Which Grocery Store is the Cheapest?

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I am a math nerd! I sing the quadratic formula to my kids as a lullaby, we watch Donald in Mathmagicland about once per week, and I love creating spreadsheets for everything.

So, perhaps my favorite aspect of couponing is creating a price comparison sheet. Here is my step-by-step process and the results of comparing prices at four stores!

Creating a Price Comparison Sheet

The first step in creating a price comparison sheet is selecting items that you want to compare. I like to pick 20-30 items that you commonly purchase from various categories (household items, dry goods, produce, meat, frozen, and dairy).

Once you have your list of items, go to each store that you usually shop at and write down the quantity and price of each item on your list. If you plan on using this spreadsheet as a guide weekly, try to record the price of the item when it is not on sale. This way, when you find an ad or coupon for $.50 off, you can look at your spreadsheet and calculate the price.

I recorded the sale price because it helps me get an overall picture of the cost at each store since some of the stores I was comparing have “everyday low prices” and others run frequent sales.

Once you get home, it’s time to create a spreadsheet!

It is important that you are comparing similar sizes. And since this is not always possible, I like to calculate price per unit. For example, 96 diapers at store one cost $18.99, 108 at store two cost $19.77, and 168 at store three cost $34.98. The cost per diaper is $.20, $.18, and $.21 at each store respectively.

If you are a math nerd like me, you may want to go a step further and find the “overall value.” To find the overall value, we must multiply the cost per unit by a standard quantity. If we choose a standard quantity of 96 diapers then the “cost” at each store is $18.99, $17.57, and $19.99.

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Using a Price Comparison Sheet

Comparing price per unit for each item allows you to see what type of items are best to buy at each store. If one store is best for dry goods, household items, and frozen you can shop there one time per month (or every few months if you are good at planning and have the storage space). Then you can shop at the best store for produce, meat and dairy products weekly.

When I was a super-couponer, I would take my price comparison sheet to the store weekly and make any updates necessary.  Now I only update about once per year.

It is also important to note that price is not the only factor to consider. Store convenience, product selection, and product quality are all important to me. Others factors you may consider when choosing a grocery store are customer service, carry out service, payment types accepted, ability to use coupons, membership fees (such as a Sam’s Membership), and online ordering.PriceComparison2

My Findings

Based on a list of twenty five items at four stores (Kroger, Walmart, Sam’s, and Aldi), I discovered that every store is cheaper on at least one item. I discovered that, overall, Aldi is the best to shop at! However, their meat department was higher than every other store.

I purchase dairy and produce on a weekly basis. Aldi and Walmart were within twenty cents of one another in these two areas, so I would probably choose Aldi over Walmart simply due to the fact that they seem to have better quality produce.

I purchase frozen foods, meat, dry goods, and household items as needed on a monthly basis. So, I can make one trip to Sam’s and/or Walmart each month to get the items that are cheapest there.

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*This post was not intended to tell you which store will be cheapest for your family. It was merely showing you how to choose the store that will be cheapest for your family. Your family may eat totally different foods than mine, so please compare items that are on your typical grocery list. Also, item prices may vary among locations.

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No Time For Coupons

I used to be big into extreme couponing! When my husband and I first got married, I was unemployed. My husband was in graduate school and worked as a shift leader at Blockbuster until after midnight most nights. So, I spent roughly twenty hours per week reading sales ads, matching coupons to sales, and shopping at three different stores. My friends made fun of my endless stash of toothpaste and toilet paper but I was convinced that super couponing was worth the effort.

However, as our family grew and our eating habits changed I began to have a few problems with couponing:

  1. Coupons are mostly for name brand products. I can usually buy generics for the same price or cheaper than the name brand with a coupon (especially when factoring in the cost of the paper I bought to get the coupons).
  2. Coupons usually don’t cover produce, dairy products, and meat. As we have begun to eat healthier, I have begun purchasing less pre-packaged boxed and frozen foods.
  3. Couponing takes time. As a busy mom of two, I don’t have the time to go to multiple stores and spend hours cutting coupons and planning my shopping trips.

