Grocery Shopping

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

I hate to admit it, but I have a dirty little secret. I secretly love watching Extreme Couponers on TLC. The fact that people can load up entire grocery carts full of food and toiletries and pay next to nothing is crazy to me. How is this even legal? As I’m typing this it sounds as if those people are robbing the grocery stores. And while I get an adrenalin rush while watching the show, I know that I, myself, will never be an extreme couponer. I just don’t have the time or the cajones to dig through dumpsters. So where does that leave me? I could throw in the towel and just spend whatever on groceries. Or, I could use a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years to save as much money as possible grocery shopping.

Step 1: Create a Grocery Budget

If you’re like me, you’re probably a single millennial working to live on a budget. Your grocery budget is going to look different from mine. I don’t have any dietary restrictions (other than the fact that I don’t like seafood). I’m not vegan, Gluten Free, or Paleo. Which means, everything in the grocery store is up for grabs. My grocery budget is $125-$150 per month which breaks down to about $31.25-$37.50 per week.

If you’re used to spending $50-$100 per week on groceries, trimming your budget is going to be a bit of a shock. But stick with me.

Step 2: Check the Ads

Now that you have your budget in place, you need to check the ads. So stop throwing away your junk mail! That weekly packet of flyers you get on Wednesdays is going to be key to saving you tons of money. If you go to the grocery store without a plan it is way too easy to overspend. By knowing what is on sale you can begin to search for recipes with those ingredients.

When you’re looking at the ad, stick with the front page. The front page is going to have the best deals of the week. Grocery stores try and lure you in with those front page deals. But if you’re a frugal millennial, you’ll know that if you try and stick to just those front page deals, you’re going to score major savings.

Step 3: Create a Weekly Meal Plan

Now that you know what ingredients are on sale, it’s time to create a weekly meal plan. I try and eat 80% of my meals at home, it saves a lot of money, and quite frankly, it’s better for my waistline. With that in mind, create a spreadsheet (or download and print the one I use here) and write down your meal plan. Weekly Meal Plan

If you have no idea where to begin when it comes to meal planning, worry not! A few years ago when I was just starting meal planning I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to cook or grocery shop, but over the years I’ve practiced every week and have become pretty good. My favorite recipe website is called Budget Bytes. It has really great recipes that are easy to follow and they use ingredients that I (almost) always have on hand. If I see that chicken, spinach, and red bell peppers are on sale this week, I head over to Budget Bytes to see what recipes have those ingredients.

Channel Your Inner Julia Child

I highly recommend you avoid processed food as much as possible. Not only will your waistline thank you, but your wallet will too. I’m not going to lie, I love to splurge on an occasional prepackaged meal and treat, but I don’t focus my weekly meal plan around process foods. Processed foods are really marked up and you are paying for the convenience. Unless chips, cookies, or frozen pizza is on sale, I don’t buy it. When it is on sale, I allow myself to pick up a package or two and spread it out throughout the week.

If you want to see what I’m eating and how I grocery shop, check out my weekly meal plans.

Step 4: Create a Grocery Shopping List

Now that you know what you’re going to eat for the week, it’s time to go get those ingredients! First, take note of what you already have on hand. Americans waste more food than any other nation. So, let’s save the earth and your pocketbook and check to see what you already have hiding in your refrigerator. After seeing what you already have on hand, add the ingredients that you need to buy to your grocery shopping list.

I crate my shopping list on the notes app on my iPhone. That way, I’m always carrying it with me and never have to worry about forgetting it at home. I mean think about it, when was the last time you went anywhere without your phone? As I walk through the store I delete items off of my grocery shopping list as I put them in my cart.

Step 5: Go Grocery Shopping

It’s go time! I played sports growing up, in fact, I was involved in everything from soccer to basketball to volleyball to track and field. Sometimes my inner athlete comes out and it’s easier for me to think in terms of sports analogies. I like to think of everything before hitting the store as practice. Checking the ads, creating a weekly meal plan, and grocery list are all prepared for the big game, hitting the grocery store. Now that you are fully prepared, let’s head the field.

Resist Temptations

As with any game you play, you’re going to have to overcome obstacles in order to get the outcome you want. When you’re at the grocery store, you’re going to be tempted to purchase things other than what’s on your shopping list. Try to resist. The more items you put in your cart that aren’t on your list, the more likely you are to overspend.

While overspending a few dollars won’t totally kill your budget, it will add up. The way I look at it, the more I spend on groceries, the less I can spend on other things. You see, if I go over my grocery budget, I have to take it out of my miscellaneous budget. That means fewer girls nights out, brunches, and shopping sprees. When I put it in perspective, it’s not worth it to me to add extra goodies to my shopping cart.

Grocery Shopping in a Nutshell

If you’re new to budgeting and trimming your grocery budget, this can be a lot to take in. To be honest, I don’t do everything on this list in one day. I spread out the task over 2-3 days. That helps me feel less overwhelmed.

On Wednesdays, my favorite grocery store, Sprouts, publishes its weekly ad. I head over to the website to check out the deals. After sifting through the online ad, I start to develop my weekly meal plan.

On Saturdays, I head over to Sprouts with my grocery shopping list on my iPhone. I scoop up all of my groceries and put them in the refrigerator.

On Sundays, I meal prep and make most of my lunches and dinners for the week. If my meals are prepped throughout the week I’m less likely to fall into temptation after a long workday. I’m less likely to go out to lunch with coworkers. I’m also not tempted to stop by Chipotle after work because I’m too lazy to cook. If all I have to do is pop my Tupperware in the microwave, I have no reason to eat out.

