Weekly Roundup: How Often Do You Grocery Shop?

The last three nights I’ve found myself in the grocery store after work. Three trips in as many days is highly uncharacteristic for us, but I forgot something after my first trip, and a menu plan change sent me back last night. Naturally, I was guilty of picking up a couple things that caught my eye (that weren’t on my short list).

Normally, we shop for groceries once a week. With the exception of things like bread, milk, and produce we could probably stretch that to two weeks. I’m told you can freeze milk and bread, but I’ve never had much luck with it.

How often do you shop for groceries? Do you find you spend more money if you shop more frequently?

The Frugal Roundup

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8 Effective Ways to Raise Frugal Kids. A great guest post over at Man vs Debt about raising frugal kids – a subject near and dear to my heart. (@Man vs Debt)

How We Manage Our Money. Patrick Ryan from Cash Money Life recently came out from behind the anonymous curtain. One of his new goals in transparency and this post is a great first step. Congrats on the change Ryan! (@Cash Money Life)

Where Do All Our Taxes Go? As a follow up to the guest post earlier in the week on this very topic, TurboTax has published an interesting infographic at their blog.

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Comments

  1. I RARELY shop for something I ‘need’ – rather I shop for things at a great price that we use.

    So I would say I shop once or twice a week [twice usually only if I am going to a warehouse store as well as the regular grocery for something on sale]. But I also go to the bread outlet once every couple weeks, the deli ditto, etc.

    BTW I freeze bread all the time – for $1 a loaf I grab several and wrap them in a grocery bag [as well as the bread bag] and toss it in – effortless and great considering how many sandwiches I make each day!

    Do I spend more? I only if I go to warehouse stores more – but not if I’m careful!

  2. Mmmm– maybe every other month? I buy in bulk, raise our own meat and garden and preserve. I cook everything from scratch –even stuff like ketchup. I don’t do it as much for money saving as for health and nutrition reasons. Right now I have a freezer full of a side of bison, a side of grass-fed beef, 25 chickens we raised and butchered and several turkeys. We have our own eggs and milk comes from a dairy farm down the street — from which I also make my own butter and cottage cheese. My pantry is still quite well-stocked from summer produce, although I am anxiously awaiting spring! I also grow sprouts throughout the winter for fresh greens, things like that. I am definitely not the norm, but feel better (and look better) though I am busier than I ever have been. I am sure my purse is happier too.

  3. We shop every 2 weeks.

    We all need to realize that gas isn’t cheap anymore, and extra trips to grocery stores add up (kind of like the latte factor…).

    Now for me, I was my grocery store on the way home from work, so the stop isn’t too costly.

    But I know others that run out all the time to get pop or ice cream or whatever the desire. The Impulsive Buyer’s group…

  4. I absolutely agree. We shop only once a a month, unless we are having unexpected company. We have been able to considerably reduce the monthly grocery expenditures by reducing the number of trips. Not only does it save money but I think it causes less stress, both from fewer money issues and not worrying about what’s for dinner every night.

  5. I try to only go shopping once a week but lately I have found my self having to run back for one thing or another. I haven’t been as good about making my lists and menus as I should be. I definitely spend more when I make multiple trips to the store, a lot more. It really does pay to get organized and get everything you need in a single trip.

  6. Hubby and I head out weekly for our “grocery date”. Not romantic for sure, but we pick up our once a week coffees and get a couple of hours of uninterupted time to chat while we drive and shop. It’s often the only kid-free time we have during the week.

    I menu plan in combination with a review of the sale fliers and what’s on hand in the freezer/pantry and make a detailed list. Having a list allows us to stay on track and avoid impulse purchases.

    I work from home normally so some weeks this is my only outing for the week. It sure is easy to eliminate recreational shopping when you live in woods 20 minutes from the nearest store.

