Recently I discovered a new way to save on groceries. Over the past few years, my kids have become involved in so many activities and I’ve found myself pressed for time… ALL.DAY.LONG. Often I’m grocery shopping every day, because I never had time for a full trip between driving kids to and from their activities.
My grocery budget was creeping up due to frequent trips to the store so I needed to figure out a way to keep the budget consistent and save time.
Years ago I had one grocery goal… spend as little as possible. If that’s the situation you are in, this method probably isn’t for you. Here’s a great article on trimming the grocery budget Dave Ramsey style!
Today, my goal is to save time and save on groceries (while feeding a houseful of kids, their families, and friends).
How I Save on Groceries
Step 1: Amazon Subscribe & Save
I was slow to get on the Subscribe and Save bandwagon. Many of the items on Amazon are more expensive compared to using a coupon matched with a sale. The problem was, I didn’t always have a coupon and these items weren’t always on sale.
This led to more than a few late night trips to Walgreens because we were out of toilet paper or dish soap. We ended up paying full price for these items because we needed them immediately.
One day I sat down with the kids and made a list of everything we purchased at least once a month. Grocery items like paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, hand soap, batteries, toothbrushes, dental floss, etc. Then I looked for the best deals on Subscribe and Save for these items and added them to my cart.
Some items we have shipped once a month and other items are shipped every two to three months. Since signing up for Subscribe & Save we haven’t made a single late night trip to Walgreens for emergency supplies, because I always have a small stockpile in my pantry.
With Subscribe and Save you can get up to a 20% discount on items depending on how frequently and how many items you have delivered.
Pro’s of Subscribe & Save:
- Everything is delivered to your door automatically.
- Prices decrease with the amount of items you order.
- You don’t run out of items you use frequently.
- Prices stay consistent, so you don’t pay a premium during a midnight Walgreens run.
- You can skip deliveries if you are overstocked.
- No more late night trips to the store!
Con’s of Subscribe & Save:
- It’s mostly name brand items, which cost more than generic.
- You can’t shop sales and use coupons.
- Subscribe and Save has a large selection, but you’ll still end up shopping at the grocery store.
- If you don’t watch your subscription you could end up with an overstock.
Step 2: Once a Month Shopping at Costco
Anyone else have a love hate relationship with shopping at Costco? I love the savings, but I hate the crowds. It never fails that I show up at 4:30pm on a payday and spend as much time looking for parking as I do shopping.
I’m familiar with prices and know what is cheaper than the grocery store. (If you haven’t already create a grocery price book for maximum savings)
For years, I’ve had a list of staples I purchase at Costco and I’m pretty good at sticking to the list. Only rarely do I succumb to those mouth-watering muffins or fresh salmon. 🙂
Once a month I brave the crowds and go to Costco to stock up on these staples. I purchase all my meat and stock up on as much produce as I can. I also purchase cheese, eggs, butter, frozen fruit and a few other items.
Aside from the fresh produce, if I carefully plan my trip, I only need to go to Costco once a month. Sometimes I can stretch it to every six weeks.
It sounds silly, but it’s amazing how much money you can save on groceries if you commit to shopping at Costco once a month and sticking to your list. I love all the extra items Costco sells, but it’s easy to bust the grocery budget buying them.
Step 3: Once a Month Trip to the Grocery Store
After Costco, I make a once a month trip to Publix. This trip is coordinated with sales and I stock up on dry goods like pasta, sauces, soups, beans, and rice. I also stagger this trip with my Costco trip to replenish fresh produce and dairy. (my kids drink a ton of milk)
Between my trip to Publix and Costco my kitchen is fairly well stocked, but with a big family we do run out of perishables and and other items before the next grocery trip.
Step 4: Instacart
When I first learned about Instacart I was skeptical. It didn’t make sense to me to pay money to have groceries delivered when I live ten minutes from the grocery store. I honestly wondered how anyone could be too busy to go to the grocery store.
However, with all my kids in a variety of extra curricular activities (and none of them drive) I was going to the grocery store almost every day and our grocery budget was out of control.
My neighbor told me she used it and thought it was worth the money, so I found a promo code and signed up for a free trial of their express service.
Now, each week I have groceries delivered via Instacart. The app displays the items I purchase regularly. I add those plus a few additional items. I’m done grocery shopping in less than 10 minutes. I schedule a delivery time and my groceries are delivered to my front door.
Years ago I would have told you that Instacart was a luxury and a total waste of money. I still think it’s a luxury, however it’s not a waste of money. Because my list is already in Instacart, I only buy what we need. I rarely throw away food that’s gone bad because there’s no impulse shopping.
Even though I’m paying more for my groceries, I’m saving over all because there’s no opportunity to buy what we don’t need at the store.
Also, I don’t have to shop with my kids. There are many benefits to grocery shopping with your kids, but after twenty-four years of hauling kids to the grocery store and negotiating for cereals and granola bars, I’m over it.
One of my kids usually accompanies me to Costco or Publix on my big shopping trips, but I’m not longer taking a kid into the store to “pick up a few things” and walking out with a cart full of items we don’t really need.
Pro’s of Instacart:
- You decide when you want your items delivered.
- It’s simple to shop in the app, frequently purchased items are accessible and an entire “shopping trip” takes about 10-15 minutes.
- No impulse purchases, it’s easy to stick to the list and only buy what you need since you aren’t tempted by the beautiful displays and smells at the store.
- Save 1-2 hours a week, not shopping.
- If an item is on sale at the store, it’s on sale in the app too.
Con’s of Instacart:
- It’s not free. Instacart charges a small delivery fee, plus a tip for the driver. Grocery prices are more expensive, since they mark up the prices slightly.
- You can’t use your store loyalty card or paper coupons for additional savings.
- Loss of shopping autonomy. If an item on your list is out of stock the Instacart shopper will notify you and purchase a replacement. However you aren’t at the store to find the best replacement in person.
I’ve been using this method to save on groceries for the past six weeks. I’ve cut my grocery bill by about 20% and I only spend a few hours a month shopping and planning. I haven’t started planning my meals around the sales, but I know if I did that I would increase my grocery savings even more.
While this method isn’t for everyone, it works great for our family and it allows me to spend my evenings and weekends with the kids instead of at the grocery store.