Breaking up my meal prepping and grocery shopping tasks throughout the week keeps me on track and prevents me from feeling overwhelmed. Try it out, and see what works best for you. The more you practice, the better you will be–I promise!

Extended Warranty

Skip the Extended Warranty

Extended Warranties in a Nutshell

You’re at the store, about to check out, when the cashier suddenly asks you if you want to add the extended warranty. You’re about to drop $800 on a new flatscreen TV and you have only a few seconds to decide if you want to dish out an extra $100 for an extended warranty. What do you do? If you’re like many Americans, you probably agree to the extra $100 in exchange for peace of mind.

An Extended Warranty Isn’t Worth the Money

Most people who purchase appliances or electronics are encouraged by store salespeople to buy the extended warranty. Why is that? Why are we encouraged to purchase extended warranties? Because extended warranties are an easy way for retailers to make an extra buck off of you.

Here’s the deal, an extended warranty is really just a form of insurance. It gives you peace of mind that on the off chance something does break, you’ll be covered. But the fact of the matter is, products today are made better than they have before.

Products Rarely Break Within the Warranty Window

If a product is defective and is going to break, it will likely break within the first few months that you purchase it. It is extremely rare for a product to break 2-3 years after you have purchased it.

Repairs Aren’t Very Expensive

According to a recent Consumer Reports study, if your product does break, repairs often don’t cost very much. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, repairs cost on average $16 more than the cost of the extended warranty.

Manufacturers May Be Willing to Work With You

In today’s day and age social media has a lot of power. Consumers have more power now than ever to voice their opinion and have it heard. Rather than face the wrath of a social media nightmare, many manufacturers are willing to work with consumers to resolve issues.

Feel Confident Without an Extended Warranty

Before you make a major appliance or electronic purchase, do your research. Make sure you know the pros and cons of the product you are going to buy. If you have done enough research, you should be confident in your buying decision. Ask your friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations then hit the internet. If you buy a quality product, you shouldn’t worry about it breaking.

If you’re looking for other ways to save money, check out my post on why I never pay full price at Gap. And, check out the Honey Google Chrome extension to make sure you’re getting the best deal online.

Never pay full price at gap

Never Pay Full Price at Gap

Being the Frugal Millennial, I don’t really enjoy shopping. In fact, I’m convinced that I’m actually allergic to shopping for clothes. I get really hot, stressed, overwhelmed, and itchy when I need to shop for clothes. My attention span for shopping never lasts more than an hour. Although I often have an adverse reaction to trying and spending money on clothes, I don’t live in a nudist colony and do have to do it occasionally.

A Former Gap Employee

One thing you may not know about me is that I’m actually really good at shopping. I’m a bargain hunter and know when and where to find the best deals. Before I was the Frugal Millennial, I was just a broke college student. During my time attending the University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!) I worked for Gap, which is also associated with Old Navy and Banana Republic. My year and a half with Gap Inc. taught me an important life lesson: NEVER PAY FULL PRICE FOR CLOTHES.

So often would I see people come into the store, drop a few hundred dollars on clothes and walk out having paid full price. The next week, I would be in the back marking the $50 dress they purchased down to $30. It blew my mind how many people would walk in, pick clothes off the rack and pay full price. I always thought to myself, “don’t these people know if they just wait a few weeks all of these clothes will be marked down?”

Gap Discount 50% Off

The Gap Discount Cycle

Every few weeks Gap goes through a discount cycle. Discounts range anywhere from 10% all the way up to 70% off. Knowing when to shop is key to finding the best deal.

National Sales

Every major (and often minor) holiday is a reason for Gap to have a sale. Labor Day, 4th of July, Columbus Day, Founder’s Day; you name it, Gap has probably already planned a discount around it. The best sale is of the year is during Thanksgiving season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are going to be the best deals you will find. These deals often offer EVERYTHING in the store 50-60% off. This is a great time to stock up on jeans and outerwear, which are often the most expensive items in the store.

Every 3-4 months Gap has a sale offering 40% off the entire store. This is the second-best time of the year to stock up on merchandise. If you see a sign, for 25% off, know that if you’re patient and willing to wait, in a few weeks that discount will increase to 40%.

Local Sales

Each store manager has the opportunity to call the shots and offer local sales. Local sales aren’t as flashy as the national sales and may be harder to plan for. If a store has a lot of items on its sale rack that aren’t moving, the store manager can offer up to an additional 50% off sale items. Think about that for a second, you can get an extra 50% off already marked down items. I loved shopping the sale racks during the local sale. In fact, all of my everyday t-shirts are from Gap and I never paid more than $5 for them. I have to say, I’m going on 8 years with them and they’re still holding up well. These t-shirts typically retail for $20 full price, but by strategically shopping the sale rack, I saved a bundle!

Always Save on Jeans

Whenever you shop at Gap, save your receipt. If you go online and fill out the survey you will receive a coupon code for 20% off one full priced item. Because jeans are sometimes excluded from sales, this is how you can always get a discount on jeans. Jeans are expensive, in fact they’re one of Gap’s most expensive items, saving 20% is going to go a long way.

Gap Survey Discount

Gap Discounts in a Nutshell

The average American family spends $1,700 per year on clothes. By shopping strategically and waiting for the best sales, you can easily spend less than $1,000 per year on clothes. Knowing when to stock up and when to wait is going to save you a lot of money over the course of the year. Don’t be fooled, Gap can afford to discount their clothes by 50% because they are marked up at least that much. GAP’s markup is probably about 70% which means if you’re paying full price, you’re getting ripped off. Be patient and wait for a sale. I know I would love an extra $700 per year back in my pocket.

P.S. If you prefer shopping online, check out my Abandoned Shopping Cart trick to always score a deal.