  7. My daughter has been doing the grocery shopping for us since I became disabled four years ago. She shops every two weeks at the local grocery store and once a month at BJ’s. She does an outstanding job of coupon cutting, price comparison and really gets a kick out of saving money.
    Last week, I was able to stop at the local grocery to pick up a few things and I was stunned by the prices. I knew enough not to go near the ice cream–I usually have a meltdown when I see the price (and smaller size!) of ice cream. I can’t imagine trying to raise a family with the cost of food these days! You all should pat yourselves on the back for not running screaming out of the store!

  8. I go once a week after making a detailed meal plan and list based on flyers and on-hand ingredients. This method saves tons of cash, beause I know what I’m making so it reduces impulse take-out, and I don’t waste ingredients.

  9. Once a week for week’s menu and hubby goes out Saturday afternoon for his special Saturday night grilling meal. Other than that, I might need to stop if I’ve forgotten or run out of some staple. Since I started stockpiling, my weekly trips are mainly to grab the super specials and the few specialty items that never go on sale. I’m buying a freezer this week, so our trips should really start to decrease as I can stockpile meat specials.

  10. I make a monthly meal plan and create my shopping list from that. Then I do one massive shopping trip at the beginning of the month. I also do 2-3 quick trips throughout the month just for produce and dairy. This approach limits my impulse buys and also alleviates a lot of stress in figuring out what’s for dinner. We may not always stick to the menu plan but we always have fixin’s for various meals.

    I also do a couple batch cooking sessions during the month and stock the freezer so we have meals ready to go for the days I’m not feeling the cooking vibe. Having a small (7.2 cu ft.) chest freezer really helps too.

  11. Like Jenn, I work from home and we live 30 minutes away from “town”, so we spend a lot less than we used to when I could run out for a quick shopping trip whenever I got a craving or realized I forgot something. Shopping less often not only saves money on impulse purchases but also means we buy bigger containers/servings so that we’re saving on those purchases as well.

  12. We do a big shopping every two weeks, stopping at two stores: the regular grocery store and the healthfood store. Then in the intervening week we usually stop for milk and produce, trying to keep that one to a minimum (about $15-20). In the summertime we add a farmers market stop as well. We also buy our meat from a local farmer, we usually do that once every couple of months – we don’t eat a lot of meat.

  13. We try to be weekly shoppers, and we definitely spend more money if we make multiple trips in the week.

    Thanks for the mention, Jason. :)

  14. @Mike H — You get out of your dairy animal what you put into it — just like our own bodies. If you feed your animal high-quality organic food, that is the kind of by-product it will produce.

    >>Besides, I can’t think of any other animal that drinks the milk from another animal. Just isn’t natural <<

    I've heard this statement before and it always makes me laugh. I always say — I can't think of any other animal that cooks its food either before they eat it — so should we all go on a raw diet based on that logic?

  15. My main shopping is done once every month or two…There’s enough food in my house to last a year I am sure and the freezer is full. And the garden produces more than I can process.

    If there is a great coupon tho, I will stop and pick up ONLY that item – such as Tillamook Cheese this week for $3.99 :) It lasts almost forever in the frig. And about once a month I stop at the fruit stand for fresh fruits until my garden fruits are ready.

    I tend to buy ONLY whatever is on a super super sale – and then I plan meals around what is in the house – whatever that happens to be.

    Twice a year I go to costco and/or Grocery Outlet and stock up on whatever I find.

  16. I go shopping about once per week. Sometimes I stretch it out to two, but any longer than that and I’m ordering in for pizza because I’ve run out of food. I also like to get fresh vegetables, so waiting longer than a week doesn’t work for me.

  17. don’t read the bible much but it never mentions ‘freezer bread’ always daily bread! bread should be a fresh thing, not frozen or preserved. once or twice per week grocery shopping is fine. no shopping when hungry!

