Grocery shopping sometimes feels like you’re buying a car: Either you marvel at the great deal you got—or get sticker shock after all the costs are added up.
Complicating matters is that no two grocery budgets are alike. Your spending depends on how big your family is, how willing you are to search for those deep discounts, and where you live. How many times have you been traveling, visited the local grocery store and declared, “They pay what for that here?”
So we asked four real families across the country if we could take a peek into their weekly grocery bills to see how much they spend, where they save and what they splurge on. They also shared their grocery game plan with us, telling us how they tackle the weekly chore as a team.
Who: Marissa Vicario, 35, a health coach, and fiancé David McFarland, 42, a sales director. They spend about $180 a week on groceries.
Location: New York City
Our must-haves: David loves purely elizabeth granola, and I love tempeh. We make our own salad dressing, so we also invest in good quality coconut and olive oil. We also love leafy greens, ginger and lemons.
We try to buy mostly organic, especially for produce with edible leaves or skin that isn’t covered by a rind or peel.
How we save: I grab the store circular to see what’s on sale. If something is a two-for-one special, we actually avoid temptation unless it’s something we know we’ll use.
I love using coupons for items we already buy. David used to think couponing was crazy, but once we saved $10 off our total bill—now he gets it.
The bulk aisles are great for nuts, grains and dried beans. We also buy our fruit and vegetables in season. Certain things, like bananas, we get a lot of, so we choose non-organic to trim a few dollars off our bill.
We’re fortunate to have plenty of space in our kitchen, so we don’t feel constrained. That said, we buy only what we need—if anything, we’re a little conservative.
To make our food last longer, we use our freezer for fruits and vegetables and fresh seafood and chicken, as long as they weren’t previously frozen. If we have a lot of leftovers, we’ll freeze them to be eaten the following week, or we’ll eat them for lunch or dinner the next day.
We rarely throw food out. It’s one of my pet peeves!
How we shop: David and I usually shop together on Sunday and sometimes on weekday afternoons, when it’s less crowded. I’ve tried grocery shopping online, but can’t get into it.
Weekday meals are kept simple. We’ll meal plan when we’re organized, but frequently, we just wing it. While we use a shopping list, we don’t always stick to it—it really depends on what looks good, what’s on sale and what’s in season.
David and I shop at our neighborhood Whole Foods in TriBeCa, which is within walking distance. We invested in a wheeled tote, which has paid for itself in all the delivery fees we’ve avoided!
We’ve got our routine down to a science. We tend to follow the same path: We shop the outside aisles, starting together in the produce section, and then split up. I’ll go to the bulk aisle and David goes to the meat counter.
We also love farmers markets. We belonged to a CSA for a couple of years, but found we couldn’t use all the produce before it went bad. If we did it again, we’d share it with another couple. In the meantime, my dream is to have my own vegetable garden!