How a small town family saves money on groceries

small town grocery bananasSMALL TOWN SAVINGS

 

Today we have a guest post from a small town fan of Canadian Budget Binder who wants to share her insights into grocery shopping on a budget when your options are limited.

If you are a fan or a personal finance blogger and would like to share a story please read my guest post guidelines and contact me.

My name is Christine and I live in a small town in Ontario and have followed Mr CBB for quite a while now on the blog and participating in posting my grocery shops with his Grocery Game Challenge since Sept 2012.

 

Our grocery budget

 

I shop for my family of 4 which includes my two adult children, my husband and I. We also can’t forget our family pet fat cat Stuart who eats up a part of our grocery budget as well.

Our grocery budget is $650 per month so I have to make that money stretch and living in a small town can make that challenging for me.

I have tried very hard to keep things within my budget, not always successfully. It’s been a learning experience to say the least.

If you have been hesitating about posting your grocery shops because you think that you can’t save on groceries, think again. If I can do it …you can too.

 

Small town shopping

 

If you are thinking that the people that post their shops have all these stores to go to to help them save money but you are in a small town and just don’t have access to all those stores…..keep reading.

One of the things I have had to deal with in trying to keep the grocery budget in line is the fact that I live in a small town, roughly 6000 people. We have all of two grocery stores to choose from.

One our our small town gems is a grocery store called Foodland which is part of the Sobey’s chain. Another of the small town grocery stores that we have is a Your Independent Grocer, part of the Loblaw’s chain.

Foodland is right across the street from me so I can walk over and get what I need a great part of my small town life. This cuts down on time and petrol another factor to think about when planning my grocery list.

The Your Independent Grocer is out at the east end of our small town and I need to drive there. My options are limited to these two stores unless I go out of town.

This is not always an option depending on the weather, my husbands health on any given day and a lack of flyers for the out of town stores.

Most of the time I shop at Foodland which is available in most small towns. It’s convenient and believe it or not…cheaper than the Your Independent Grocer store another small town grocery store.

 

Product pricing

 

The fact above underscores one of the biggest issues if you want to save money on your groceries. You need to know your prices.

It doesn’t matter how many stores you go to you still need to know the prices for all those regular items we are always buying.

Because there are only the two options for my groceries I don’t price match in town although I do shop the sales and I coupon.

I use a grocery list every time! If you know the regular prices on those items you buy on a regular basis then you can tell when you look at the flyers if it’s a good sale price or a really good price or even a Good Price!!

Lets look at these items one at a time. Knowing your prices… I plan my stock ups by how good the price is. Foodland has the regular flyer deals but they also have price cuts that last 4-5 weeks at a stretch.

I believe Food Basics is doing this now too. It tends to not be that great a sale but every penny helps. If the price cut is on what is considered a basic item for my family I will try to pick up one or two items on price cut every time I go.

By the end of the price cut time I have a nice amount of product stocked in my pantry that I didn’t have to pay full price for! I do much the same thing for the weekly sales but, usually, on a smaller scale.

 

Coupon clipping

 

I also coupon but not to the extent that some people do but I do use them. I get the inserts that show up in our weekend papers and sometimes even manage to get more than one copy of an insert.

Those are red letter days. I look in the store while I’m shopping for the tear pad coupons too. The best source of coupons is online in my opinion.

Sites like Gocoupons.ca, Save.ca, Websaver.ca are great and they mail those coupons to you. They also have printable coupons. Other sources like Smartsource are printable.

There are also sites like Save Big Live Better, Mrs January and Coupon Christine that post deals and such you can take advantage of, and they post daily.

Lets not forget our own Mr CBB!

I always shop with a grocery list when I shop. There are lists online you can print off like Mr CBB’s Free Money Saving Tools.

I have my own way to list what I need to buy with prices listed right on my list and if I have a coupon to use for the product. Figure out what works best for you and then make sure you use that list.

Hopefully these ideas will help you save money on your groceries.

Posting on Mr CBB’s Grocery Game Challenge helps to see just what it is we are buying. Speaking for myself it does make me stop and think about what I am getting knowing that Mr CBB will see what I am purchasing.