Even though I love a good deal, I gave up on couponing for three years. That is when I discovered the Ibotta app and the Kroger app.

Kroger App

I primarily shop at Kroger because it is adjacent to our apartment complex and it seems to have a decent produce department. I save time by only going shopping at one store one time per week.

I downloaded the Kroger app, which features digital coupons and the weekly ad. When I downloaded the app, I linked the app to my Kroger Plus card. Each Friday, I go through the digital coupons and simply add the ones I want to use to my Kroger card by clicking the plus sign next to the desired coupon. When I go shopping at Kroger, I just swipe my Kroger Plus card and the coupon is automatically applied to my purchase. No clipping or extra time at the register required. My favorite part of the Kroger digital coupons is that they have a Free Item Coupon that you may download each Friday and redeem up to a week later.

I know many of my readers shop at other stores, so research your grocery store to see if a similar app is available.

The Kroger App is available on iTunes and in the Google Play Store.

Ibotta

Ibotta is a rebate app. Before I go shopping, I just select the store I wish to go to and browse the available rebates. I simply click on rebates I may use, answer a survey question or watch a brief video, and unlock the rebate. When I purchase the item, I simply scan my receipt (select stores allow you to link your store purchasing card to eliminate this step). After your rebate total becomes greater than $20 you can cash out to your paypal account or get a gift card to several popular stores.

Each week, Ibotta features a few “Any Brand” rebates such as $.50 off any brand of milk, eggs, or bananas. I buy mostly generic brands, so I appreciate this feature. They also offer bonuses when you redeem a certain number of rebates. In less than one month, I earned $35 in rebates simply by buying items I would otherwise buy.

If you sign up through my link, you will receive a $10 bonus when you redeem your first rebate and I will receive $5.

What ways do you like to save money that don’t take much time or effort?

Amateur Catering On a Dime

This week I was given the opportunity to cater an event. My client was very easy to please, so I knew that creating a menu would not be the challenge. (Did I mention that the “client” was the Coach, and I was doing this for free?) My real challenge was working on a shoe string budget of $300, and I am proud to say that I came in under budget by $50!

Here is what I learned from my amateur catering experience.

Plan for the maximum number of people. The event only had 15 RSVPs, but hundreds of people were invited. We settled on planning for 80 people to attend. For a thirty minute reception at 5:00 p.m., we assumed 8 pieces of food per person (around 800 pieces of food total). It turned out there were actually only 20 people in attendance, but half of our food was eaten. We donated the remainder of the food to a very appreciative police precinct.

Know where to shop (and what to shop for). Serving trays and utensils are great finds at Dollar Tree. They have a variety of clear plastic that looks elegant and we were able to get everything we needed for less than $10. Warehouse stores are great for anything that needs to be purchased in bulk. We purchased almost all of our food from Sam’s Club.

Shop prepared. Bring a calculator and a pad of paper. While I did not know my menu in advance of shopping, I went in knowing that I wanted three desserts, two savory foods, and two salty snacks. I wrote down the price and quantity of each item as I added it to my cart. Towards the end, I used my calculator to ensure I was well within my budget.

Know your facility’s policies. The facility that our event was hosted in does not allow water bottles to be served. This came as a shock to me. My original plan was to buy six cases of water. Instead, I had to plan on cups, ice, and gallons of tea and water. This increased my cost and took up more room in my refrigerator.

Remember your wallet. Maybe this tip is only specific to me and my “mommy brain.” When I walked up to the checkout line, I realized that I had left my debit card at home in my diaper bag. I had to call the Coach to come bail me out.

Clean out your freezer. All of our food had to be stored somewhere. The night before I went to buy all of the food, I cleaned out our deep freezer and refrigerator. Good thing, too! The food fit perfectly in the space I cleared out.

Keep everything away from the kids! This one is pretty self-explanatory. Somehow your toddler will just know that there are tons of desserts and snacks nearby. Make sure everything is kept well out of reach, or you may spend part of your budget replacing food that was “accidentally” knocked over.

