Make Saving Part of Your Routine

Since our wedding, my wife and I have been talking about how excited we are for things to settle down.   She is also in grad school, which is occupying a lot of her time, but she is in the homestretch and final semester.   Why do I bring this up?   Because there are a lot of great saving habits or routine that take time.  When you are working full-time, planning a wedding, and in grad school like she is, time is at a premium.   However, despite the busy schedule, the two of us have committed to trying to making saving routine in one aspect…..grocery shopping.   In this article, I will walk you through why we want to establish a routine for saving on groceries and  how we have been practicing this routine over the last several weeks.

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Why we want to establish a routine for saving on groceries

The benefits for establishing a savings routine for grocery shopping are pretty obvious if you ask me.   However, there is a difference between doing something once and doing making something part of your routine.   To us, this process won’t be routine until a Sunday morning feels strange without the two of us sitting down, planning our meals, and finding the cheapest way to shop for the groceries we need for the week.   In the past, we have been victims of the reckless grocery store stops on the way home for work because we had a spur of the moment dinner idea.  These meals were more expensive because we didn’t have the time to find the most cost-effective way to purchase the meal.  Those spur of the moments are fun every once in a while, but there has to be a balance so that you aren’t over paying and allocating too much income to this area.  Look at Lanny’s grocery allocation for goodness sakes, you think he keeps it that low without shopping around and avoiding expensive spur of the moment trips to the grocery store?   That’s why we want this routine so badly and we want to find the balance between planning out quality, balanced meals without blowing a hole in our savings account.   This is the second week of us doing it, so I wouldn’t consider this a routine; but, we are working our tails off to get it to that point.

Plus, the benefits from planning as a part of our savings routine don’t just stop when you check out at the grocery store either. Part of our planning has involved figuring out what our lunches are during the week.  Over the last few weeks, I have packed all but one day during the week because our plan included lunches and large enough dinner meals where we had plenty of leftovers.  For our long time followers, do you remember when Lanny and I wrote about 7 easy ways to save $773,000?  Here, we walked through and calculated the savings impact over time of packing your lunch versus buying lunches.  In addition to saving from lunch by packing instead of buying, honestly, I feel like I have benefited from having better meals, healthier lunches, etc.  I have never been a health nut and have been blessed with a metabolism that has masked my less than stellar eating habits.  I feel like I have have healthier, more balanced meals over the last few weeks because we were able to plan things out ahead of time.  Not every benefit has to impact your wallet after all.

our approach to establishing a routine over the last few weeks

Now that you hopefully understand why we want a routine so badly, I wanted to demonstrate to you how we have gone about it over the last few weeks.  Don’t worry everyone, this really isn’t rocket science and many of you will probably think “No kidding, why haven’t you been doing this sooner.”  But hopefully there are a few products that we can show you that can help you reduce your grocery bills.  And also, please share your tips on how you go about this so we can possibly save more.  Sharing is caring here haha  Just to warn you, there will be a few referral links in this section and I will highlight them.

The key part of the last section was to plan…plan…plan.  The first step of putting together a savings routine for grocery shopping is planning out our meals for the majority of the week.  You need to know what you are looking for when shopping for deals, right?  Last week, we scanned the All Recipes app, my wife’s recipe box, and talked about what we want for lunches, our availability at dinner, etc. and eventually ironed out our meals for the week.  We had two nights where we were going to be able to eat together, so we found a breaded, garlic chicken and stuffed peppers recipes for those nights that were easy to make and didn’t involve a lot of ingredients.  The plan was to make extra servings so we had enough for a few extra lunches and dinners during the week to help push our cost per meal down.  We wrote out the ingredients, along with other staples like fruits, vegetables, coffee, bread, milk, etc., and compiled our complete grocery shopping list for the week.   After compiling the list, we went through our pantry and spice cabinet and crossed out all the ingredients that we owned and didn’t need to buy.   Now that we knew what we still needed for the week, the fun part of finding ways to push down the cost began.

We hoard coupon mailers.  Both our parents give us their extra coupons, so we have a pretty large collection of goods.   It took about 20 minutes, but my wife began cutting, sorting through the coupons, and putting all the ones that we could possibly use paper clipped to the grocery list.  We didn’t use it this time, but in the future, I will be checking out websites like coupons.com and Swagbucks Coupons [referral link] because there are some great deals to be had on those websites.  While she was doing that, I busted out my phone and opened up two apps to find even more discounts available.

