How I Saved 43% Without Coupons on Gluten Free Groceries

I confessed last week that I’m not a good budget grocery shopper. I am a good cook. That’s why my business is all about cooking….not grocery shopping =)

Over the past few years, we have seen how graciously God has provided money for our gluten free food purchases. And, although I know He will provide the money that we need for food even when I don’t shop well, I would like to learn to be a better steward of His money.

I’ve tried couponing before, but I’ve never been able to stick with it. I hate it, despite it, and DO NOT WANT TO DO IT. You can imagine my relief when my friend, Patti Laurens, asked me to read the rough draft of her ebook, With or Without Coupons: How To Save 50% Or More At The Grocery Store.

Why I Love Patti’s Book:

I’ve read Patti’s ebook twice now, and she’s provided some handholding via email and Skype to help me get started. I warned her at the beginning that I would either be her worst nightmare or her best testimonial. Happily, it looks like I’m turning out to be her best testimonial =)

The two things that really stand-out to me about Patti’s ebook are this:

1. You don’t have to use coupons (but you can!)

2. She teaches strategies, not methods. What’s the difference? If someone teaches you a method, they say, “Here’s what I do, go out and do the same thing.” That doesn’t always work, because my circumstances may be (and probably are) completely different. Patti teaches over 20 different strategies that you can use to lower your grocery bill, and you get to choose which ones you want to use based on your specific situation. After you read her book, you’ll be able to create a custom grocery shopping strategy that really will work FOR YOU.

A New Grocery Shopping Strategy For My Toolbox
During my most recent coaching call with Patti, she suggested that it was time to add a new shopping strategy to my current repertoire of three. The new addition was…drumroll please…making my shopping list from the sales circular!

I know. I know. That’s not an earth-shattering development in grocery strategies. But, even though I’ve known that it is a good strategy for years, I’ve never implemented it. In fact, I’ve actively resisted it because it requires planning. Our normal modus operandi for grocery shopping is to pile everyone into the car and then we discuss what we’d like to eat and making a shopping list while we drive to the store. Patti convinced me that shopping from the circular was the next logical step for us and John and I committed to giving it a try.

Details of Our Grand Experiment

Because we knew we would write a post about our shopping experience, John and I were careful to set up a grocery shopping experiment that would truly prove how much money we saved using the strategies that Patti has taught me. We wanted to be as scientific as possible in our approach.

We took two grocery lists to the store. We bought all of the items on my my list (made using the sales circular) and priced out everything on John’s list (a normal list for us). John did the shopping from the normal list, because he has done the least reading on budget grocery shopping and has less experience with comparison shopping and less inherent knowledge of what a “good” price is. (I don’t have many “good” prices in my head, but it would have been enough to skew the results.)

Both lists contained all of the ingredients that we would need for two days worth of meals. We did not deviate from our usual dietary guidelines. Everything on the lists was gluten free and suitable for a Paleo/Primal style diet, which is what we usually eat.

We made no special efforts to reduce the total bill by picking inexpensive foods or a budget grocery store. We shopped at Schnucks, where I should note that we had spent $50 the previous day buying ingredients for two meals.

Making The Lists

The difference in the two lists is in how they were compiled. John’s list contained the usual things we buy. I already had all the expensive ingredients for larb, so I added that to our list. I also added tacos, which are a family favorite and easy to make.

My shopping list required a bit more planning. I checked the weekly circulars for the three closest grocery stores, all of which are somewhat upscale establishments, to see what meats were on sale. Schnuck’s had the best prices on meats that meet our dietary criteria, so that’s where we did our shopping. Pork steaks were on sale, so I planned two dinner meals using pork steak – tacos al pastor and BBQ pork steaks with mashed potatoes and green beans. I then looked through the rest of the circular to see if anything else that we typically need was on sale. I was a bit discouraged to see that the only other thing that applied to us was some seasonal and canned fruit, so I noted that on my list.

The rest of our list was pretty typical and the same items were included on both of our lists- salad veggies and tuna for lunch and eggs and potatoes for the kids’ breakfast.

