Recently in my city, many of the grocery stores have started to do the shopping for the customers. Kroger has clicklist with curb side service, Meijer has home delivery with shipt. I decided that I like the services, and wanted to not only put it to use, but see if it can help me better manage my food budget.
I have tried many different ideas to manage a food budget, I even tried food planners that were set up for 2 weeks to follow pay periods, but I always overshot my budget by ALOT.
I found that when I tried to plan meals way in advance, the family would suddenly not like the idea of this dinner, or suggest different dinners we didn't have the ingredients for, so we spent a lot of extra on that. We also had a bad habit of forgetting to pull food out of the freezer, and would end up going out to eat or getting fast food because nothing was thawed. So I came up with a new idea.
I decided that if I was going to pay for the sho[pping services, I was going to use them.
I have one checking account that is my food budget, and my food budget alone. I decided that I would plan 3 meals at a time. Everyone can contributes to dinner suggestions. I place an order with either clicklist or shipt and pick the food up after work or have it delivered. The food is going to only be needed for at least 3 days, so all meat/fresh veggies can stay in the fridge without fear of going bad, which also gets rid of the excuse of no thawed food. We make the meals and every 3 days I cycle an order with the next set of dinners. So far, no one has heard what was planned for dinner and decided that it no longer sounded good. Any incidentals are added as needed like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc., with each order placed. The payments are paid to my AMEX card (points), and I pay the card off by the amount that was charged, from my food budget checking.
Since I have started doing this, I have remained within budget or have come in under budget, and I have saved an average of $200 from what i was normally spending. I even had a week where we took inlaws out to dinner 3 times and still remained in budget. I thought I would share, because I have just been excited that something has been working for me, and thought it might help others.
Great idea! Wish I had that service in my area.
I imagine it cuts down immensely on impulse items!
How much do they charge for the service? The local supermarket in my neck of the woods is $10 for curbside + add'l $10 to deliver. Any method that helps you save money is a good start, but there's also always more to save imo. I setup a Microsoft Access database for my family to keep track of frozen goods. The barcode scanner was ~$10 (Barcodes and item names can still be typed manually of course) and now we can just scan things in and out very easily, and search in the database rather than freezing our fingers off, which is especially important for the chest freezer.
Buying only 1-3 days of groceries at a time is common in urban households where pantry space is limited and/or grocery shopping often involves walking to the store rather than driving (nobody wants to haul 10 bags of groceries on foot, after all). It also has the added benefit of buying fresher produce and meat - you go to the butcher counter on Monday afternoon and pick up the steaks you're eating for dinner in an hour instead of 5 days from now.
I'll go to the store 3-4 times a week, but each trip is often just some produce, meat, and a few other staple ingredients (see below) if any of them are running low. I always qualify for the "express" checkout line.
If your store charges a fee for cubside/delivery, be mindful of it as they will add up over time.
While we're talking budget and food, another easy tip is to buy "multitasker" ingredients rather than "unitasker" ones. An example of this is heavy cream. In addition to its uses in dishes such as curries and soups, it can be used to make whipped cream and ice cream. Instead of buying a tub of whipped cream and a tub of ice cream, I just buy heavy cream instead. Not only am I saving money, I'm also saving space and I'm making things like ice cream the way I want. Less sugar? Easy. Soy-free? No problem. Another example is cake/pancake mix - why pay several dollars for a box of mix when you likely already have every single ingredient for it at home already and can purchase those ingredients for much less per unit than the mix?
The gist is to buy staple ingredients/items you use (milk, eggs, flour, etc) and then make the finished products from them rather than buying the finished products themselves which often cost significantly more than the unit cost of the ingredients within.
The curbside service fee is about $4 where I live. The delivery is a yearly fee for $90. So if I use the delivery multiple times a month, I get a good deal out of it. For the convenience of not spending an hour or more walking through the store after work when I am already beat, I feel the service is great for the price. I also stopped buying on impulse. So even with the fees, I have still managed to save a bunch of money.
I agree that I would rather make things from scratch and usually do so. I even like making my own butter out of heavy whipping cream when there is some left over. Plus most homemade items taste better