Budgets: Grocery Shopping

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Budgets used to be a four letter word in my book! However as I have gained knowledge in this area, it has been fun to see the money get saved!!

The main area that I really focus on is food. You have to have it, and as your family grows you need more of it! It is also the easiest area to splurge in and waste money. But on the positive side, it is the easiest budget line to see immediate results.

Here are some tips on how to start saving money immediately:

  1. Pick your grocery store wisely.  (ALDI!)
  2. Check the ads to see what is on sale, especially meat items and “loss leaders.”
  3. Clip coupons for those items you have to have the brand name instead of generic.
  4. Make a meal plan for the week.
  5. Make a grocery shopping list and stick to it.

We get the majority of our groceries at ALDI. This grocery store mostly sells brand name items that are in different packaging and sells them at a reduced price. They are able to sell them cheaper because the store has only one kind of each item, lower overhead costs, and runs their store more like a warehouse instead of a grocery store. I buy all my cereal, baked goods, dairy, canned and frozen items here. I also buy a good majority of my meat and produce here depending on what is available and the quality.

One day last year I went through the aisles of ALDI and priced the items that I frequently buy. Then I went to Walmart and Hy-Vee and priced the same item (same size and type). At Walmart and Hy-Vee I wrote down the generic item price and the brand name price. I found that the Walmart generic was about 26% more expensive than ALDI and their brand name items were 61% more expensive. At Hy-Vee, generic was 43% more expensive and brand name was 88% more. To put that into actual dollar amounts, last year at ALDI we spend $3,800. If we would have bought all of those items somewhere else we would have spent:

  • $4,800 for generics at Walmart
  • $6,100 for brand names at Walmart
  • $5,400 for generics at Hy-Vee
  • $7,100 for brand names at Hy-Vee

That means that we saved between $1,000 and $3,300 in one year simply by shopping at ALDI!  Imagine what we can use that money for instead!  Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Hy-Vee and would rather shop in their nice, pretty store, but my budget line likes ALDI and Walmart so much better. I do realize that there are some items where it makes sense to buy a specific brand, and it is okay to do that for those few items.

“Loss leaders” are items that stores put on sale to get you in the door. They will lose money on that item, but they hope that once you are in the door you will buy more than just those few things. For example, Hy-Vee will put eggs on sale for less than a dollar or their frozen chicken breasts for $4.88 a package. Pasta and baking items such as butter, sugar and flour can also be loss leaders. If you know the prices of your regular items you will know when they go on a crazy sale. When this happens, stock up if your budget and pantry space allow. Meat is one of your most expensive items, so if you have room in your freezer, then stock up when it is on sale. It is also important that you stick with just buying those select few items on your list. Get them quick and then get out of the store before something else tempts your eyes!  Which brings us to the next point…

Take the time to make a grocery list!  Make a plan for what you will be eating that week and what sides you need. This will help you stay focused and only buy things that you actually need and will use that week.  One helpful trick is to leave one or two lines blank on your list to allow yourself a couple “impulse items” that you can throw in as you shop.  It is oK to get those items, but nothing else can go in unless it is on the list. This will help you practice self-control and give you accountability. Remember, stick to your list!

Be purposeful with your grocery shopping and you will be purposefully saving money!!


Here is my price list for the main items that I typically buy at ALDI. (The ALDI prices have recently been updated but the Walmart and Hy-Vee ones are about 1 year old.)  Use this as a starting point to begin to learn the prices of everyday items. Items that aren’t included on this list are meat and produce. These prices vary dramatically by store and season. Start paying attention to the ads to learn what is a good price and what isn’t.

Free Download: | PDF_Picture ALDI Price Comparison |


 Please share – what tips and tricks do you use to save money on your grocery budget?

Outside Link – Interesting blog post about ALDI 

One thought on “Budgets: Grocery Shopping

  1. Leah says:

    I’ve done something similar to you – I recently made a price book that I’ve been carrying in my purse. I have different pages for categories of food like dairy, dry goods, canned food, etc. Then I list the 4 different stores that I would be likely to shop at. I’m really bad at remembering the best price for things, so this way I can just look in my book. While I’m writing this comment, my husband is at the store and just texted me something to write in the book – I’ve got him trained! 🙂
    I try to go to Aldi first to get what I can there, then head to the other store (Walmart or HyVee). If I hit Walmart first, I won’t want to take the extra time to stop at Aldi.
    I normally plan out our meals for the week, but I’ve gotten away from that over the holidays. As soon as we’re back to a normal schedule, I need to start again! Not only does it help with the shopping and money saving, but it is a time saver too!

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