Watch the Price: A Frugal Reminder

Heather says:

Most of us are creatures of habit, we develop our routines based on expectations and that’s fine.  I have had a system in place for a while: seasonal produce from the stand or Farmers Market; staples from the local grocery store; milk from the drug store*; bread from Big Lots. It sounds complicated, but everything has their place on my usual weekly route or is on the way home for my husband.

My routine is to check the flyer for loss leaders and plan our menu around that and what is in season or in our freezer.

*Hormone free usually runs $.50 – $1.00 cheaper per gallon than the off-brand at the grocery store.

The problem with this system is when I forget to keep a close eye on the what each store is doing. Right now, I need to switch to the other drugstore who has kept their milk prices low while my current haunt has allowed theirs to creep closer to the grocery store level.

Are you a one stop shopper at your favorite grocery store or do you spread your purchases out across several venues?

Are you good about monitoring the prices or do you plan your menu around whatever sounds good?

Do you even plan a menu?


  1. Shelley on May 13, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I have a set routine of healthy foods that I always keep in stock. I buy veg from the green market, beans and grains from the Asian grocery, a few cheap odds and ends from Netto (sort of like Aldi) and the rest from my local supermarket. I keep a price book for the main items so I have an idea of what is a good price, and I buy fruit and veg that is in season (from a list, I don't naturally know this) or on sale at the market. Though we eat the same things over and over (fish, beans, poultry, eggs, cheese, vegetables, and the occasional red meat), I try different recipes to keep it from being boring.

  2. james5555 on May 13, 2010 at 4:12 am

    I walk to do my shopping so I am saving on gas. Plus the way I eat will keep me healthier which has economic as well as the obvious benefits of health and energy!

    James Reno

    • HeatherSolos on May 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      Our nearest store is 5 miles away. Sure, that IS walkable, but it's along a narrow two-lane highway that I wouldn't even ride my bike on. If walking is an option, I absolutely recommend it.

  3. julie on May 13, 2010 at 1:30 am

    usually a one-two stop shopper (walmart super center and sam's)—-if I run out of things in between BIG grocery trips I will go to stores closer to the house (winndixie/piggly wiggly)…..

  4. Anna B on May 13, 2010 at 12:51 am

    My energy runs very low and my nerves run very thin quite quickly if I go to too many stores, so I tend to keep it focused. Plus, all that driving makes saving $0.50 much less appealing. I also clip coupons and use them whenever possible. I have one local grocery store I got to for produce and often meat, and then Walmart for most everything else.

    I keep an eye on the sale ads, but usually plan my meals based on what sounds good. I plan on Wednesday (the day the supermarket ads come out) for the next week (Thurs – Weds). During my reading of homemaking blogs, I ran across the idea of having a 'theme' for every night of the week, and basing meal plans on that. I LOVE doing that, as it makes it less overwhelming to decide what to plan on. Thursday is Mexican, so what do I want that's Mexican? Wednesday is fish, what fish do I want? And so on. This is helped greatly by the spreadsheet I keep – it has a tab for every day with its theme, and when I find a good recipe in a cookbook I go type it in to the appropriate theme-day, with book and page #. So, meal planning time is opening the spreadsheet and picking off the list! My meal planning takes about 10 minutes. 🙂

  5. caryn verell on May 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    i follow a "route" whenever i need to shop for anything………that way i save money on gas, time, and i never buy anything that is not on the list. (unless it is icecream and it is the last stop before home). used to follow my route once a week but as gas prices cranked up i now shop every two to three weeks. i can now stretch out my tank of gas in the van to last just a day or two over a month now barring no emergencies. of course i have been unemployed the past 18 mos. and even though my income was not necessary to live on, sticking to my weekly plans and "route" for shopping has paid off. i do not use coupons…

  6. Sara Muncy on May 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    My rounds usually look like this:
    Sav-a-lot for small grocery list or missing ingredients & staples like sugar, flour, pasta, canned veggies for soup..
    Meijer for Soft Drinks (red or blue is almost always on sale, and i also believe that they have the best generics) & meat.
    Kroger if they're having a particularly good sale on produce & they always have a loaf of bread under a dollar.
    Wal Mart for the "big trips" that include paper products, toiletry needs, etc as well as when the pantry is just plain empty.

    The wal mart trip is a little out of the way, so that only happens for us about every 2-3 weeks with 10 or so different meals in mind. The "other" shopping around is much closer to home, but due to either genuinely high prices or genuinely poor selection i am inclined to shop around.

    One day I aim to be an organized household and menu planner for my family, a budgeting guru and decent housekeeper.. Someday 🙂

  7. tinkerschnitzel on May 12, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Albertsons for most regular grocery items, and I shop based on what is on sale. I can usually get great deals on meat (buy 1 get 1 free or buy 1 get 2 free) and produce, and will stock up and use the freezer if I can get great deals. All the farmers markets are out of the way, except one that is close to my office, but I have to spend my lunch hour if I want to go there. I go to Target for toiletries and baby stuff, as their store brand is equal to or better than a lot of name brand items. I've managed to feed a family of 4 adults, 2 children, 4 cats, and a dog for $150. I don't think that's too bad.

