Before I started ThriftyFrugalMom.com, I blogged at Parents.com (under the name of Thrifty Frugal Mom as well) for three years as their frugal lifestyle blogger. Monica originally wrote this as a guest post for me there and after thinking often about sharing it with you here, I finally decided to do it. I frequently have readers wonder how to save on groceries, what it’s like to get started with building a stockpile or how it works in real life to begin lowering a grocery budget. In this post, Monica gives you a peek into her experience with all of these things. There is so much good, helpful information here and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
I’m honored to be sharing about my experience implementing Lydia’s grocery saving strategies, or as I like to call it, the Thrifty Frugal Mom system. To give you a bit of background, I had been couponing for years and followed many money saving blogs, but the Thrifty Frugal Mom blog held special appeal to me because I could see every week that Lydia bought many of the same household items that I did, and also cooked similar meals to the ones we eat at home, but spent far less money. She also made a lot of items from scratch and had similar nutritional goals for her family.
After watching and learning for about six months, I decided to start copying some of her strategies to get the thrifty-frugal ball rolling at my house. I started slowly and began chipping away at my grocery bill a little each a month. Here is what I learned:
How to Save on Groceries (and get more for your money!)
I decided to start by implementing some small changes. For instance, I began making my own iced coffee concentrate and started saving my vegetable scraps to make my own homemade chicken stock. I also got rid of my old basic cell phone and upgraded to a used smart phone so I could take advantage of coupon apps (some even help me save on produce!). Thanks to signing up with Ting as my cellphone provider, I also ended up saving money on my phone bill, too! These “little” things all added up to slowly make a noticeable difference in our spending.
Don’t expect big savings right away
My first month only saved me around $50 from our usual grocery bill and I was ready to throw in the towel. What I didn’t understand was that the stockpiling method requires time for a savings snowball effect to take place. Here’s why. Stockpiling saves you money because it enables you to buy items at rock bottom prices and stock up on them. As a result, this saves you from having to pay full price for the item the next time you need it. In turn, this gradually saves you money and as you continue to build your stockpile you’ll find that eventually you rarely have to pay full price for anything because you were able to get it when it was on sale and add it to your stockpile. And so while the initial savings is gradual, as you continue to stockpile, the savings grow considerably.
And so I kept at it, and my second month the savings increased to $200-250! I anticipate saving more each month until I eventually reach the monthly budget amount I’m aiming for.
Be willing to invest some time
I put aside a block of time each week to scan the store circulars, visit store websites, and make a list of where the best deals are so that I can deal match. Sometimes I visited one store, sometimes I went to five. Even if I didn’t need the item right away, I went ahead and bought it at the lowest “buy” price so that when I ran out, it would be in my stockpile. This required a shift in my purchasing habits because I was used to buying items only when I ran out, even if that wasn’t a good price. It took some discipline to shift my thinking on this one. Which leads me to…
Allow a shift in thinking
Once I made the commitment to purchase items at the lowest possible price, I only had to see what was in my pantry or stockpile in order to make up my menu plan. Believe it or not, I used to write my menu for the week and then buy whatever those meals required. What an expensive way to eat! Now when I make my menus, I plan them around items that are in my stockpile inventory or on things that I can get a good deal on that week by matching coupons with sales.
Just a note from Lydia: To help you save time and deal shop like Monica and I both do, I highly recommend finding a blog that does coupon match-ups for the store(s) that you shop at. To do this, Google the store name and “coupon match ups”. You should be able to find a blog that will show you what is on sale at the store you shop plus also show you what coupons you can use to get an even better deal! This makes deal shopping super easy and much less time consuming.
Understand the stockpile concept
It took me a while to comprehend why I should buy five shampoos instead of one. But once I figured out that buying more meant paying less per item and therefore saved me quite a bit of money in the long run, it all clicked. Not only did I pay less per item, as a bonus I also didn’t need to worry about seeing that item on my shopping list for a long time.
Learn more about this type of shopping and how to create a stockpile in my $200 Grocery Budget series.
IN DOING ANYTHING NEW, THERE ARE PROS & CONS, AND HERE ARE MINE:
* A big pro is that the system is very flexible to my family’s needs. I can still buy the products that we love and use them to make the same healthy meals we have always enjoyed, but now I’m also saving money on those products, too!
* The need to create a stockpile by purchasing multiple items at the rock bottom price was both a pro and con for me. We have a small home with little space to store an inventory of consumables, so finding a spot to put everything has been a challenge. And I’ve just had to be okay with the fact that I’m never going to have room to store some things such as lots of cases of paper towels or toilet paper.
Initially, it was also hard to understand how buying more of something could actually be less expensive than buying one or two, but with some deals that is simply how it is. However, I found I could mini-stockpile by buying say, three of something rather than ten, and it would keep me stocked far enough ahead until the next deal came along for that item. So I could still save money without needing to try to figure out where to store it all!
* Another mixed pro and con was food preservation. I’ve been gardening and canning for years, but we lack space for the large chest freezers that many people own. I suspected that not owning a chest freezer would be a real challenge to the system, and I feel that is true. Canning my own food helps, but I miss out on stockpiling deals for ice cream and other freezer items that could save us lots in the long run.
Likewise, if you don’t can any fruits or veggies, it might be more of a challenge to reach that $200/month grocery budget goal.
* One mixed blessing of this project was that two months after starting, I had an accident and broke my ankle. For six weeks, I was off my feet and our family relied on dinners brought to us by our family and church friends, as well as the occasional convenience meal to help us get by during that time. While I was sad to disrupt my grocery budget goals, I was very thankful to have some staples stockpiled. It definitely saved my husband a lot of extra hassle because he didn’t need to run to the store for every little thing but instead could simply “shop” our cupboards and my stockpile.
WILL I EVENTUALLY BE ABLE TO FEED MY FAMILY ON $200 A MONTH?
Because the Thrifty Frugal Mom grocery saving system is so flexible, I believe that some families can implement it and easily end up with a grocery bill that is even less than that. But because family size, eating styles, and personal needs obviously vary a lot, there’s not going to be a one size fits all number, so others will end up having a monthly budget that is quite a bit higher. However, I’m not even near my lowest spending point and I look forward to seeing how much less I’ll be spending six months from now as I continue to have fun using Thrifty Frugal Mom for inspiration and more savings!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
On her blog, Blue Skies and Shoofly Pies, Monica writes about the adventures of family life and homemaking on the tiny farmette she shares with her husband and young son. She finds joy in living simply and seasonally, with a touch of laughter.