  18. I’m not sure if anybody else has mentioned it but there are some good reasons not to drink milk and they’re not all from a animal rights/suffering perspective. We’ve stopped drinking it at my house (mostly) because of the cancer concerns linked with drinking milk in the US. Besides, I can’t think of any other animal that drinks the milk from another animal. Just isn’t natural IMO. :P

    http://animalrights.about.com/od/animalsusedforfood/a/MilkFacts.htm

    To answer the question though, we *try* to shop once a week and when we’re able to do it that way it works real well. Sometimes we don’t make the time to do the shopping (although we just switched to a new method so lets see how this works) and we tend to spend more if we’re not planning our meals.

  19. I freeze $1.00 loaves of bread all of the time and as long as they’re not in the freezer longer than 2-3 weeks, they thaw in about a half-hour and taste (to my family, at least) about as good as fresh.

    It may be that I don’t know what fresh bread should taste like anymore, since it seems that even when I eat bread that was bought that same day, it doesn’t seem too fresh to begin with.

    Our grocery bill is seeing some major inprovement lately since I’ve quit heading out every 3 or 4 days. My spending has gone from $800/mo. to about $620/mo. I’m currently working on paring down the budget by another $120, though, by sticking w/the basics.

  20. I may shop twice a week depending on the sales. I have quite a few stores in my area, and their sale days start on either a friday or sunday. Since I do match ups on my blog for my main shopping store, I know ahead of time if I’m going to bow out from that week, or if there are lots of free or cheap items I can stockpile. We are to the point where I now ONLY get the free or under .50 items, after coupons, during shopping trips. Also, our meal plan is such a savior every week! I’ve recently started making up meals as I shop in the store and create a running master list of full meals right on my PDA. Every sunday, I look at the list and pick the meals I want to make. It has helped me save even more time, and reminds me of what exactly is stockpiled in my freezer. I do have to say though, since I’m pregnant now, I sometimes send hubby running to the store for goodies. Luckily, my cravings so far have been things that were already on sale lol.

  21. I usually grocery shop as necessary, which comes out to about twice a week (two or three times one week, none one week, once another week, etc).

    We’ve been using Angel Food Ministries or Food Share America, so we only need to buy perishables and fresh fruits/vegetables from the stores until the week before the next month’s food is ready. That week’s worth of food is usually a mix of what’s left and some Sam’s Club purchases. We also eat out once or twice a week, so groceries aren’t as much of a life-style for us as for many people who plan better.

    I also only shop on my way home from work, so I don’t have to make trips on the weekends (I hate errands Fridays-Sundays) or waste gas.

    We freeze bread (Nature’s Own Honey Wheat tastes great even if it’s been frozen), but I’ve never thought of freezing milk. That would take up way too much space for us…I’m still debating whether to get a freezer for the garage or not…

    I have no idea if we’d save more by shopping less, but I haven’t been going “off-list” or anything, so I doubt it. I buy what we need for the meals we have planned and get the heck out…did I mention that I hate errands?

  22. We could shop every two weeks for most products (or less), but I usually go out once every week to hit sales unless it’s a slow week everywhere. HOWEVER since we’ve been eating healthier, it requires at least once, sometimes twice a week for fresh, in season produce (we use frozen too, but some fruit is just better fresh but doesn’t keep long)

  23. We do a basic weekly stock up on perishables as well as sale items.

    Sometimes, we need to fill in with a run to the fruit/vegetable stand for produce. (We’re not milk or bread drinkers. We keep those milk paks in the pantry, it’s still cheaper than buying a gallon and not using it up before it spoils.)

    Depending on what we’ve purchased (we try to stick to sale items) in terms of meat for a week, we can often go ten to 14 days without another basic stock up. Sometimes our weekly trip is just to buy sale items for pantry inventory.

    We live in a big city, dont’ have a car so we can’t go to the warehouse clubs, which would really help us cut back in some areas.

    What’s interesting to me is that ALL our European friends (both in Europe and here) shop almost daily for fresh food. Ironically, they spend a lot less than us AND they are slimmer.

