Grocery Shopping, Non-Consumer Advocate Style

by Katy on June 2, 2010 · 19 comments

Yesterday was day one of The June Food Stamp Challenge, which meant it was time to do a little food shopping, Non-Consumer style.

First on my list was to figure out what to cook for dinner. I knew I had some shredded mozzarella cheese that needed to get used up, so pizza seemed like a natural fit. My family, are big salad fans, (well . . . three out of the four of us. One of us gags on the injustice of lettuce, but I digress) so I chose that as our side dish.

I needed to stop at the credit union in order to withdraw the $404 for our monthly food budget, so I planned a little loop that would include Papa Murphy’s for the pizza toppings and some extra cheese. (I always make two pizzas at a time, as I use the leftovers for school lunches and my teenage son’s second dinner.) I also decided to stop into Fred Meyer (Kroger) for lettuce and apples. Fred Meyer is significantly cheaper than Safeway for produce, not to mention within walking distance from my house.

After my walking errands, (which of course involved a stop into the library) I revved up the ol’ mini-van and hit up my Safeway. With my $10 coupon clutched tightly in hand, I zig-zagged my way through the familiar isles. I normally add the food up to $50 in my head, but this time I jotted the amounts on an envelope, knowing my normal financial cushion was not in place. I took special care to match up coupons and sale items.

I bought:

  • Ten pound bag of sugar
  • One box of Raisin Bran
  • Two boxes of strawberry Special K*
  • One bag of chocolate chips
  • One box of crackers*
  • One jar of salad dressing* (free with coupon, I’ll donate it to the food bank)
  • Two jars of mayonnaise*
  • One 5 pound bag of rice
  • One bag of pretzels*
  • Six cans of tuna
  • One carton of 18 eggs*
  • One box of ice cream bars*
  • One carton of yogurt
  • Two loaves of bread
  • Two packages of sausage*
  • Two whole chickens
  • One avocado
  • Two onions

* Used a store or manufacturer’s coupon.

The total cost was $40.82, which rang up as a 52% savings. Of course, I would not have bought these same items if they were not on sale, so that amount does not ring true.

I wrote that I would continue to stock up on sale items, and today was no exception. I didn’t need that much tuna, sugar or mayo, but I would rather buy these items when they’re super cheap than wait until I’m all out.

I just now looked at my Fred Meyer coupon to add up my totals and see that I was charged for “Vidalia onions” instead of apples. This was $1.29/pound instead of 98¢/pound. I will take this receipt to customer service next time I’m there and have them correct this.

I also got an extra $10 off Safeway coupon from my neighbors, which I’ll use next week.

Until then, total spent for the month of June:

$40.82 Safeway

$3 Papa Murphy’s

+ $3.91 Fred Meyer


This is $3 worth of shredded mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and sausage. I bring my own container, which leaves me with zero packaging, my favorite amount.

My Safeway purchases.

Here is the $1.29 head of romaine lettuce and some "schoolboy" Granny Smith apples which are 98 cents/pound. Because the lettuce is sold per unit, rather than by the pound, I always pick the biggest bunch I can find. It will usually yield three to four nice big salads. The awesome reusable produce bags were bought at a dollar store that was selling them four for a dollar. Sadly, they no longer stock this item.

I had stuck this package of "Toffee Brittle Bars" into the freezer and forgot to bring them back out for the group photo. They were on sale for $1.49. Note that the package is already open. 2 boys + ice cream bars = long gone.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy June 2, 2010 at 9:51 am

I have a question which you reminded me of with your son’s “2nd dinner.” Do the powers that be for food stamps consider the ages, gender, and appetites of teens and some men? I have a son in law with such a huge appetite. I think he could manage eating the budget for four people.


Rebecca June 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm

not to my knowledge , I know in the WIC and food stamps a pregnant woman is considered 2 people, though .


Katy June 2, 2010 at 3:19 pm

The only WIC recipients are:

– Pregnant Women.
-Breastfeeding women with a baby up to 12 months old.
-Non-breastfeeding women with a baby up to 6 months old.
-Children under the age of five.



Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending June 2, 2010 at 11:10 am

Ha! In our house, with two adults and no teenaged boys, those ice cream bars wouldn’t even make it into the freezer. I can’t buy anything like that anymore.

Can you share where/how you got the coupons you used yesterday? I admit I’m not willing to start playing the coupon game, but I’m very conscious of what I buy and when and do very well on groceries. I wouldn’t mind spending maybe 5 minutes per shopping trip on finding the best coupons. And when people talk about “loss leaders,” where are those printed or advertised? Thanks.


Karen @ Abundance on a Dime June 2, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Angela, loss leaders are those few items a store puts on sale each week for a super-low price (often 50% or less of the regular price) They are usually on the front page of store flyers. They’re called loss leaders because the store is taking a loss on those items (selling them to you for less than the store had to pay for them) to lure you into the store so you’ll spend lots of money on other, non-sale items while you’re there. I’m the grocery store’s worst nightmare, as I often just buy the loss leaders and nothing else 🙂


Kim June 2, 2010 at 11:20 am

Katy, have you considered purchasing your shredded mozzarella from Costco? Perhaps you already do 🙂 I don’t recall the price per pund there, but I’ve worked the numbers and remember it was a substantial savings.



Katy June 2, 2010 at 3:17 pm


I had bought a large bag of shredded mozzarella at The Grocery Outlet. I don’t remember the price, but it was a good deal. I’m usually able to buy 2-lb bags at Safeway for $4.99 though.

