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Can You Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half Shopping Only Once a Month?

I just finished reading Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family [1]. It was an impromptu read that I found while browsing the electronic book list for our library.

I didn’t expect much from the book, but I actually enjoyed it. I hate grocery shopping, and I’m always looking for ways to spend less on groceries. Not just less money, but less time too! After reading the book, while I was skeptical about the savings, I decided to implement the plan to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.

Grocery Shopping Strategy

The biggest takeaway I had was converting to a once a month shopping [2] trip. But not just your typical once a month shopping trip. Here’s the grocery shopping strategy in a nutshell:

  1. Create an Inventory. Write down everything in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer by category. I was surprised to find out we actually had quite a bit of food on hand, even though it felt like we had absolutely nothing to eat.
  2. Review Current Ads for Loss Leaders. This was easy using one of the weekly price monitoring services [3]. I have a local favorite, but Coupon Mom [4] covers most areas.
  3. Plan a Monthly Calendar and Meals. Using the list of inventory and loss leaders you created in the first two steps as a basis, plan out meals for a month. But plan it around your schedule for the month. For example, I had to include ingredients for my chicken chili that I enter in our neighborhood Halloween chili cookoff. This was pure torture. However, I’m hoping this step is repeatable and I can use it in future months with just a little tweaking.
  4. Make Your Grocery List. I used the free printable shopping list [5] that works with the book. Since it’s available in a word document, I customized it based on what we typically buy and the order of our store.
  5. Shop Once and Don’t go Back. Go shopping. And the most important part, don’t go back to the store for the whole month. You know the drill, you run in for 2 things and drop $50.

Shopping Strategy Add-Ons

In addition to the focus on the monthly shopping trip, there were some additional tips worth mentioning:

Maintain a Price List. So that you know when to stock up if you see a sale, they did recommend keeping a price book. Mine is very basic, but it does help me decide which things to buy at the grocery store versus buying at Costco.

Couponing. The book touches on couponing, but it doesn’t make that the focus of your purchases. You can add coupons [6] and price matching to your shopping trip, but you don’t have to make yourself crazy over it.

My Monthly Shopping Trip

After spending a considerable amount of time planning and preparing, I shopped at two stores: our grocery store and Costco. Since we had to stock up on quite a few things to last us a whole month, some of the items were cheaper buying in bulk [7]: our milk, cheeses, chicken, pickles, and steak. Everything else, we bought at our grocery store.

Time Saved. Normally, I waste at least an hour every week at the grocery store. On my big shopping trip, it did take longer, I spent about an hour and a half at the grocery store. But if it works, that should save me at least 2-3 hours by the end of the month. The best part though, was not having to set foot in the grocery store last weekend!

Money Saved. Typically, our weekly grocery bill is around $100 and we drop another $100-$200 or so at Costco each month. Around $585 for the month last time I checked. Our bill for the “big shopping trip”: $200 at the grocery store on my 6% cash back card [8] and $100 at Costco. If we don’t go back to the store for the rest of the month, we could save about $300 for the month, which actually is about half our typically grocery bill.

Action Plan

Now, I can’t tell you this isn’t going to be perfect. After two weeks, we ran out of milk. So we might have to make a mini-trip to the store for milk and some fresh produce (our fresh fruits and vegetables will not last a whole month). However, I do enjoy the free time I have when I use to grocery shop. And it’s really nice to know what we’re having for dinner (and that I actually have the right food in the house to make it!)

Whether or not it will last beyond this month is anyone’s guess…

Have you tried once a month shopping? What was the result?

More Ways to Save Money on Groceries