The first app was the Target  Cartwheel app.   For any of you that have been following along, I have mentioned it over and over again in stock purchase articles that my wife and I LOVE shopping at Target.  We are Target-holics (made up term).  Their Cartwheel app offers many great discounts and this last week, we benefited a ton from them.  Because of her job, my wife needs to eat a quick-lunch while at work, so she will take a frozen Smart Ones meal and that was on our list for the week.  When I opened up Cartwheel, I saw it was the last day to capture an extra 30% off of each Smart Ones purchased.  So of course we added it to cart in the app.  Plus, there were several coupons on the boxes we purchased (I believe it was buy 7, save $2.00 at the register).  While our freezer is full of them now, we were able to greatly lower the cost of something she buys anyway.    Cross checking our list against Cartwheel to try to maximize the benefits took about 10-15 minutes for me, I was having a blast doing it, and most importantly, it led to some great savings!

The second app is relatively new to me and Lanny introduced it to me a few weeks ago.  Every once in a while, Lanny finds something that gets him so excited that he has to tell me about it immediately.  Sometimes it is a dividend stock, sometimes it is a deal he finds online, sometimes it is something Italian that I have no clue what he is talking about but I go along with it, and sometimes it is a new app that helps you save money.   This time, it fell into the last category.  I had never heard about the app Ibotta [referral link] before, but once I downloaded it I understand why he was so excited to tell me about it.   This app offers discounts on hundreds of products at many different places (whatever chain grocery store is in your market, Walmart, Target, Costco, Whole Foods, Walgreens etc.).   All you need to do is answer a question to unlock the discount and it takes maybe 5 seconds to answer this question.  Aka, it is free money.   There are discounts for specific brands and specific products (such as Bumblebee Tuna, Bud Light, Chobani, Special K cereal, and many more household names) or generic discounts (i.e. $.25 for a gallon of milk, $.25 for produce, etc).  There is a discount for almost anything on your grocery list.  If you haven’t checked this app out before, you need to.  It is a game-changer.   So I scanned through this app, added discounts to my cart, wrote down the brands I needed to search for, and headed to the grocery store.  All in all, scanning through Ibotta took another 10-15 minutes.

 Summary

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for, how well did I do last week shopping??  Adding up the time for meal planning, couponing, and adding discounts through Cartwheel and Ibotta, I probably spent 1 hour with my wife planning everything out.  I loved spending the time with her, talking about the options, and finding ways to push down the costs of our meals.  I would love having this as a routine because of the time we get to spend together and how much we enjoyed it.  All in all, this future savings routine took an hour and we were able to reduce our grocery bill  from $65 to $50, or a 23% savings.  Not a bad freaking routine if you ask me!

That right there is what motivates me.   If we get in the habit of  doing this every week, making it a part of the routine, just think about how much money we could save over the year.   If you are serious about savings, do it over and over again to the point where it is strange not to save.  Grocery shopping is one example, but there are so many other ways to make savings routine in your life.   This is the tip of the iceberg and once we have more time, we can’t wait to sit together and apply this methodology to every aspect of our life.  As we all know, every single dollar counts in this game we are playing.   So why not make savings routine for every aspect of our life.

What do you do to push down your grocery bill?  What tips do you have for us?  Do you have any other savings routines outside of pushing down your grocery bill that you can share with us?

Bert

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22 thoughts on “Make Saving Part of Your Routine

    • D4s,

      Cartwheel is awesome. We have saved so much just by scanning everything in our cart while shopping. Helps you find the lowest cost option for every single thing on your grocery list. A must have if you ask me.

      Bert

  1. wow! that food budget is very tight! I do most of my purchases at whole foods and trader Joe’s so I typically spend a little more on groceries then your average consumer. Eating healthy is a very important aspect in my life though.

    • Thanks Dilligent! You need to check out Ibotta then. Whole Foods has over 200 products that offer potential discounts on there. We also are huge Trader Joe’s fans. If you shop right there, it can be pretty darn cheap. It isn’t always about buying the cheapest though, especially if healthy eating is something that is very important in your life. Apps like these can help you enjoy the types of meals you want and help push the cost down along the way. If you are shopping there regardless, you might as well get some cash back for it, right?

      Bert

    • Doug,

      I am always scouring through the sales/reduced rack. There are definitely some gems there. I love seeing meats discounted because they are close to their sell by date. I do the same thing you do, buy a bunch at a discount, put it in the freezer, and thaw it out when needed. The savings over time are huge.