Sometimes paying a little more can save money if it means buying exactly the amount you need. Less waste and less potential overeating.



WilliamB June 2, 2010 at 4:26 pm

True in general – like Kristen and mushrooms – but cheese freezes so well…


sandy June 2, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I always check my receipt before leaving the store. A couple weeks ago I noticed I was charged for a turnip instead of a rutabaga (they are very different–rutabagas are sweet, turnips are spicy), so I paid 99 cents instead of about 75 cents. When I went back to get it fixed, they gave me a whole dollar back!


Mrs. B June 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm

That head of lettuce would be 2 salads in my house for myself and my husband. We go through almost 5 heads a week. I also buy my cheese at costco. I then grate it and freeze it for later…works wonderfully.

Thanks for all the great tips Katy


Heidi June 2, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Katy, I notice that bread is on your shopping list. Did you ever consider using a breadmaker? I got mine for $6 at Goodwill. Yeast is dirt cheap at warehouse stores, and I buy flour only on sale. I have not bought a loaf of store-bought bread in two years. (I admit, I have bought hot dog rolls, hamburger rolls and bagels, but I still save a ton of money by not buying bread.) I store my bread in the same bags over and over, and I love that I’m not buying the additional plastic packaging every week. Oh, and the smell of baking bread in the kitchen is Simply Heavenly. On a cold winter day my kids will have a big slice of hot bread with butter and boy is that nice.


Karen @ Abundance on a Dime June 2, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Heidi, I make all my own bread, too (as well as ham/hotdog buns, tortillas, etc). I don’t have a breadmaker, though. I use a refrigerator dough recipe which I find amazingly convenient. It takes about 15 min to make up a batch (including kneading). You then put it in the fridge, where it can stay up to a week. It does the first rise in the fridge, then when you want a loaf of bread (or two or three) you just pull out the amount you need, shape the dough (which only takes a couple min) then let it do the second rise and bake it. One batch of dough makes 3 loaves, and I often do 2 at a time b/c one loaf disappears at lightning speed around here! I make all my buns with this dough, too, as well as homemade pizza pockets, donuts, flatbreads, etc. It has really revolutionized the bread-baking part of my life!


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending June 2, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Karen- Thanks for the explanation of the loss leaders. Since I have a CSA delivery and buy bread, dairy, and snacks at Trader Joe’s, there are only a few items I buy at the supermarket these days, like bread, cereal, cooking oil, flour, and some condiments. I tend to just check the price on the stuff I buy each time I’m there. Kind of strange, I guess, but it works. So if a loaf of bread is usually $4, I wait until it’s $2 and buy two loafs and put one in the freezer.

Anyway, I’m thinking about baking our bread and I was wondering if you would share that recipe. It sounds so convenient.


Karen @ Abundance on a Dime June 3, 2010 at 6:12 am

Sure, I’d be happy to share my recipe, it’s here:

I’m always figuring out different things to do with it, if you look for the “Refrigerator Bread Dough” tag on my blog you can easily find all the recipes using it.


Karen @ Abundance on a Dime June 2, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I am pretty vigilant about checking store receipts before I leave the store – it’s alarming the number of times I’ve been overcharged! Just a couple days ago I was charged 1.49 for a leaf lettuce that was on sale for 99 cents (the checker had put in romaine lettuce). Once I was charged twice for a $5 bag of choc chips. The odd time I’ve been undercharged, too. The checker is always surprised when I come back to report that I owe them money 🙂

I’ve spent $16.36 on groceries so far this month (I had $20 in store-reward free groceries, otherwise it would have been $36.36.) I might spend another $15 or so for the rest of the week. I’m aiming to keep it to a maximum of $255 for the month b/c I went way over my usual $300/month back at the end of April so I cut back for May and June.


Magdalena June 3, 2010 at 2:44 am

I’m thinking I can whip up some of those produce bags on the sewing machine, using the tulle net leftover from making my prayer caps. A couple of seams, a casing and drawstring – probably not much more than the super-cheap price you paid for those.


Rebecca June 3, 2010 at 5:54 am

you can do the same with worn out T shirts. They work great for bulk things like sugar and flour.


amelia June 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm

you need to discover e coupons like shortcuts & cellfire
and the wonderful world of overage
If you’ve loaded coupons for the same thing several times all will come off when you buy the item plus you can use your manufacturer and store coupon.
A lot of it isn’t healthy but if you’re donating anyway the overage can pay for your lettuce.
We’ve upgraded to organic produce and milk this way

ie: say a cereal has a .55 e-coupon on one site and a $1 on the other. And they offer the .55 one every 2 weeks so you’ve loaded 2 of them. It goes on sale for 1.49 and when you purchase it it you get $1, .55 and .55 off and you can use a manufacturer coupon too (lets say a printable for $1). 1.49 purchase, 3.10 in coupons = 1.59 overage.

Also learn the Catalina promos. Recently there was a deal buy 6.99 item , use $5 coupon against it and a $3 Catalina printed. If you bought 2 you got 2 of the $3 & bonus $2 Catalina for buying 2. In effect, pay 3.98 and get $8 to spend. These promotions and especially the less expensive qualifiers often don’t have signs in all stores.

There are online coupon databases to find all the available coupons for an item. Highest value usually printables. I like HCW.


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