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Monday Q&A | Two grocery questions

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

I was wondering if you only buy the groceries you need for that week or if you sometimes stock up on stuff when it’s on sale?


I do indeed stock up when I find grocery items at a good price! I buy nearly all of my white flour at Christmas and Easter, when it goes on sale for $1 or $1.50/pound. I buy a 20-pound box of blueberries when they’re available in June and I make jam and freeze some berries to use during the winter. This year, I bought several half-bushels of peaches to eat, freeze, and make jam with because peaches are cheap in August (I suppose the peach and blueberry purchases are more of a bulk-buying purchase, though.)

I also buy extra toiletries when I find them on sale or when I have a particularly good coupon and I do that with sale-priced meats sometimes as well.

I stock up less now than I did when I was more into couponing. Since I currently rely mostly on generic brands (they’re generally the same price week in and week out), that eliminates a lot of the need for stockpiling.

I sometimes think that life would be easier if I only bought what I needed for each week, but I am positive that if I did that, I’d end up spending more money on groceries than I do now!

Whenever I get the grocery store ads in my mail box and look overthem I never know if something is a good deal or not. How do I know if 5 avocados for $5 dollars is a good deal or night ($1 each) or $1 a pound for chicken breast; is that a good deal? I wish there was a website where I could look at a product such as apples or potatoes and figure out what they normally go for and that way figure out if my money is been spent the right way.

Lately our stores (HEB and Albertson’s in Texas) have been doing this combo loco deal where if you purchase one thing you’ll get 4-5 items free. It seems like a good deal but then again I’ll only use 1 or 2 of the free items and then the other stuff piles up in the pantry. 🙁


Ooh, this is an important topic. Good question! If you want to make sure you’re getting good deals on your groceries, you do have to know your prices.

Some people do this by compiling a price book, Tightwad Gazette style. I did that initially, but after a while, I found that most of the important information was stuck in my head (maybe it stuck there because of writing it down?).

So, I mostly rely on my memory! I’ve been working with a minimal grocery budget for so many years, I’ve got a pretty good idea in my head of what items should cost and what prices I’m willing to pay.

A universal price website seems like a great idea, but prices vary region by region and even season by season within a region, so I’m not surprised that nothing like this exists.

If you’re a beginning grocery shopper, I would do a really basic price book. Take a notebook with you to the store and write down the regular prices of the main items that you buy (alphabetize it or break it into sections so you can find the info later!). When the items go on sale, make a note of that price as well. If you do that for a couple of months, you should get a pretty basic idea of how the sales run and what the normal prices are. You’ll probably also be able to figure out what grocery store in your area is the least expensive option for you.


Readers, I’d love to get your input on stockpiling and also how you figure out (and remember!) what constitutes a good price on groceries. Have at it!

Today’s 365 post: Twirly Chairs

Current $50 Kellogg’s Giveaway post: Adjusting to the Routine (ends tonight!)

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Thursday 23rd of September 2010

You're actually getting 5lbs of flour for 1 or 1.50, not just 1 pound!!


Wednesday 22nd of September 2010

My grocery purchases fall into the following categories: 1) can I grow it? If I can grow it, I plant enough to can/freeze for the year. 2) Basic items such as flour, sugar. I've found warehouse clubs provide staples at good prices. Ex: Sam's - 25 lb rice/8.00. 3) Weekly circulars - check only the front and back. Purchase items I will use in bulk. 4) Locally grown produce. Purchase in bulk, can and freeze. Once a year we take a trip to an apple orchard in another state and purchase several bushes of apples. I freeze sliced apples for pies, make and can applesauce. (This is included in a "get-away" trip for a day or two.) 5) We eat simply, little processed food, bake my own bread, etc. Our monthly grocery allowance (for myself, my husband, my 85-lb. Lab), is $260.00.


Tuesday 21st of September 2010

I found this method to be easier than a price book (mostly because little notebooks don't hold my list very well!):

Write down your list. As you shop, write down the price next to each item. If you shop regularly (at least once per week), and do this for at least a month, the prices of each item you buy on a regular basis become stuck in your head. If you want, you can hang on to each list for a while, and refer back to them as you make your lists for the next week, or as you're looking through the ad fliers.

This is also a great method for ensuring you stick to a budget - before you check out, add up all the prices on a calculator (I use the calculator function on my cell phone). If your budget is really tight, you now know if you need to put anything back before you get to the checkout line.

For things like produce that are sold by the pound, make a generous estimate ($0.44/lb for bananas, 2 lb of bananas weighed on the produce scale, I estimate $1.00), and round everything up to the nearest $0.10 (something priced at $0.41 and 0.49 both get written down as 0.50). This rounding up usually takes care of any tax if you're living in an area that doesn't tax food but does tax things like napkins and toilet paper.


Monday 20th of September 2010

I was just thinking about this last week. I considered keeping my receipts for about a month, or keeping my list for about a month (and writing prices as I pick up the item). Has anybody ever tried either of those techniques? Did it work?

Monday 20th of September 2010

I actually did a whole post on my strategy here: Unfortunately stores are constantly changing prices on a daily basis so it is tough to keep a price book or I would have to be updating it every day. Lucky for me I have come to know what a rock bottom price is and that is when I stock up on things.

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