      Bert

  2. I think food is probably where I could cut the most fat in my spending. I generally spend about $100/week for the two of us which is almost double what you guys spend! I do like to spend a bit more to get a lot of veggies and high quality meats which aren’t that cheap around here.

    • Time,

      Whats hard is that the message shouldn’t be just cut and keep it as cheap as possible. Frugal living is smartly spending on the things you love. If you love healthy foods and high quality meats, then there are plenty of other areas that can be trimmed so you don’t have to sacrifice that. There are definitely some other costs for food, such as ad hoc meals out, etc. and we have had plenty of weeks where it is closer to $100. However, I would love to find a way to consistently keep our weekly food budget between $50-$75. That is the sweet spot if you ask me.

      Keep us updated if you find ways to slash the bill without sacrificing the quality of the food you buy.

      Bert

  3. Ciao Bert and Lanny,
    Impressive approach as usual, I love the way you are so methodical about these things…. I have started only now to actually keep track of the family expenses, but I hope that within a few months I will be able to start working on the optimisation of resources also under the expenditure point of view! 🙂
    Keep up the good work!
    Ciao ciao
    Stal

    • Stal,

      Thank you so much! Being methodical is a new thing to me, but I am starting week 3 of this process and it is starting to become a habit. I just need to keep on doing it over, and over, and over again until I don’t think twice about it. Hopefully by this point in October I will be there. Finding ways to save is fun and just to warn you, it is addicting. Once you realize some awesome savings when reviewing expenditures, you will want to do it over every line item in your budget.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Bert

  4. Cool stuff Bert! Saving dollars is an awesome feeling. And a dollar saved is more dollars you can put back into investing!

    Australia is a bit behind on apps and things like that. But I can tell you we save a lot by going to Aldi for 95% of our groceries. We do a weekly shop there, decide what we’re going to eat during the week, see what we don’t already have in the fridge, freezer and pantry – put it on the list and then only buy what’s on the list! Works very well for us.

    Tristan

    • Thanks Tristan! Exactly. Every dollar saved is another dollar that can be investing. You know where I’m going with this….MORE DIVIDEND INCOME!

      That’s interesting that Australia doesn’t have as many savings apps. Aldi is a great alternative though. You don’t need a ton of apps when you have their incredibly low prices. I need to start shopping there more. Sounds like you have an awesome savings routine for your groceries already in place.

      Bert

  5. Great post Bert. Making things a habit or ritual certainly makes it easier to keep up.

    It becomes even more once you have kids and they watch you and your then wife practicing frugality and saving!

    Thanks for sharing this article. Good stuff. AFFJ

    • Thanks AFFJ! Getting a whole frugal family army (I mean family). I can only hope! I cannot wait to start doing everything possible to pus hdown the cost of raising a family. I’ll have to master the art of developing savings routine 🙂

      Thanks again for stopping by and the comment!

      Bert

  6. For me the greatest change involved finding simple meals that I don’t mind eating all the time that have cheap ingredients. Dragon noodles covers all of those and makes me feel fancy due to the name. I love fall because soups last so long and are so filling. When I live alone and have free-er range in my kitchen, I also bake some bread to go with the soup and get all sorts of joy out of it.

    • ZJ,

      I’ll have to check out using dragon noodles. You are right, simplicity is a huge part of it. Saving and keeping costs down will be nearly impossible if every recipe and meal has many ingredients. And I agree, you can stretch a pot of soup forever. Whenever we do it though, I get sick of the soup before I can finish the pot haha I need to start freezing it.

      Thanks for the advise and comment.

      Bert

    • Jeff,

      Packing versus eating out every day makes a huge difference. This is week 3 of forcing myself to pack. I went out to lunch today though, but that was to meet one of my friends/co-workers. Most meels run between $6-$10 at lunch. If you dividend the cost of the ingredients that you packed, I would bet the cost is between $2-4 per meal depending on how fancy of a meal you are cooking. Let me know how the packing experiment goes for you!
      Bert

  7. I couldn’t agree more. I just have to get the wife on board to start planning meals. She is not overly motivated to plan ahead. She finds it a pain in the butt. Does make a difference though. Waste less, spend less, save more. Good post, thanks for sharing !

    -Brian

    • Brian,

      Planning ahead would be a big pain if I didn’t do it with my wife. The motivation would fall through the floor haha. But yes, it does make a huge difference for all of the reasons you mention. I love the feeling of opening up the fridge and realizing that we used all of the groceries that we bought during the week. Take care!

      Bert

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