Below is a sample shop from January that I posted in the Grocery Game. As you will see I came so close to making my grocery budget and without posting my shops I might not have been able to track my money so well.

Here we go!!! I made it into No Frills for a shop this week for a quick prowl around, but the rest was at Foodland.

Foodland, Jan 24

  • 2 tomato paste @.89- 1.78
  • 3 cans pasta sauce @1.25- 3.75
  • 3 cans tomato sauce @1.88-5.64
  • 1 bread crumbs- 1.99
  • 1 cider mix- 3.99
  • 1 jug water- 5.49
  • 2 eye of round roasts- 8.68+ 9.21, stockpile
  • Tax- .52
  • Total- $41.05, part was stockpile

 

No Frills, Jan 24

  • 1 yogurt- 5.97, 50% discount- 2.99
  • 1 box Bear Paws- 2.44
  • 3 bags frozen veggies @2.97- 8.91
  • 4 Hot Stuffs @1.00- 4.00
  • 2 4l milk @3.97- 7.94
  • 1 cranberry cocktail- 2.97
  • 1 large Royale TP- 7.97
  • 2 boxes 144 count Tetley tea bags @4.97- 9.94
  • 1 bagels- 1.97
  • 1 pork loin- 5.21
  • 2 packs X-lean ground beef- 9.48+9.92
  • bananas- .96
  • cole slaw- 1.27, 50% discount- .64
  • 3lbs carrots- 1.49
  • 2 Sensodyne toothpaste @3.97- 7.94
  • 2 Dove body wash @4.72- 9.44, $2.00 coupon
  • 1 Vasaline body lotion- 4.97, $2.50 coupon
  • Tax- 3.94
  • Total- $98.60, $4.50 coupons, $3.63 discounts

 

Foodland, Jan 30

  • 2 cans soup @ .79- 1.58
  • bananas- .30
  • 1 onions- 1.99
  • 2 boxes cereal @1.99- 3.98, reduced
  • 1 sweet and sour bbq sauce- 2.79
  • 1 doz eggs- 2.99
  • 1 apple juice- 3.29, 1.00 coupon
  • 1 cider mix- 3.99
  • Tax- .52
  • Total- $20.43, 1.00 coupon

 

  • Total budget for the month- $650.00
    Total coupons this week- $5.50
    Total discounts this week- $3.63
    Total spent this week- $151.99
    Total stockpile this week- $8.09, roast
    Total spent this month- $653.06+ $8.09 stockpile
    Total over/under for week- over $21.99
    Total over/under for month- over $3.06
    Left for month- $0.00
    Total coupons/discounts for month- $44.83
    Total carry over- $3.06
    Total YTD- $653.06, $25.00 stockpile

Final Thoughts on Grocery Shop:

So I finished the month over by a whole $3.06, on a 5 week month!!! So much better than last year!!! Last Jan. I was over by some $200.00!!!!

The roasts were a good deal as was the extra lean ground beef. The ground beef was broken up into a number of smaller meal size packs for the freezer.

The stockpile amount helped a lot. The coupons for NF were what I think as the cashier just rang it in as one big coupon for $4.50. The pork loin was a super good price!! $1.00 lb.

It was dollar days at No Frills. I won’t argue with those prices. I am pleased that this month went as well as it did. The first three weeks were low so that helped with the last two weeks when there was some stocking up done.

I have had to wrap my head around 4 and 5 week months as that was part of what messed with me last year. This time I was more aware. All in all a good start to the new year….

 

Grocery savings

 

We all have ways to save money on groceries and we all have to work with what is available to us, whether it is the amount we can afford to spend or the limitations we have in places to do the actual shopping.

Whats for dinner

Another way to save on your grocery bill is to join us every night for the What’s For Dinner post on Facebook at Canadian Budget Binder. The post runs from 5pm until 10pm 7 days a week.

We post what we are making for dinner that night and we share recipes and general chatter and have a lot of fun. All of us are generous with our recipe collections and if you need ideas on what to make your family we have ideas.

