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.
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.
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?