Friday $avings: The "Diet Killed the Grocery Budget" Edition

We've been on the New South Beach Diet for nine days and I saw a number on the scale this week that I haven't seen in years - talk about a good feeling! So we know the change in eating habits is working and we're not starving. However, if the diet has killed something, it's my grocery budget! After reading so many blogs where people seem to be able to feed their family of ten on a grocery budget of $40/month (OK, maybe I'm slightly exaggerating - but not totally!), I figured I should be able to feed the two of us on $40/week. I blew it in January and I've already blown it this month...which is why I'm writing this post.

I have a grocery question for all your truly frugal shoppers out there. I see the coupons, I look at your pictures and shopping hauls, and I know what's in my pantry/fridge/freezer. Most of it (i.e. cereal, bread, oatmeal, granola bars, cake mixes, pasta, instant potatoes, etc.) was cheap, but it's also not allowed on our current diet. Although we can slowly mix some of those items back in during Stages 2 and 3, we'll never be able to eat like we did before. I realize that I'll be able to find coupons and in-store sales for things like Jell-O (a good substitute for a sweet dessert), cheese, and chicken breasts, but here's my question:

How do you keep the grocery budget under control when you need to be buying a lot of protein (lean ground beef, steaks, Canadian bacon, eggs, etc.) and fresh vegetables?

Last summer we had our first garden, and it was great. We had all sorts of fresh produce - tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, peppers, leeks, lettuce, etc. We also found that it wasn't cheap to start a garden. We had to buy dirt, seeds, fertilizer, weed-control fabric, seed trays, and rent a garden tiller. I will say that during the process, we learned ways that we can (and will) do things differently this summer and save money, but we also realized that having a garden doesn't give you free food.

My point for all of that, is that in the summer, I'll be able to save some money on groceries by collecting the vegetables from my own backyard, but I don't plan on getting a cow or keeping chickens or making my own cheese. And when all (or most) of my garden produce is gone (like it is now), how do I save money on veggies in the winter months?

I'm open to hearing your ideas.

And just so we don't end on a low note, I did get two good deals this week. Our local grocery (Ingle's) had a special this week on Tyson family packs of All Natural, Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts: $1.78 lb. I purchased three packs to use and put in the freezer for later.

I also finally made it to Target on Sunday and picked up two packs of Pictureka playing cards - one for us and one for a gift. Each pack was $5.24 - $5.00 (x 2) coupons, which gave me a final price of $0.24/each! I'll take that.

My biggest beef is with the state - they charge sales tax on the price it was BEFORE coupons - so I paid tax on the $5.24 amount, rather than the $0.24 amount. Total rip off by my own government, but I won't even get started on the political front! :-)

Week-end Reminder: The 2010 Winter Olympics start on Friday night at 7:30 ET/PT (NBC) - I LOVE the winter olympics and will spend more time watching TV in the next two weeks than I will the rest of the year. Seriously.

Also, Sunday is Valentine's Day - do something special with your honey or your family or for a friend who doesn't have anyone to celebrate with this year. Look around you for new widows or single people at church or work who could perhaps use a smile and some flowers or chocolates.

Head over to visit Jessica (and linking pals) over at today's Life as Mom post. All sorts of frugal ideas from people who probably aren't as confused about groceries! ;-) Have a great week-end and remember, send me those frugal grocery ideas! :-)


  1. Well, I can tell you what REALLY cuts down on $ spending for us at the grocery store...menu planning. And I don't mean just dinner, I plan out breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner for the week. I buy ONLY what is on my grocery list according to the menu and it has been known to save me $100 or so.

    I know that when mom started South Beach (she's a size 6 now btw), she found that Kroger and Food Lion had very discounted meats because they were at the expiration date. I don't know what to tell you about produce there, it's incredibly expensive. Sam's usually has good produce in bulk. You could try buying more fruit & veggies that last longer like cukes, sweet potatoes, onion, celery, carrots, parsnips, eggplant, apples etc rather than grapes and softer things that go bad faster. Those also tend to be more filling as well.

    Good luck and post whatever you find works because we will be needing that info when we get back. We eat primarily fresh fruit and veg and meats, not many packaged stuff in our house at all...it's cheaper here.

  2. Hi there! We are on a diet similar to South Beach. It's like a combo of it and Atkins, using principles from both. Basically high protein and low carb.

    I did it while trying to get preggers and lost 50 pounds in a year! Now my baby is almost 5 and I am on again. Since January I have lost 10 pounds!

    Anyway, I rely a lot of frozen and canned varieties of veggies and fruits that are naturally low in sugar. Much cheaper than fresh in the winter for many varieties.

    We shop alternately at stores like Save-a-Lot and Aldi where we can find dairy for cheap. We eat a lot of egg based dishes. We also eat lots of beans. True they do have high carbs but they are also very high in protein. And you cannot beat the amount of fiber in them! They move through you! And they are complex carbs, not simple carbs which burn fast and tun into sugar, then fat storage.

