Today was my day to grocery shop. Meals have been planned out for the next two weeks and it was inevitable. My list was surprisingly not very long and I had some coupons/deals to take advantage of at the local grocery store before I ventured on post for my main shop. When I signed up for the Club Card at the local grocery store, they gave me a batch of coupons for various items - some for FREE! Even though the items were not ones that we normally use or brands that we normally buy, I'm not going to pass up FREE food! In addition, they were having a special, in-store discount on soy milk, for which I had regular coupons as well so I wanted to start there and see just how low of a price I could get on an item that goes quickly in our house. After the in-store special and my regular coupons, I managed to score the soy milk for 50% of the regular price.
My savings percentage (thanks to the free items in addition to the deal on soy) was 63% at the local store. It would have been higher but they had Vernor's ginger ale and it's something my entire family loves so I couldn't pass it up. It tends to be tough to find.
I have also started a spreadsheet to track the price differences between the commissary, Wal-Mart, and the local grocery store so that I know the best places to get each item in addition to what the 'normal' price is - that will help me budget better in the long run. Surprisingly, the commissary isn't always the least expensive place to buy food. Out of the 45 items in my spreadsheet, about 10 of them are cheaper by a few cents off post. And yes, I realize the commissary doesn't charge sales tax but they do charge a 'surcharge' which is just a few percentage points below the sales tax rate here.
My savings at the commissary weren't as spectacular but they were still significant and, overall today, I saved approximately 18% on my total grocery bill. Not too shabby! And our food bill this go-round wasn't very high (lots of easy, low-cost items on the menu this time) so I used a little bit of our excess to stock up and take advantage of some of the specials the commissary had: 25 cent boxes of pop corn, sale prices on Pilsbury biscuits and bread dough, cheese, and a great price on Clementines!
Years ago, I found a site called The Coupon Clippers and I will order from them from time to time, especially if my Sunday paper is lacking. The nice thing is that I can pick and choose what coupons I want based on our upcoming menu (another good reason to plan menus ahead of time) and our family's preferences. And what I order in coupons rarely costs what a newspaper subscription would run.
One more thing that I've done (thanks to Crista's comment on my last post) is to start tracking my savings. Without even trying, I average about 5% savings per month. Our montly food budget is $500 so that's $25 per month that I was averaging. Times 12 months that equals out to about $300 per year in savings. Decent but I can do better. My goal is to average a 20% savings ($100 per month) throughout the year. That would save us $1000 right off the top of our food budget without having to make any other changes.
In addition to trying to save 20% with coupons, I'm aiming to get our monthly food budget closer to $400. I think it's doable and once this month is over and I have a better idea of our 'normal' monthly expenditure on food, I will know if this is possible without a lot of pain.
My low-cost recipe of the week is Pecos Pasta - one of MacGyver's old camping recipes.
2 cups elbow macaroni noodles (cost = $0.50)
2 cans Stagg chili with beans (cost = $3.00)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (cost = $0.50)
1 green bell pepper, chopped (cost = $0.76)
1 can corn (cost = $0.85) *can use frozen as well*
1 Tbsp butter (cost = $0.09)
1 Tbsp crushed garlic (cost = $0.05)
cheese to garnish (about 4 ounces for 4 people) (cost $0.75)
TOTAL COST for 6-8 servings = $6.50
1. Cook mac according to package instructions.
2. Saute onion, pepper, and garlic in butter until cooked but still firm
3. Pour in chili and corn - simmer until pasta is done cooking (you want it al dente). Add mac to chili mix.
4. Top with cheese and serve.
* Great with cornbread (cost = about $0.75 for 6-8 cornbread muffins). Makes excellent leftovers.*