your suggestions next time we go shopping.

  10. Geat tips as usual.

    We made a similar type of adjstment to take advantage of loss leaders and stuff the pantry. We are taking 10% towards those deals. You don’t get the savings for a few weeks but then we started saving 10-20% on this tip alone.

  11. I go shopping only on Thursdays, because at one grocery store in town they give you 5€ on your fidelity card for ever 50€ you spend. I try to wait at least two weeks to go, because if I go weekly then I seem to spend 125€, but if I go every two weeks, then I spend 150€. They also have coupons and reductions which go on the card too. Last week, for example, I spent 160€, but got 23€ on the card. I’ll try to not go for three weeks this time- it’s already been a week, and we’ve still got a lot of food. If I need fresh fruits and veggies, then I have the cash on my card…

  12. I only go to one grocery store because I feel like if I know that store really well, I can get good deals. I just check the flyer and bring the appropriate coupons to get the best deals. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the room to really stock up a lot, so I just stock up a little. I occassionally go to the discount grocer, but am not a huge fan because they carry so much processed food.

    I am just starting to do the CVS “game” and we’re hoping to start saving a lot of money that way.

  13. Sean:

    Sounds like an adventure!! We basically shop the same way, coupons on Sunday, checking for sales, and so on. We plan our meals around sales, so as you stated, it takes a while to make out the menu. We usually end up at three or four stores, and spend an average of $50 a week for a family of three. We are looking into the CVS and Walgreens deals…sounds interesting.

  14. Ron:

    Wow, you really have a game plan don’t you? Great job.

    My wife started the Grocery Game and it has already saved us several hundred dollars. I am so proud of her doing that. Right now the only stores participating in our area are Walgreens and Kroger. We’re hoping WalMart comes on board soon.

    I’ll have to get her to try Menus4Moms. Thanks!

  15. Lynnae:

    I was running about $100-$125 a week before, without doing any stocking of the pantry. When the week was up, we’d be out of food.

    And it’s a lot of work, because I’m not very organized. Each week I find I get a bit faster. The coupons hardly take any time at all, but making the menu takes forever.

  16. Rob Madrid:

    just wondering what you used to spend on food? In other words what you do is a lot of work how much does it save you?

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