    Nuts and yogurt and hard boiled eggs are our snack mainstays.


    Good luck!

  3. The trick with meat is to stock up as much as you can afford and freeze it. We really like chicken tenders, which can be very, very pricey. So when they are half-price (or better), I get a bunch of them for the freezer.
    Can you eat pork on your diet? Sometimes we have pork tenderloin BOGO. I found out that each vacuum-sealed package actually has 2 tenderloins! In fact, half of one is probably enough for 2 people. So in a BOGO deal, you'd have 8 meals! Just divide them up before freezing.
    Sales are cyclical, and I'd say they come around 12 weeks apart. That is, if something is on sale now it will probably be a good deal again in about 3 months. But remember, if one store has it on sale this week, chances are someone else will have it next week or the week after that. So you don't have to stock up as if it'll be a year before you see the sale again!
    I have a BOGO tip for you, but this comment is very long so I'm going to put it in another one.

  4. Okay, so here's my BOGO tip. My apologies if you already know this, LOL!
    They always discount the lowest price. So if you pick up one 3.99 package of meat and another for 4.79, they will only take off 3.99. I'd rather save 4.79, wouldn't you?
    So what you want to do is to match your prices as closely as possible. It's a pain going through the packages, but well worth it. No matter how many you buy, make sure to match the prices--that means all 6 in the 3.99 range. The difference between highest and lowest should be as slight as possible! I try to keep within pennies of each other.
    I hope my meaty tips help you save! And congrats on the successful start of your diet--good for you!

  5. Regarding the meat, I'd (again) mention the "buy a cow" idea for beef. When my parents went in with their friends and split the meat from a local farm, they got TONS of neatly packaged steaks, ribs, roasts, stew meat, and ground beef, and it all averaged out to about $2 for 2 lbs. or something amazing like that. And it was fresh, free range, organic (I think) meat. Can't beat that, as long as you have a freezer to store it in. My parents, brother's family, and we all used it and it lasted about a year (for half a cow). So there's my two cents... :o) For veggies, I would also check out local farmer's markets and stands type things - the produce is usually much fresher, more local, and I find, cheaper. Good luck with your diet!

  6. Those are all great suggestions...thank ladies! This was just what I was hoping to get - info to help me save some $.

    @Mom2fur, the BOGO made so much sense, but I hadn't thought about it that way. Thanks!

    @Kel, will keep you posted if we learn how to do this cheaper!

    @Beth, great idea about the half-cow! I'll look into that again.

    @Niki, 50 lbs!?! Well done! There is hope! :-) Thanks for the encouragement and the suggestions. We don't typically do frozen, but canned isn't a bad idea during the winter especially. Thanks!

  7. Hi Carrie!

    I'm one of "those" frugal shoppers :) My hubby and I budget $50 a week in groceries for just the two of us. I too notice that lots of the great grocery deals are packaged stuff --we don't eat much of that either.

    We eat primarily lean meats, veggies (including white potatoes, which are probably not on your diet:) and veggies, plus some whole grains.

    My secret is to buy in bulk on sale. Loved your chicken breast deal! We can get boneless skinless breast for 1.79 # sometimes -- usually $1,99 #. I buy a ton and precook it and freeze for all sorts of meals. We buy ground round the same way for 1.99#. Sometimes I can get sirloin for 2.59#.

    Top round is a pretty lean cut of meat, that I can pick up for about $2.19 on a good sale, I use this for roasts in the crock pot. Pork loin is also very lean and it goes on sale for 1.59#. I buy 2 or 3 and cut them up into chops and leave some for roasting.

    In the winter, we eat most of our veggies frozen, by matching coupons with sales, we get these from free to .50 per bag/box.

    If I had to pick the most important thing that has helped us stick to our budget it would be buying the meat in bulk while on sale. There is no way we could do the $50 a week if we had to pay full price for even part of our meat.

    In our area (Mich) a half a cow goes for anywhere between $1.99 - $2.59 including processing per pound. In case you are thinking about that.


  8. Hi Carrie: You might try learning some canning techniques during your garden's peak production time. Canning and freezing go a long long way in cutting the vegetable budget during the winter months. My dad (Farmer Ray) is usually chowing on his own produce (including his homemade pickles) long (long, long) after the growing season.



  9. I have found that when dealing with a special diet issue (for us it is food allergies) stocking up on sales is even more essential - stock up more when you see a great sale. That chicken you got? Go get 10 more packs LOL That is a great price for great chicken and is a very healthy protein to go along with your diet.

  10. I agree with Jennifer. Stockpiling is the way to keep the cost down big-time. Check out my Frugal Friday post for more about stockpiling.


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