    It’s not how often you shop, but what you buy and what you eat!

  24. I typically cook twice a week, so I shop for produce twice most weeks.

    Freezing sliced bread is totally fine; milk gets a kinda weird texture but is ok for baking.

  25. I live across from a grocery store, and I’d say I pick up groceries twice a week. (Separately, I pick up their awful, overpriced ready-to-eat goods on add’l trips but I call that eating out budget wise, not groceries).

    Generally I have a large trip where I pick up everything I need to cook my food for the week, and a smaller trip where I pick up things that are bought less frequently.

    As to what I spend, about $50 a week or so on food, but for Los Angeles without a car it’s hard to do much better than that.

  26. I freeze milk all the time. The trick is to shake the milk every hour when it’s freezing. Then when it’s thawing out shake it two to three times a day it will take about a week to thaw.

    In response to the other comments regarding milk not being good for you there is much more research that counteracts the small sampling and skewed data that has been done by these studies. One can always find a study or two to support ones view point no matter what it is. You have to see what the majority of research says. :) ))

    As to your question regarding meal planning vs. grocery shopping we live in a rural area so we have to plan in order to be frugal. I watch for things on sale when we shop that may not be on my list and/or go by on my way home from work (trying to shop for two weeks at a time). We have found this to be a good plan.

  27. Once a week.
    Of course I have to run in another day a week to get stuff for my school kids…school lunches are not nutritious enough for the one meal a day many of my students eat.
    Oh ya, that tax write off for teachers disappears this year. I guess I am back to just taking it out of my pocket (like I have been doing for thirty years-lol). The one woman soup kitchen is open year round!

  28. I detest grocery shopping and the bills that come with the frequent trips. I meal plan once a month, and do a gigantic stock-up shopping then. I will hit the stores in between if some fantastic deal in the ad catches my eye, then I will stop in just for that item and buy a year supply of it.

  29. I generally shop once a week. I’d like to do it less often.

    I freeze bread, and I usually just use it for sandwiches for work and toast. You can put the frozen bread straight in the toaster, or make a sandwich out of frozen bread and it will be thawed by lunchtime and taste fine. It’s not worth it to thaw the loaf before using.

    I don’t use much milk so I keep powdered in the pantry. You can put it straight into many recipes without bothering to mix it with water first.

    I buy a mix of fresh and frozen vegetables, and half of the fresh stuff ends up in freezer cooking, so there’s less left in the fridge.

  30. While we don’t freeze milk regularly, if we’re going on vacation we’ll throw any unoppened bags into the freezer. We let them defrost in the fridge over a couple of days and then rather than putting the bag in a holder as usual, we dump it into a large jug and run a handblender in it for a minute. Tastes just fine and we use it as usual.

    With bread we use about a loaf and a half per week but shop weekly so we always have one in the freezer. It’s usually never there more than a week so we don’t do any extra wrapping. We buy english muffins in the bulk pack (3 indiv. bags of 6). Two bags go directly in the freezer, one to the kitchen for immediate use. We don’t leave any bread products in the freezer longer than a couple of weeks otherwise they would require extra wrapping and might deteriorate anyway.

  31. We shop once a week. We used to go every other week, but my partner finally rejected that because he didn’t like to eat old veggies and fruit (which is the vast majority of our diet). We also drink soy/rice/almond milk, and a lot of that is in shelf-stable packaging, so we don’t always buy milk. We can also get away without buying bread every week because tortillas tend to stay good for quite a while, and I can always bake bread if we want it mid-week.

    However, if I need something from the grocery store not on our regular shopping day, I guarantee I come home with a treat. Oops. :-)

  32. I bet we are in the grocery store 4-5 times per week. However, we do the bulk of the shopping once per weekend, and the weekday stops are only for fresh produce for dinner. The store is convenient to my commute home, so it’s worth the trouble to eat fresh food.