If you are wondering what is coming up on sale at your store, chances are someone can tell you as long as you ask.

If you bought something on sale and are wondering how to cook it, again just ask as we are a diverse group of fans on Canadian Budget Binder from an array of cultures.

We have recipes we can post for you and everyone else to try or you can check out the free recipes Mr.CBB posts from other food bloggers at The Free Recipe Depot on Facebook. Another great free source for recipes to help keep your budget in check.

Come join us in the Grocery Game Challenge!! We don’t judge but are there to help you any way we can. Even better, after you have your groceries, come join us on What’s For Dinner! Trust me…you won’t be sorry…….

I hope that if you live in a small town like I do you don’t let the small shops deter you from saving money in your grocery budget because it is possible, I’m proof of that. Planning is important so if you want to save the savings are there as long as you are willing to put in the effort.

-Christine

 

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Related posts:

How I Reduced Our Grocery Budget From $1100 To $600 In 6 Months

Stocked Pantry Grocery Budget

Our Family

We are on a very tight budget with food being the second greatest expense, preceded only by our mortgage. My husband and I have spent most of our family years raising our kids and figured we would have plenty of time to save for retirement. Retirement has arrived for my husband and is staring me in the face and we are trying to get our financial house in order. Our kids are the joy of our lives but raising 4 of them has proven to be costlier than we would ever have imagined. This is our story about how we are beginning to climb out of debt and onto the road towards financial freedom. It is never too late to take control of your financial future.

My family is a single income family of 5 (two parents and three grown kids at home). Last summer, I sat bemoaning my situation (out of control debt and never enough money at the end of the month) and wondering where my money, which in theory should be sufficient to meet our needs, went. I am a professional person and make a modestly decent income, but through the wonder of the internet, I saw families with smaller incomes seeming to be not only debt free, but to be prospering. Something had to give.

How Digging Our Family Out Of Debt Began

During the course of my research, I stumbled upon a blog post about someone who had managed to unload $35,000 of debt. I was intrigued and inspired. He referred to a guy named Dave Ramsey and Financial Freedom University. This was right up my alley.

I borrowed the book from the library and shared his strategy with my husband. Together, we made a plan and informed the family that things were about to change.

In September, we tracked our spending in an effort to understand where we spent our money. We simply recorded the total of all spending. We have always been quite frugal shoppers and discretionary spending on non-essentials has been minimal. This was borne out by what I saw on paper. What to do?  What to do?

The one area where I believed we could trim our spending was on groceries.  In September, we spent $997.86 on groceries and $112.39 on take-out food = $1110.25. Although, I knew we could not stop eating, there was no bill stating we were obliged to pay so much for food. This was the one area I felt I could affect some significant change. The question was how?  My sons are very resistant to rice and beans, in general and a meat based diet, for 5 adults, is very expensive. I challenged myself to get that specific category of spending under control.

Enter Mr. CBB and the Grocery Game Challenge -The Grocery Budget

I began to track all my spending on groceries and played with fine tuning menu planning and watched what other people were doing to see what I could learn from them. While I couldn’t reduce my spending at that time by growing my food, I could analyse what I did right and wrong and make improvements there.

Grocery shopping now became a game to play where I competed against myselfThe key was to create a strategy where I could maximize the buying power of my dollar, all while minimizing the number of dollars I spent. Nothing motivates a competitive person like seeing your progress in print and the feedback one gets from Mr. CBB is like getting stickers for a job well done. I have always created a menu plan and shopped from a grocery list but I needed to figure out how to maximize my spending power even more.

Enter Cassie Howard at Mrs.January.com

Cassie has made an art form of extreme shopping Canadian style. She talks in-depth about how to shop for groceries and save money by purchasing items when they are on sale at rock bottom prices (not all sales are equal), buying sufficient quantities to last from one sale to the next, and where possible, using coupons to reduce costs even further.