What Happened At The Store

As soon as we walked into the grocery store it became apparent that there was going to be a significant different in the total price of the two shopping lists. The first thing that I put into the cart were 6 pears at $.88/lb while John picked out apples that were $2.50/lb! (Remember, the only strategy that he’s using is shopping from a list). The price difference in the meats for two dinners was around $20!

You may be shaking your head at this point and saying would you REALLY have normally spent that much on meat? And, I’d have to say that we probably would have, unless we knew that we only had a certain amount to spend. Then, we would have stood around in the meat section of the grocery store trying to figure out which meat to buy and then we would have made our grocery list based on that. If you haven’t tried that with three kids at 6PM, let me just tell you that it does not result in a happy family. Planning my shopping list based on the circular was much less stressful.

As John unladed our cart at the checkout station he began to doubt that we had done very well. There was a good bit of food in our cart. Imagine our surprise when the total came out to $42! That’s easily what we’d normally spend on 3 or 4 meals..and we’d bought enough food for at least six meals. Once we got home, I totaled up John’s list and totaled $75. Even without using any coupons we saved $33 on two day’s worth of groceries. Assuming we were able to maintain that rate of savings, we would spend $450 less on groceries in just one month.

If you’d like to see a line-by-line breakdown of our trip, I made a spreadsheet showing exactlyhow we saved 43% without coupons on our grocery shopping trip

Going Forward

Yesterday’s shopping trip was more than enough to convince John and I that we need to find a way to make this new shopping strategy a part of our normal routine. This will mean some adjustment for both of us. Our initial plan is that I’ll spend some of my work time making grocery lists based on the sales circulars. We’re also going to stop grocery shopping as a family, so that the person who is shopping can stay focused during the shopping process. After all, even if you start out with a great list, there is still mental work to be done in the store once you can see all of your options.

How You Can Save Money On Groceries

I’ve always been somewhat discouraged about shopping for gluten free groceries on a budget. It always seems that the coupons and sales are for foods that we can’t eat. But, after reading Patti’s ebook and working to implement just four of the 20+ strategies myself, I’m convinced that this book needs to be made available to everyone on a gluten free diet.

In order to make that possible, Gluten Free Cooking School will begin selling With or Without Coupons: How to Save 50% or More At The Grocery Store on our website. Sometime before the end of this month,we’ll be doing a special promotion where you get Patti’s ebook PLUS several bonus items from Gluten Free Cooking School at no extra cost. I don’t have any more details than that right now, but I wanted to give you a heads-up in case budget shopping is something that you want to learn more about.

P.S. If you have any questions at all about the ebook or budget grocery shopping, please put them in the comments and I’ll get Patti to stop by and answer questions.


Comments

  1. My question is, are you running any kind of blogger program on this? As a mom who does GF for my kids, and a member of the special needs parenting community, I think this guide would be a big help to the moms who follow me, and I would love to offer them the book, review it, or in some way, should it to my readers. Thanks!

  2. WOW, I can’t imagine saving $450 per mo on groceries as that is close to what we spend for 5 (& growing a 6th) for a MONTH for all of us… & we eat gluten free… very little processed food… some organic…etc. I buy in bulk… mill my own flour whenever possible, garden, preserve food, etc.

    I am so glad the info helped you so much… that is wonderful!

    • Erica W » That’s why I started with a confession that I’m not at all good at shopping =) Your comment was very interesting to me because all of the strategies that work for you, would not work at all for me. We do not have any land for growing food and do not have any extra storage room for buying in bulk or keeping preserved foods. The cool thing is that I will eventually be able to get down to the same budget as you using strategies that work for our circumstances. Congrats on the coming little one. Cuddling new babies is the best!

  3. I have been couponing and shopping with sales flyers for years, I usually find that the meat and fruit they have on sale are of poor quality and a waste of my time to even look at. I take it from your article that you did not experience that. I do not know of the grocery store you speak of, we are pretty much stuck with HEB and Wal-Mart here but get the same at both.

