Inside: How you can save money on groceries using military resources
I hate grocery shopping.
I hate everything about it. From wandering around the store wondering what was on my list that I left at home, to not being able to find what I need. I hate going shopping when I’m hungry because I go way overboard and then when I’m not hungry, nothing looks good and I end up not getting nearly enough food for the week.
I hate when it’s time to check out and the weird lady behind me is touching my son and saying how cute he is. OK look with your eyes, lady. I hate seeing the number on the screen, swiping my debit card trying to calculate how long these groceries will last and if I’ll have to get more before we get paid again.
Running out of food is the absolute worst because then we end up going to the store every other day, getting fast food, or going out to eat. Somehow in our mind, we think that’s easier than actually just going grocery shopping again. Like the $20-30 dollars every day is less than a quick grocery trip. It’s not. Not only is it more work but it is so much more money.
I have learned a few tricks to make the grocery shopping process a little less painful and a whole lot cheaper. I have figured out how to “coupon” and “meal plan” in the laziest way possible, because let’s be honest, who really has time for that anyway? Not when you are trying to run a business from your home while watching a toddler and attempting (and failing most of the time) at keeping up on housework. Plus, I know a lot of you want to learn how to save money on groceries without coupons.
I also have a “Save at Commissary” cheat sheet available at the end of the article. This includes 9 real ways that you can save a ton of money at Commissary, so don’t forget to grab it before you leave! (It’s FREE and it will save you money so why wouldn’t you?)
Stop wasting food
Either you throw away meat because it sat in your fridge too long OR it’s freezer burnt from sitting in the freezer too long. I’m still not sure why this happens other than laziness. My husband gets so mad (understandably) when we have to waste meat. It is the most expensive part of grocery shopping for us (now that we are past the formula stage).
So my solution? Freezer meals. Freezer meals prevent me from wasting food by keeping meals fresh in the freezer. I also don’t mind the defrosting process because the meal is already made, I just have to cook it.
Plus, when I get out our meal to make that night, I’ll also take out the next night’s meal from the freezer and leave it in the fridge. That way I don’t have to worry about the defrosting process the next day. (If you forget, you can still defrost the meal that day in a bowl of warm water)
Not only is this faster and saves me from wasting food, but it’s also cheaper. I use Freezeasy to meal plan. They make a meal plan for you and you can swap out any recipes you don’t like (or just make your own from all the recipes they have). Then when you are done they email you the grocery list and specific instructions for prepping and cooking each recipe.
P.S. they have vegetarian, allergy sensitive, and gluten free meals as well.
The membership is insanely cheap, it saves me hours of searching online for recipes (so it’s not a chore each month and I can stick to it!) and they handpick recipes that have cheap ingredients to help me save even more money. I usually get two weeks worth of meals for under $100 and we usually have lunch leftovers too! Check it out here
Note: grocery prices will differ depending on location, where you shop, and family size
Ok full disclosure: I hate the couponing process. I am very lazy about it. I’m not one of those people that has a binder of coupons. However, I do like to save money so my solution is coupons.com. I go through before I shop and print out the coupons that I will need (they have SO MANY). If I’m going to Commissary, I will also load up my rewards card with coupons. Coupons.com is free to use and all you need is printer. Just don’t forget them when you go shopping!
Which brings me to my next point…
If I had a nickel for every time I got to the store and I say “UGH I forgot my coupons!” then I probably wouldn’t even need to find ways to cut my grocery bill in the first place. That’s where rebate apps come in (of course, you can get money back even if you didn’t forget your coupons). These are awesome because they are apps that help you save money on groceries!
Rebate apps give you money back after you go shopping. My favorite is ibotta because it also works with Commissary (If you use my referral link you will also get a bonus of $10 when you get your claim your first rebate) Another app is Checkout 51.
The downside? Well, it takes a little bit of time and it’s certainly not a get rich quick scheme. That being said, I have literally paid bills with the money I’ve gotten back from ibotta (they send the money to your Paypal account) it just takes a little bit of time to add up.
If you shop at Walmart a lot then I also suggest the Savings Catcher app, this one is really quick to use (you just scan your receipt) Sometimes you get money back and sometimes you don’t (depends if they “find a lower price”) but this was helpful on fathers day when I cashed in for a Wal-Mart gift card and was able to take a big chunk off my husbands grill. Frugal living at it’s best.
Stop swiping that card
Have you ever gone through your 30-day bank statement and added up every charge from stopping at Dunkin for a coffee, or a gas station for soda/water/chocolate/whatever? My husband is the best example of this. One month I added up all the little charges (this did NOT include our groceries but did include going out to eat for lunch or dinner) and it was over $300.
He looked at me in disbelief.
Well, believe it. Those charges add up. Just because something costs less than $5 doesn’t mean it won’t end up being hundreds by the end of the month. My husband will go through spurts, sometimes he will be really good at making coffee at work and bringing his lunch but when he starts to slide he catches himself and gives me his debit card for awhile.
Spending a little more when you go grocery shopping (buying coffee, soda, or extra ingredients to double your freezer meals) can end up saving a ton of money by the end of the month.
Shopping at discount stores
These definitely depend on location, but we have Aldis and PriceRite where I am. These stores have surprisingly fresh produce and extremely low prices on food. The downside? These places may not have everything that your local grocery store or commissary does so you may have to make more than one trip.
However, there are some major hacks to saving at Commissary. Don’t forget to download the free cheatsheet at the end of the page to find out more!
Start a stockpile
This is something that is overlooked a lot, but it is a huge money saver! Ever see a BOGO sale or coupon and think to yourself (I don’t need that much of XYZ) so you pass? Well, you are passing up on a chance for major savings. Most things won’t go bad by the time you use it (especially canned goods) and most other things can be frozen. In fact, investing in a good deep freezer can save you a ton of money as well.
Even if you see a great deal or sale, grab it! You will be surprised how much it will save you over time PLUS on those days where you are out of freezer meals, you will have some extra ingredients to whip up a quick dinner!
Using your membership at wholesale stores like BJs, Costco, or Sams Club (most of these places also provide military discounts on memberships) can also help you create a stockpile for cheap. They usually provide coupons to use and some things are a great deal (and some are not- so do your research!) We saved a bunch of money by purchasing formula and diapers at wholesale stores.
Have no storage? Yes, this is a downfall of military life. Some of your homes may have less storage than others. Don’t worry, there are some pretty creative storage solutions out there, like this DIY roll out pantry.
Take advantage of all your resources
Grocery and food expenses can be one of the largest monthly expenses that is often overlooked. Especially when you are living on a low salary, or have multiple children (especially boys!!). In fact, you would be surprised by the number of military families that are on food stamps or WIC. It shouldn’t be this way, our military members deserve to be taken care of (which is why they are granted access to commissary). In fact, military families are often provided a lot of resources to save money or get products for free that they don’t take full advantage of or even know about.
However, most people that have shopped at Commissary know that it is not always as simple as that. Simply shopping at Commissary can save you money on some things but definitely not everything and the overall savings is minimal. If you find you are not saving that much money at Commissary, it’s because you are not taking full advantage of all its resources.
Taking advantage of all the ways to actually save money at Commissary, PLUS combining the resources listed above, I guarantee you will see a difference in your monthly grocery bill.
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