In January, I recorded the regular price of all items I purchased along with the sale price I actually paid and all savings from coupon purchases. I found that by shopping the flyers and purchasing only items on sale, forgetting about brand loyalty, I saved approximately 35% on average (over purchasing all items on my list at one store and receiving the benefit of sales only incidentally).

In addition, coupons netted me an 8-10% savings above the 35%. I recorded every item I purchased and was thrilled to see that I had cut my spending down to $951.97. It doesn’t sound like much of a reduction at this point, but my house was overflowing with food which I had been able to purchase for the same amount of money simply by changing my shopping habits.

February’s challenge was to reduce my spending to $700.00 for the month. In conjunction with that, I decided to try cooking ahead to fill my freezer. My work schedule involves working 7 nights in a row followed by 7 nights off. By night 5 of my schedule, I usually am too tired, don’t want to cook and end up buying take out because I don’t have a plan. You know what they say “Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail”. Well now I was a woman with a plan and I planned to succeed.

Freezer Meals

Enter Once a Month Cooking

This time, I happened upon a site called “Good Cheap Eats“. This blogger spoke about her practise of doing a semi-annual “clean your pantry challenge”. Her goals include 1) saving money 2) working through her pantry inventory (to prevent waste as food usefulness expires) and 3) encouraging independence in her kids. I was stoked!

I committed right there and then to cleaning out my pantry /freezer. First, I inventoried my pantry and freezer. Then, I organized the contents and made a menu plan which incorporated the ingredients I had on hand.  I am a very busy person and this took me part of a morning, but once I was done, I had all the information I needed to create a plan (plus I was able to clean out useless items taking up valuable real estate in my cupboard). All inventory lists were fastened to the refrigerator door so that they would be easily referred to and I was in business.

Menu plans were based primarily upon what was in stock already and the grocery list included only filler items needed to complete a meal (milk, fresh produce, etc.). Of course, the decision about what to buy was made referring to flyers. I don’t purchase newspapers so I refer to Cassie Howard’s site. The coupon match-up section not only has items on sale with corresponding coupons, she has links available to see current flyers of major grocery retailers.

I spent most of one day cooking and ended up with 30 meals either ready to go into the slow cooker/oven or cooked and ready for reheating. Although, it is a tiresome process when you do it, freedom from cooking and major clean-up for many days of the month, more than compensates. I also decided, 1 week into the month, to cut another $100 from my budget and challenged myself to spend $600 or less. The official amount spent for the month of February was an incredible $605.95.

Rice and Beans Meal

What have I learned?

The most important lesson was that reducing my grocery budget, in the face of a lot of resistance from my kids, was possible. By learning the best possible prices for meat and other grocery items in my area and refusing to pay more than that price, I was able to slash my spending.

By using coupons, I was able to push my savings even further. To date, in the first two months of 2013, I have saved $180.03 by using coupons. Over the course of the year, that could reach more than $1000.00 in savings. If I won $1000, I would dance a jig around my living room.

By having a plan of attack and taking the time to prepare things ahead of time, I avoided the temptation to blow my budget with expensive take-out meals of convenience. I also managed to find a rice and bean dish which my boys will eat and have begun to serve that dish once every 2 weeks. I will continue to search for budget friendly menu items to reduce my budget even further.  Further, because they see that I am so excited about my successes, they have realized that “resistance is futile”, to quote the Borg, and have come on board with my program.

This process has been a lot of work but I have effectively trimmed $500 from my monthly grocery budget. That is equivalent to working an extra 20 hours per month (net after taxes) for me and since this project has not taken an extra 20 hours per month, I am ahead of the game.

Where will I go from here?

I plan to maintain my grocery budget at $600 per month. Now that I have a sustainable budget, I think the next phase of the plan will be to roll all grocery savings directly into debt repayment. Ultimately, my husband and I plan to be completely debt free by December 2015. We will have trimmed our budget to what we will be able to live on in our retirement years (hopefully our kids will be independent and feeding themselves by then) and all extra income will be directed to fattening up the nest egg until I can retire in 2021. Lowering the grocery budget and digging my family out of debt first then focusing on saving will be well worth it in the end. You never know, we might even be able to squeeze in a few trips before then.