  8. Mamie on May 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    We menu plan faithfully each week. I try to keep well-stocked freezers and pantries so that we can make a variety of meals that follow the eating principles by which we are currently trying to live. For three nights a week I cook dinner for 3 adults; on four nights it's the 3 plus my niece and nephew. I have to take into consideration my husband's continuing education class schedule, the nights I teach a university class (one semester yearly), and sports/Scouts/other activities for Niece and Nephew when they are with us. My husband and I take our lunches to work almost daily, and I pack lunches for the kids when they are at our house.

    Almost all of our shopping is done at Costco (which now carries several organic meats, in addition to other organic items like corn chips, canned tomatoes, some produce, milk, etc.) – meat, cheese, some produce, paper goods and laundry supplies, OTC medicines, some toiletries and certain canned items/snacks. Most of the rest of the "regular" grocery shopping (and some cleaning products and toiletries) is done at Natural Grocers. We try to buy everything organic that we can, and are really attempting to stay away from packaged/processed foods. Our produce comes from a weekly co-op we participate in (year-round) and from the local farmers' market during the growing season.

    There is a Walmart a half-mile from our home for emergencies – like the other night when I discovered that the shredded Parmesan cheese container had about 1/5 of what I needed for a recipe. But we try to stay out of there as much as possible, as we don't love giving our money to that particular company, not do we love the poor quality, factory-"food" they tend to mostly sell.

    Husband and I commute to work together, and Costco and Natural Grocers are near his office, so it is easy to incorporate trips to those locations as needed. The produce co-op weekly pick-up is just a couple miles down the road from home. Going to the farmers' market on Saturdays requires a drive of about 12 miles, but we feel like the trade off in extra driving and carbon emissions is somewhat off-set by buying healthy, locally-produced food.

  9. Nancy Cox on May 12, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I scatter around also. Bulk items (eggs, milk, butter, bread, potatoes, canned catfood, etc.) I get at the local Warehouse club. We are lucky that the local cheap dairy is also hormone free. I used to do the hormone-free unsalted butter, that came already divided into quarters. Recently I have been buying the really cheap butter in the one pound blocks, and have found that quartering it myself is no big deal, especially for a difference in price of $1.30 a pound. What I can't find at the warehouse club I get at Walmart. I go through the grocery store for things I can't find at Walmart (unusual baking ingredients, better salsa), but also for meat, produce and sometimes their house brands and for sales. For specialty meat I sometimes go to the local meat distributor and get the hormone free really good stuff (like buffalo cube steaks), but not too often as that is a splurge. I get into a buying habit until something changes. For example, I used to buy milk from the local dairy store, but the one nearest to me closed. I tried going to the next closest one, but it is a bit out of my way, and so I ended up buying at the warehouse club which turned out to be cheaper anyway.
    I try to plan a menu, but I'm not as disciplined as I should be. My spouse travels a lot for work, and meals get a lot less formal when it is just me and my two girls, who tend to be picky eaters. I don't plan a menu around what is on sale, more what I think people will eat. I think at this point I need to try some new recipes, as I've noticed some meals which used to be sure-fire choices are getting less well-received.
    Frugal to me is a journey. I am always learning and adjusting.

    • HeatherSolos on May 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm

      I understand about cooking only for kids. It's a struggle for me when my husband's shift runs through dinner. Those nights are my most frequent fails. My hat is off to single moms and military wives who persevere.

      • caroline on May 12, 2010 at 6:13 pm

        What about military husbands/single dads? It can be even harder for them because they often weren't the primary cook/caregiver when mom was around.

        • HeatherSolos on May 12, 2010 at 6:15 pm

          I didn't mean to imply gender exclusivity, I was just looking at it from my experience. I have no idea how a man feels, let alone a single man.

  10. asyhre on May 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I am a one stop shopper. I spend way too much money on "other" things if I make too many stops. I am horrible at sticking to just a few things at a lot of stops… it is like I have a cart quota or something.

  11. @JayMonster on May 12, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    We have a routine, and do check prices… but due to time constraints usually limit the number of venues we go to. For us, saving .50 on a gallon of milk doesn't make sense, if we are going to spend extra time and gas going to get it, so we do check prices… within reason.

    In our area though this is not that big a deal. We shop at WholeFoods and farmers markets for organics, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. We use Shop-Rite (north east chain) which has better prices on most items than anybody else. Wal-marts,at least in my area, have nominal amounts of groceries and the prices aren't so much better that it is worth the time and expense of going to the U.S.'s most evil empire. Do we lose a few dollars in savings this way? Possibly, but like I said, when you factor in the extra gas and the value of the time spent going to additional locations, the "loss" is nominal.

    With our menu for the week we generally plan ahead a few days for the following week. Our primary supermarket puts out their sales circular on Wednesday for sales that start that weekend. So, once we get the flyer, we plan the following weeks meals based on a combination of what we already have in the fridge/freezer and what is on sale that week. (And naturally if there is something we have on a regular basis, like chicken cutlets, that is on sale but we may not want that particular week, we will buy and put it in the freezer.

    Because we rarely eat together except on weekends, meals are prepared and "packaged" on Sundays, so regardless of who arrives home and when, we are having a "nice" meal (well except on "pizza day" but that is our indulgence)

    • HeatherSolos on May 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm

      With 5 – 6 milk drinkers in the family, we're saving a buck or two a week and it's on the route. The closeout grocery store isn't on my route, nor is Whole Foods or the Warehouse Club, both are more than 30 minutes out of my way.

      I love that you take the time to put together meals for the rest of the week, that is fantastic.

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