    • Elaine L » The meat that we bought was a cut that I would’t usually buy. The cut in the store also did not look like the picture in the circular…the actual piece of meat was incredibly thick. But, it turned out really well. I decided to braise the boneless pork steaks and then pull the meat apart for a stew. John’s pretty picky about meat, but he said it was “incredibly tender and full of flavor.” I’m working on a post about it now.

      One thing that I love about Patti’s book is that it gave me permission to not use every strategy known to man for lowering my grocery bill. I use the ones that I like and that work for my circumstances. It’s a very freeing approach.

  4. Use the all of the local grocery ads, buy what’s on sale, buy in bulk, buy less processed foods – BUY INGREDIENTS, shop ethnic markets where available, join a food coop, try a farmers’ market and farm stands – watch, it can be very expensive, buy at rural bulk stores in Amish/Mennonite/Plain communities, watch Craig’s List for local growers, order from Amazon on sale,keep a pantry are 13 strategies I’ve used since the mid 1970′s to lower food costs, and now especially for gluten-free shopping.

    Know your prices for commonly used items so you know when something is a particularly good sale, for example, Swanson’s chicken broth, which is gluten free AFAIK, regularly goes on sale late October- late December for the holidays :buy a year’s supply at about half the normal price per can. If you normally use a can a week, buy 48 cans and store them in the pantry, the basement or under the bed if need be.

    If you live in the hinterlands, away from large cities and college towns, keep a running shopping list for ethnic markets : rice flour, sweet rice flour,rice noodles, rice macaroni, chickpea flour, potato starch, pappadums, falafel mix, etc and stock up a couple times a year, Check with friends and family in the city/college town for the latest update on small stores like these playing the retail version of “musicial chairs”, relocating to different locations.

    Some Walmarts cater to ethnic communities, for example I can get “rice ramen” at a campus area Walmart near a Big Ten University which is great for a quick lunch with leftover meat, veggies and GF soy sauce. Another Walmart in a large city in Indiana caters to a Bosnian community and has great canned humus and jarred peppers. It’s a catch-as-catch-can situation – you never know what may show up in a given store.

    • SC » All great strategies for saving on groceries. The weird think is that I’ve known all of these things for years….but just couldn’t make myself implement them. I’m not sure if it was some sort of emotional block or what. But, I’m glad that I’m starting to break through whatever it was with Patti’s help.

  5. Thanks for the blog post Mary. I am very much like you in shopping. I really don’t plan. I just go get what I think I need and then plan dinners around that. I want to be more of a dinner planner but never really sit down to do it. I like this because it’s so simple, yet something I didn’t think of. I hate clipping coupons and often shop at Aldi’s to get good prices without the pain of sifting through flyers and couponing for hours. However, I’m definitely going to try this approach.

  6. Your post came at the perfect time. I’m really strapping down now with budgeting and have just realized this last week that I hit the grocery store far too often and never with a list. My husband says I nickel and dime myself to death.

    Will you send out emails or notices of Patti’s book being available?

  7. Will we be able to buy Patti’s ebook? I am so interested in saving money with my grocery shopping. First thing I will do is to implement shopping from the flyers. Thank you for your encouragement.

    • MariAnne » Yes! Yes! Yes! We should have everything ready to go next week. And, we’ll also be writing more about the ebook and grocery shopping over the next few weeks as we continue to prove out the strategies from the book =)

  8. I shop my local grocer, who happens to have a shopping list online at their website. They set it up so that everything on sale, and in the circular for that week is able to be added to my list (my default, staple list). I just click on what I want and set the quantity. I also coupon so I’m able to match up my coupons with what is on my list. It’s time consuming, but I’ve shaved our $500+ monthly grocery bill down to near $300. I live in the boonies, so I only go to the grocery store once or twice per month. I’m hoping to take advantage of the Asian Market I found a few weeks back to purchase my flours. We just started GF, but we are having fun with it…it’s only hard when it comes to sweets, which we’ve not been very good at replacing yet. It’s a slow-going process, but we will succeed. We have to so we can stay healthy for our kids! Thanks for this Mary Frances!

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