Post Contribution By: Donna R. Hi, I live and work in Hamilton, Ontario.  My family consists of 4 mostly grown kids in post-secondary school (three of whom still live at home), my husband who is retired, our pampered pussy-cat, Sarah, and me.

 

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How to Earn Optimum Points Fast at Shoppers Drug Mart

Shoppers-Drug-Mart-Canada-Deals1 Mrs.January.com

It’s not often that you will see me buying a cart full of groceries at Shoppers Drug Mart (the store is WAY overpriced for most things), but when you do, I have a very good reason for it. That reason is likely because I am getting a boatload of Shoppers Optimum Reward points for buying a whole whack of stuff (or, I’m redeeming those points for a ton of free goodies).

In my opinion, the Shoppers Optimum Rewards program is the best rewards program that is offered in Canada. I am not paid by Shoppers Drug Mart to promote their program (I wish!), but I love it so much that I tell everyone who will listen.

It really is quite simple to rack up lots of Optimum points in a short period.

Tips on How to Earn Shoppers Optimum Rewards Points Fast:

1. Only shop on Bonus Point Days

This should be obvious, but many people don’t know that the only time you should ever set foot inside a Shoppers Drug Mart location is when they are hosting a bonus point promotion (20x the points, 8,000 points when you spend $50, etc.).

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule (prescription pick-up, checking out clearance deals, or only buying their special sale items), but generally I tell people to avoid Shopper’s Drug Mart until a special points promotion is going on.

Tip: Coupons count towards your out-of-pocket total. If you need to spend $50 to earn 20x the points on your transaction, and want to use $20 worth of coupons, you will only spend $30, but will earn points on that $50 price.

2. Watch for Bonus Point Coupons and Offers

There are always special bonus point offers available that you can use to bump up your points faster.

Check out the Shoppers Drug Mart website  for printable point coupons and notifications of in store points offers, and always pay attention to the shelves while you are shopping in store, because some products will advertise special offers (buy 2 Windex, earn 500 points, for example).

3. Always check out the clearance rack

Almost every Shoppers Drug Mart store has a clearance rack inside. Find this rack at your location and make it a habit to check it out regularly. The clearance deals at Shoppers Drug Mart are some of my favourites.

Keep in mind that just because something is on clearance, doesn’t mean you can’t earn points on that item. Check out this area of your store for great deals that you can pick up, and earn points in the process.

Tip: Some clearance items also offer special point offers, so watch for these stickers, too!

4. Buy a Shoppers Optimum gift card

Although you don’t earn points when you buy other store gift cards at Shoppers Drug Mart, you will earn points when you purchase gift cards for Shoppers Drug Mart.

Note: You will only earn regular points on these cards, not bonus points (so no buying a $50 gift card on 20x the points day and expecting to earn 20x the points on that gift card purchase).

Tip: Make sure to purchase a gift card before you shop to earn these extra points.

Like I mentioned, I really do believe that the Shoppers Optimum program is the best rewards program in Canada. There’s no other program out there (that I know of, anyway) that will reward you with so many points for so little cash out-of-pocket.

Be sure to check out my Free E-BookThe Ultimate Guide to Shoppers Optimum Rewards for many more tips on maximizing your points at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Editors Note: I agree with Cassie about the Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Rewards program being the best of its kind in Canada (aside from Canadian Tire ermmm tools are good too). Over the past year we redeemed over $1300  in points to furnish our home with 3 televisions, 2 net-books  blue ray player, hard drive, cologne, perfume, and  food. Shopping on 20x points events, using coupons with flyer deals and being part of the Optimum plus program also helped. As for the electronics they are still working like a charm! Check out Cassie’s Free E-book and shop Shoppers Drug Mart like a pro!

Guest Post By: Cassie Howard is a work at home mom living in Vaughan, Ontario. She writes daily on her coupon blog, MrsJanuary.com  a website dedicated to frugal living. She’s what many would call an extreme couponer and saves an average of 50% off her grocery bill every week. You can connect with Cassie on Facebook and Twitter.

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