It’s time for another edition of the 64 Dollar Grocery Budget Challenge. This week, Cristie from Reinvention Girl will tackle one of New Jersey’s grocery chains, Stop & Shop. Stop & Shop is known to have great groceries, but at a high price. I was so impressed with how well Cristie did. Check out her tips and tricks below.
Some Grocery Background
I have to tell the truth, when I accepted the $64 grocery challenge, my first thought was “piece of cake” quickly followed by “oh, lord what have I done?”. See, I have a little history with grocery budgets. A few years ago, when we were high on debt and low on income, I had to get ninja-like with my grocery skills in order to feed my family of five on a very, very limited income. I spent hours pouring over recipes, making lists, clipping coupons and tracking every penny that I spent each week at the variety of stores I shopped at to get the best deal on each item I purchased. The result was that we ate just fine on very little money and my kids were never the wiser that mom and dad were struggling. During this time Stop & Shop was always the place I felt most at home because it reminded me of where we moved here from, as it was part of the same familiar chain of grocery stores.
Fast forward a few years and we have nearly zero debt and substantially more income than those lean years just a short time ago. However, money will always be an object, so I haven’t been a Pea Pod regular just yet, but that may change after this.
What I realized when I accepted this challenge was that I have fallen pretty far away from that budgeting grocery ninja of yore. Now, I tend to shop where it’s convenient. I buy what I want when I want it and I do a fraction of the planning that I used to do. The result of that is when I am forced to take a long hard look I’m pretty grossed out by the money I spend on food!
This challenge forced me to get serious about grocery shopping again, and while I hopefully never have to go back to the old days, I am happy to save money in these days with just a little more planning and foresight.
You Can Shop on a Budget at Stop & Shop
We are a pretty simple group; our breakfasts and lunches tend to be the same for everyone, every day. The kids eat cereal or fruit for breakfast and PB&J or turkey sandwiches with tons of fruit for lunch, while the grown up have green smoothie breakfast and salads for lunch. As you might imagine, the bulk of our shopping is done in the produce section every week, which can get costly, but I’ve learned what to save and splurge on.
Dinners tend to be where I overspend because I have gotten bad at simply checking our pantry for what we already have and matching recipes to grocery lists. With just a little planning, I was shocked at how much money I saved.
The first thing I did was eyeball the pantry and the refrigerator and make a list of what was there. We were pretty well stocked on non-perishables, so I focused on the fresh produce and protein that I would need for the week.
Stop & Shop Shopping Tricks
In my planning, I discovered this cool (new?) app called Flipp, that sends Sunday circulars right to your phone. I could view the Stop & Shop circular and circle items that matched my list and flipp kept track for me. It was so cool because I could plan which sales to look for, which is helpful because there are a few things I won’t bend on, like poultry (including eggs) and some fresh fruit.
So, I used Flipp to find what Stop & Shop had on special that day and worked my fruit and protein list around that. They had deals on organic berries and avocados that were so good my strawberries were actually cheaper than the non-organic version and I have enough avocados to eat for lunch and dinner!
One trick in the produce aisle is buying whole fruit instead of being tempted by the pre-sliced. A whole pineapple was on $2.99 as opposed to close to $6 for a fraction of that in already cut pineapple. It takes a few extra minutes at home to prepare, but it is so worth it to have “exotic” fruit on a budget!
Another Stop & Shop trick (because they have such a huge variety of food choices) is to shop the multicultural aisles for deals. For instance, black beans and salsa that you may find in the “Mexican food” aisle are always cheaper than in the canned goods or snack aisle. If what you’re looking for can be in any way thought of as ethnic (Mexican, Italian, Asian, Kosher) go to that aisle first. I don’t know why, but stuff is almost always cheaper there.
I also rely on Stop & Shop’s store-brand, Nature’s Promise, for many other purchases. I’ve found this label is one of the most reasonable natural/organic brands out there, so we often get their poultry and natural peanut butter because it is cheaper and tastes better than many others. This day I bought both peanut butter and a bag of individual free-range, naturally-fed chicken breasts that I can use many different ways (chicken tacos, pasta with chicken, chicken veggie stir fry) for dinner.
Even with a list, I reverted to my old ninja-skill of plugging in everything to my phone calculator just to make sure I was staying on track. It takes a bit more time to weigh all my fruit and veggies, but it was so worth it in the end and Stop & Shop makes it easy with tons of scales and bags properly place. You can even tag your stuff with a price sticker to make checkout quicker. So, in the end you might even save time.
Much to my pleasure, I got out for under $64 and we have everything we need for a week of snacks, breakfasts and dinners that are all healthy, fresh and just how I like them.
Thanks to this challenge, we’ll go back to shopping smart again! Maybe I’ll even try the Pea Pod delivery!
Great Job, Cristie! I hope Cristie does try out PeaPod delivery. It was a staple for this mama when I was too pregnant to grocery shop. To learn more about Cristie and her family, check out her blog Reinvention Girl.