Give yourself plenty of set-up time! We live in a city that has some heavy traffic around the time I needed to set-up. In order to have an hour to set up, I planned to leave thirty minutes earlier than I normally would have. I did not have any problems with traffic, but it turned out that I needed the extra time for set-up.

I hope these tips help you the next time you are planning a party or an event.

Download my Menu Plan. There are blank copies for you to use for your event, as well as sample filled out pages from mine.

Healthy Lunch Meal Prep: Sweet Potatoes, Chicken, and Sweet Peas

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I like to prep healthy lunches for the week on Saturday, so that I can simply toss lunch in the microwave during the week.

This week, I am having sweet potatoes, chicken, and green peas.

I love sweet potatoes! They are incredibly dense in nutrients and have the potential to regulate blood sugar. Not to mention how unbelievably delicious they are.

Simply roast sweet potatoes and chicken. Cook a package of frozen peas according to the package directions. Then layer one cup sweet potatoes, one cup peas, and one cup chicken in a storage container. This dish pairs well with broccoli as well.

Typically, one container makes two adult size portions or a portion for one adult and two toddlers.

I freeze the containers I will be eating towards the end of the week and pull them out 48 hours before I plan to eat them.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 cups sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and cube four cups of sweet potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, honey, and cinnamon. Stir until potatoes are coated evenly. Roast for 30-45 minutes.

Paprika Chicken

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut chicken breasts into 1” cubes and place in a single layer in a greased baking dish. Sprinkle seasonings over the chicken and bake for 30 minutes.

Time

“Time flies when you are having fun.”

They should modify that to say “Time flies no matter what you are doing.”

My husband and I just celebrated our fourth anniversary. Four years ago, I thought we would be living an upper middle class lifestyle. Cal would be working as a professor of Political Science. I would be a stay at home mom. We would have all of our laundry in the basket, dinner on the table every night, and not a dirty dish to be seen.

Somehow, I have let the last four years slip past me.

Our son will be two this October. Unfortunately, my dreams of staying at home were not feasible.
I had to go back to work four weeks after Ethan was born in order to keep my job. Those four weeks at home were difficult for me. Ethan refused to latch on, so I had to exclusively pump. When you are pumping eight to twelve times a day for thirty minutes at a time, it feels like a full time job. I felt like I was spending most of my time hooked to a machine, while everyone else got to feed my precious baby. Looking back, I was probably suffering from mild postpartum depression.

Just before Ethan turned one, I took a job as a teacher. I went to work before he woke up in the morning. In order to lesson plan, I insisted that he nap for the first couple of hours after I got home from work. This gave me two or three short hours with him in the evening each night.

Right now, I am in the middle of what has been the best summer of my life. We moved to Nashville early in order to spend time getting plugged into the community before Cal starts law school this fall. I am home 24/7 with the two most important men in my life, Cal and Ethan. We have been to the zoo, the library, the park, a flea market, and a farmers market. We have read books, played games, sung songs, and danced around. We have smiled and laughed as a family more in the past month than we have in the last year. I have been stress free and happy. And, I don’t want it to end.

As I search for a teaching position this fall, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I want so desperately to stay at home with Ethan. I want to be the one to watch him grow and develop. I don’t want a daily report card on his potty training progress. I don’t want to guess as to what he is doing all day long. I want to teach him about Christ and the Bible and the alphabet and numbers. I don’t want to outsource mommyhood to some stranger at a daycare.

I have struggled for the past few days over whether this feeling is a God given one or a selfish desire. The Bible instructs us to train our children and it also tells us not to worry about being provided for. But it seems foolish to not work and stay home when I am not sure we could make rent each month.

We have been working on the Dave Ramsey plan to get out of debt as quickly as possible after law school so that we may buy a house. However, I cannot help but think that my child’s spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth are more important than being able to own instead of rent. Perhaps giving up on my own worldly grasp of financial stability would aid my own spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth.

Regardless of whether I decide to stay at home or work, one lesson I would like to incorporate into my daily life is “Time flies no matter what you are doing.” I want to be very intentional about every second of my time because I can never get those seconds back.

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