Monday, April 20, 2009

8 Tips for Roommates on a Grocery Budget

Last week I dedicated Market to Mouth to families with young children.

I featured Jane, and her family of four (including 2 tweens). Jane was happy to have me shadow her while she shopped at Whole Foods and offer her tips on how to save on the items on her grocery list.

I subsequently posted those tips and tricks to help woman, like Jane, save on their grocery bill, either at Whole Foods or any other grocer. I then proposed six, kid-and family-friendly meals with the items Jane bought.

This week, I'm featuring roommates, Julie (above right) and Lisa (above left). Two Bridget Jones-esque single girls who asked me to teach them how to shop at Whole Foods on a budget.

As with Jane, I shadowed Julie and Lisa as they grocery shopped. However, before we met up at the store, I asked the girls to go through their fridge and cupboards and make a note of what they had, and didn't have on hand.

As I've stressed many times, the easiest way to stick to a grocery budget is to make a list of what you do need, while making a mental note of what you don't need.

When we did meet up, Julie had their list in hand, and Lisa said their budget for a week's worth of groceries was $80.

They also had their own carry bags for their purchases, and their own plastic bags for bulk items. I'd suggested they also bring their own containers for bulk honey, nut butter, and deli items --though they forgot these.

As we headed into the store to shop, I offered up the following tips (I posted similar tips earlier in the spring) to help the girls stay within their budget:
  1. Peruse the Good Stuff For Less and Whole Deal value guide for sale items and coupons. Both are available at Customer Service, and also online. Lisa found a two-for-one coupon in the Whole Deal (pic above) for her favorite bread.
  2. Start in the produce section, and buy Good Stuff For Less in-season produce that's plentiful, and thus cheaper. Build volume in your cart by purchasing the items you'll consume daily, that is, fresh vegetables and fruit.
  3. Don't buy more perishable items than you need, since tossing out wilted lettuce is akin to throwing dollar bills in the trash. So be mindful of how much you'll need for a week.
  4. Buy dry goods like nuts, rice, granola, trail mix, honey, nut butter, in bulk. You'll always pay more for packaged dry goods, and when you buy these items in bulk you can control the weight and thus the cost of what you're buying.
  5. Buy Whole Foods 365-generic brand products, like butter, milk, yogurt, cheese, bottled, tinned, frozen and snack items. WFs brand is cheaper than other brands and just, if not more, flavorful.
  6. Buy WF's Whole Catch frozen fish. For singles, keeping fresh fish in the fridge is precarious since impromptu dinner dates mean fresh fish will likely go off before you get around to cooking it.
  7. Check out the sale signs at the meat counter and buy what's on sale. If you buy more protein than you imagine you'll need for the week, freeze meal-size portions that you can pull from the freezer on an as-need basis.
  8. Stick to your list, i.e. no impulse purchases! But do allow yourself one treat within your means per week.
Tomorrow, I'll post Lisa and Julie's shopping list and talk about where they easily stuck to their list, and where they had trouble resisting impulse purchases.

I'll also begin to propose meal ideas based on their list.

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