Saturday, August 21, 2010

Living Happily on a Shoestring: Groceries, Trim the Fat

by Christine Wilkinson

When my husband and I first launched our Commando Financial Warfare in July, it began with me taking over the grocery shopping. In the nine years since I’ve been married, I’ve gone grocery shopping only a handful of times (I know… I’m lucky). Two months ago I couldn’t have told you within a dollar what a loaf of bread cost. I got the idea of changing roles after watching Til Debt Do Us Part in which the show’s host makes the “weak link” in the marriage get a grip on reality – that’d be me. Week one, I planned a menu for the week and then went shopping. I spent $225 on groceries (that works out to $11,700 annually). Week 2, I smartened up and looked at all the specials first. It dawned on me that I should plan my meals around the deals, so I made up the week’s menu based on the savings, then I went shopping at both Giant and Safeway (to get the best deals from each) and spent about $100 for the week (with $50.45 saved in store specials). In that second week of smarter shopping, I shaved almost $7,000 of our annual grocery cost!

In week three, I scoped out the weekly specials, planned a menu and then added a new element to my formula: manufacturer’s coupons. Hunting for coupons isn’t the dirty task it used to be. You don’t even need a newspaper. In today’s world, it’s all on the internet – go online, find a slew of offers, click on the ones that appeal, and then simply hit print and they’ll all come out of your home printer. (I recommend this coupon site This time I tried shopping at Harris Teeter with my VIC card and coupons. My Week Three total was a stunning $89.10 (annual cost… just over $4,600!).

You don’t have to be struggling financially to see that you can save thousands of dollars a year by shopping smarter. If you’re not in debt, put it towards an even better family vacation (and make room for me in your luggage!).

Honestly, I can’t believe the rush I now get out of grocery shopping. For instance, Harris Teeter ran a Super Doubles special last week in which coupon values were doubled up to $1.98. I spent a jaw dropping $69.97 for an entire week’s groceries. You’da thunk I’d just won PowerBall! I couldn’t wipe the dopey grin off my face for hours. Please check out my blog for the full story (see July’s archives):

Examples of this Week’s Deals
Those who have been following my blog already know that I tend to favor Harris Teeter, but if I try to be objective, I must say that this week more than all weeks before they are offering the mother-load of savings! I need to give a quick glossary: BOGOs are Buy One, Get One Free offers. RAH, while also a cheer, stands for “Rings at Half” which means that you don’t have to buy two to get one BOGO item at 50% off. In other words, this week HT is offering a BOGO on Arm and Hammer Laundry detergent (50oz). Let’s say I don’t feel like lugging two containers home. I can purchase one and it will automatically ring up at 50% off with my VIC card. I am not being facetious when I say that I have never seen so many specials and BOGOs in one week. Here are just a few examples: 1lb of strawberries: buy one get TWO free, E-Z peel shrimp 2lb bag: buy 1 get TWO free; Healthy Balance Orchard Juice, buy two get THREE free. BOGOs (all RAH): NY bone-in steak, Hormel bacon, Arnold bread, HT Fresh chicken breast, Coke six pack bottles, Green Giant Steamers, HT dozen large white eggs; HT trash bags; and honestly, so many more. Looks like the perfect week for a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast followed by a huge surf 'n turf dinner with fresh strawberries for all!

My blog provides a full list of grocery stores' specials links -- you can get to it on this link, but for today I’ll give you one-click access to just a few:

Harris Teeter



Whole Foods

Christine Wilkinson is a veteran middle school teacher, who holds a  Master's degree in Education and is currently job hunting. Christine is also a freelance writer who has had articles published in the Raleigh News and Observer and most recently in the Washington Post. She has  lived most of her adult life in the DC-Baltimore area, although she recently returned from a three year detour in the South (Raleigh, NC). She is married with a 7-year-old daughter, which prompts her to observe: "While I may be struggling in this economy, I lead a rich life blessed with a great family and  amazing friends."

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