  33. I tend to find myself at a grocery store every 2-3 days; mostly to pick up a few small things and to check out the deals.

    For example, just today I found family packs of some good quality beef on sale and bought some, came home, cut them up and froze what will become a few meals for my wife and I.

    Wednesday, there was a deal on the go for butterball turkeys at a different grocery store nearby, and I hit it up to get me my ‘butterball!

    Those kind of things make a difference on the pocket, in my view. But don’t get me wrong, I could load up on all kinds of food for under 100 bucks, but my card would be filled with soda pop, chips, processed food, etc.

    My grocery shopping surrounds trying to get good food at good prices. Sometimes they have veggies on sale and they are perfectly fine to eat. I load up!

    Nice thread.

  34. I don’t have time to go to the grocery store more than once a week. That being said, my retired husband goes every 2 or 3 days — someimtes to pick up something I need for dinner that night but mostly to buy himself a treat.

  35. When I go to Sam’s Club I see two types: most people are buying lots of junk. The other type is big families (okay – I notice a lot of them are of hispanic origin) who get like two cart loads of ONLY staples. They get beans, rice, and flour, in humongous bags. I think they are saving the most money out of all of us! Of course when you are cooking for a large extended family it is much more economical.

    Personally, we get fruits/veg delivered to our house every week from a local organic place. We probably grocery shop at least once per week on top of that and do 1 run to Sam’s a month or so. Contrary to another poster, I like to grocery shop when I’m hungry because if I don’t I wind up not buying anything!

  36. I’m one of those rare birds here, I shop probably 5 times a week. We don’t have kids so I find I get better deals, fresher food and less waste by shopping this way. It seems counterintuitive but it works for us. We used to own a restaurant and our food deliveries came every day and I got used to that. I don’t throw away lettuce or veggies anymore. Fish is fresh, etc…
    Maybe once every two months I’ll shop for things like pasta, olive oil, spices, etc. We cook from the pantry with whatever fresh I bring home from the market.
    My stops at the store take less time, I bring one bag in the house and unload it in five minutes. I like it much better :)
    We also shop the farmer’s market on weekends, which is pleasurable for us.

  37. Oh and one other thing if you want to save money.
    Try “ethnic” markets. We live in the Bay Area so we have access to everything! I buy my asian ingredients at an asian store and pay 50% of what the same things would cost at the chains. Plus, you have so many more options, ingredients you’d never find anywhere else. Caveat: If you live on tuna and mac and cheese this probably won’t appeal to you :)

  38. One of the great advantages of living in NYC is the wide variety of grocery stores and street food vendors within walking distance. The one store that will get me on a subway and bus round trip is Trader Joe’s downtown with its quality house brands and low prices. I usually hit it every two or three weeks for my main shopping.

    The rest of the time I’ll stop in at stores to pick up a few things on the way home from long daily walks. On these walks I do occasional detective work in the markets so I know who has what at the cheapest prices. On my return walks home, it’s not unusual for me to stop at three different food markets to pick up only one or two items at each because of the price differential.

  39. I find myself shopping more on the weekends now, especially Sunday at the nearby commissary. The best part of the deal is that it is closed on Monday and often they will reduce the meats significantly so that I am able to stock up and reduce that portion of my food bill even more. Every penny counts and this more than helps me to keep this portion of my budget balanced.

  40. We go every other week, with the exception of milk, half & half, and occasional produce which I find we have to pick up once a week. We definitely menu plan and make the list according to the circular, and in that way we are *usually* able to stick to a $40/week budget. By the way, we do freeze bread — I stock up when it goes on sale — but I cannot bring myself to freeze milk!

    When I was growing up my mom shopped 3x/week. I would estimate she spent between $30-$40 a trip, mostly from impulse buys and not using coupons or paying attention to sales. I definitely think that shopping more often lends itself to overspending. Also, that old rule “never shop when you’re hungry” is like advice gold!

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