Our Frugal Grocery Shopping Strategy

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Last month, consumer sentiment dropped to the lowest level in six months. However, the economy is strong. Why are consumers feeling down about the economy? Inflation is slowing, but prices are still going up. Most consumers don’t understand this. We are all still anchored to the price we paid in 2020. I want to pay $1.99 for a dozen eggs, not $4. That’s a rip-off! This is what everyone feels when we go grocery shopping. That’s why consumer sentiment is taking a beating, according to the economists.

Like other consumers, the RB40 household spends more money than ever on groceries. However, a reader commented that our monthly grocery bill is pretty low for 3 people. I checked and they were right. We spend about $530 per month on groceries. That’s pretty good for a family of 3. Interestingly, this isn’t much more than what we spent on groceries in 2017.  I wrote a post on how we keep our food expenses low. Back then, we spent around $466/month.

According to the USDA, a family of 3 spends about $1,000 per month on groceries. That seems really high. How did we keep our grocery spending at a reasonable level? Today, I’ll share my grocery shopping strategy and everything we purchased in May. Let’s save some money!

Grocery shopping strategy

One popular grocery shopping strategy is buying bulk. However, it doesn’t work for me. I hate Costco with a passion. The shopping experience is awful and it’s out of the way for us. I don’t think their grocery price is even that cheap. I’m sure some people can take advantage of buying bulk, but that’s not our strategy. Instead of buying bulk, we use other strategies to save money. Here goes.

  1. Weekly sales. The first strategy is buying sales. Yes, I’m still clipping coupons after all these years. Fortunately, coupons are digital now. It’s much more convenient than paper coupons. Every Wednesday, I check the store app for what’s on sale and load up on those items. IMO, buying sales is cheaper than buying bulk. I buy whatever is on sale and figure out what to make with them.
Digital coupons are great.
  • Shop widely. In the next section, you’ll see that we go grocery shopping very often. This is due to price differences between stores. For example, Trader Joe’s frozen gyozas are cheap and delicious. However, meat at Trader Joe’s is overpriced. We usually buy whatever protein is on sale at Safeway. Actually, my favorite grocery store in Portland is WinCo. They have a great price, but it’s out of the way for us. I go there about once per month to pick up hot chocolate, TP, flour, pasta, and other dried goods.
  • Shop often. We live near Trader Joe’s and Safeway. Usually, we walk or bike to the grocery store so we can’t carry that much stuff. We buy just what we need. This is good because it gets me out of the house. Also, shopping this way prevents food waste. It’s the opposite of bulk buying. We rarely throw any food away.
Mrs. RB40 made falafel.

Detailed Grocery Bills

In May, I saved all our grocery receipts. (Although, I might have lost one or two.) I’ll summarize them here. I included what we had for dinner. Usually, Mrs. RB40 cooks on the weekend and I cook on the weekdays.

  Store Items Dinner Price
5/3/2024 Trader Joe’s 6x wine.   $42.94
Gmart Asian snacks. Went out for Korean food $9.28
5/4/2024 Sat    
5/5/2024 Sun    
5/6/2024 Trader Joe’s Salmon, eggs, salad tomatoes, wine. Salmon bowl $33.50
5/7/2024     Thai chicken curry  
5/8/2024 Safeway Ground coffee, 3x ice cream, almond milk, cheddar cheese, beef chuck roast, kielbasa, 2x ground beef, carrots, cabbage, apples. Burgers & fries $53.00
5/9/2024     Pork chops
5/10/2024     Japanese beef curry
5/11/2024 Asian 25lbs rice, snacks, eggplants, oranges, 2x shumai, rice crackers, seaweed, green onion, pejoy, ginger. Baked potato bar $48.91
  Safeway Ground coffee, milk, sour cream, sausage, bacon, avo, bell pepper, salad.   $27.05
5/12/2024 Safeway Whip cream, frozen lemonade, strawberries. Ravioli $9.00
  Trader Joe’s Baguette, 3x ravioli, eggplant garlic spread, eggs, cucumber.   $21.50
5/13/2024 Uwajimaya Furikake, coconut milk, 4x coconut juice, 4x shrimp chips, chocolate, noodle somen, 2x natto, edamame, pickled plum, seaweed. leftovers $36.00
  Trader Joe’s Chips, bagels, roast beef lunch meat slices.   $12.50
5/14/2024     Stir-fried miso eggplant
5/15/2024 Safeway Ground coffee, 4x slice cheese, bread, chicken breast, 2 bell peppers, 2 blueberries. Burgers & fries $26.75
5/16/2024     Nam prik ong
5/17/2024     Chicken satay
5/18/2024 Safeway Tomatoes, milk, yogurt, cilantro, gift, mustard, paprika, 2x eggs, sourdough bread, 8 bell peppers, garlic. Falafel $35.35
5/19/2024 Trader Joe’s Crackers, yogurts, smoked salmon, shallots. Ravioli $15.10
5/21/2024 Trader Joe’s Bagels, gyoza, roast beef, cucumbers, yogurt, dried mango. Fried rice $23.00
5/22/2024     Takeout pizza
5/23/2024 Safeway 5x chips, 2x ice cream, hot dogs, buns, 2x baby back ribs, brats, bread, bacon, hot dogs, bananas, corns. Cashew nut chicken $55.25
5/24/2024     Gyoza
5/25/2024 Safeway Lemonade, 2x butter, watermelon, cherries, cantaloupe, 2 onions, salad. Pizza pocket $25.25
  Safeway Whip cream, 2x popsicles, 2x butter, ice cream, strawberries, potatoes, banana.   $25.45
5/26/2024 Trader Joe’s 3x prosecco, baguette.  Chicken Tagine $20.00
5/27/2024 Safeway 2x lemonade. Memorial Day BBQ $5.00
5/28/2024 Asian Rice paper ,natto, oyster sauce. Leftovers $6.80
5/29/2024 Trader Joe’s Gyoza, broccolini, bagels. Pad see you $9.00
5/30/2024     Moo ping
5/31/2024 Safeway Parchment paper, facial tissue, soap, ordor eaters, comet, 4x greens, zucchini, yam. Rad nah $39.77
Pork chop with apple & sausage

By category

Protein – $101.30

Dairy – $47.40

Bread/bakery – $21.50

Fruits and vegetables – $88.98

Beverage – $109.94

Snacks and dessert – $55.06

Frozen/convenient food – $71.3

Dry goods/seasoning/paper products – $84.92

That month, we spent more than usual on beverages. Our wine cabinet was getting bare and we had to restock. Normally, we don’t spend this much on drinks. Everything else seems okay.

Alright! Our grocery shopping strategy is pretty simple, but it works pretty well. Our monthly grocery spending is quite reasonable for a family of 3. The only downside is we go to the grocery stores too often. But that’s okay. It’s good exercise. The key is to stock up on sales items and cook at home. Cooking is way cheaper than eating out. These days, a simple meal out usually costs over $50 for us. That’s nuts.

How much do you spend on groceries every month? What’s your grocery shopping strategy?

Image credit: Tara Clark

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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