A few weeks ago as I was cooking, I considered the panko bread crumbs I was using. My food budget had been a lot higher than I'd wanted the month before. It didn't feel like I bought anything too crazy that month, but I could see some of the changes I should make and one of them was the Panko crumbs.
Here's what I've noticed about myself...
1. Trips to Trader Joe's throw everything out of whack. When I walk into the store, I walk out with an expensive trip (even if my cart wasn't full). Costco (and BJs)... another expensive trip. I'm trying to minimize these trips. Even if I don't use them that often, I find that the memberships are still worth it.
2. Little things can add up. Saying no to my kids and myself is a habit I do have, but I have to remind myself not to let go of.
3. Aldi makes life simpler. It just does. I don't have to clip coupons to get a good price. There's less selection, but it's enough. My trips are shorter and more profitable. I focus on staples, dairy, and fruit and veggies when I go there. I don't get my meat there, but instead make bi-weekly trips to Wegmans for meat.
4. Little trips to the grocery store do add up. It's easier to add on one or two items here or there which ends up adding up!
1. Shop coffee sales online at World Market (used to be called Cost Plus). The closest store to us is an hour and a half away, but they carry a decaf dark roast whole bean coffee and several caffeinated whole bean coffees. They regularly run coupons if you get on their email list. Between my birthday coupon for $10 off a purchase and a 10% off coupon I had (usually you can only use 1 code per purchase, with the exception of the birthday code or a $10 coupon you earn with their World Explorer program). The coffee was on sale that week for $8 for 24 oz. (1 1/2 lb.) and the shipping to my house was $8. Considering the gas for me to get to Costco costs me $10 per trip, I came out ahead. I bought 4 bags = 6 lb. of coffee for $24 with all of my coupons and I saved by not heading into Costco and making any other big purchases.
2. I don't have to feel guilty about my Costco membership (where we get our dog food) and our BJs membership (which is 20 miles closer and I can get the bulk things I need when I can't get to Costco). On Tuesday, my kids and I headed to BJ's because my husband ran out of his generic zyrtec. I headed to Target to fill in the gap until I could get to BJ's, but discovered that 14 tablets cost $5. At BJ's, 365 tablets cost $15. I couldn't bring myself to do it. 30 tablets were $13 at Target, so at that rate, 365 tablets would have cost us $166. Wow! We didn't buy any, but instead made a spur of the moment trip to BJs.
3. Although Panko bread crumbs are much less expensive when you buy them in the big double box that Wegmans and BJs both carry now, it is still cheaper for me to use real bread crumbs for when I bread chicken, because I use the ends of my breads and bread that we aren't able to eat up for the bread crumbs. It's an ingredient that isn't that expensive, but the almost free ones I make with my food processor are even less expensive.
Being wise with my food budget is something I think about a lot, but I know that I have to figure out what is doable for me and what isn't. I've found that at different times in my life, I have been able to tackle different things than I can now. My solutions to our food budget have been different... shopping by ads, farmers markets, coupons...at different times given my family's life circumstances. I find that there is no one right answer that has worked for me over the course of the past ten years.
On a final note, though, the one strategy for saving money on food that I have shied away from that is very popular right now is using apps on one's phone. I am skittish about it because whenever anyone installs an app on their smart phone, they give the company providing that app access to information on that phone. This may seem benign, but as the victim of identity theft, I get very concerned about who I give access to what on my smart phone. In the case of ShopRite, there is an app. But, you can also go to their website and load the electronic coupons on your shoppers club card instead. With other stores, I know this option isn't available. The value of these electronic apps is different for everyone and I have a lot of friends who have saved a lot of money using them. Frankly, I'm just scared, so for now I'm going to watch and see how they turn out. Here's a link to an article I heard online last week on NPR: LINK. It gave me some food for thought.