Smart shopping means paying the lowest price for each grocery item without doing super-couponing, joining a buyer’s club or driving out of your way to multiple stores (burning extra gas).
To Smart Shop…
- You do NOT need to super coupon.
- You do NOT need to join a buyer’s club.
- You do NOT need to set aside a room for bulk purchases.
- You do NOT need to drive around town to multiple supermarkets to get the best deals (you’ll lose money on gas).
Different shoppers pay three different costs for the same food in a grocery store.
Full-Price Grocery Cost
This is the cost of the meal if you buy brand name and premium store products (meat, seafood, produce, etc.) at their full prices.
This is the cost of the meal if you buy generic or house brand items at their regular price.
This is the price if you shop-smart. I can’t get these exact meals for these exact prices every time — they include manager’s specials, dented can prices and one-time sales or coupons. But, there are new sales next week.
If you look at the meals on this website, you’ll be able to create some cheaper than the prices I have, but even if you can’t get the same prices I show here, you’re probably talking 25¢ more per meal than the prices I show.
Making Cheap Meals
The smart-shopping cost marked on each picture was the cost of the meal because I…
- Bought generics
- Waited for sales
- Used a loyalty card
- Bought manager’s specials (which are dented cans, items close to the sell-by date, closeouts, etc.)
- Bought brand name products on sale
- Used a few digital or paper coupons
Even so, if you pay full price, these meals are still pretty cheap.
Reducing your Grocery Spending
About 90 percent of the prices on this website come from things I bought at Kroger, the rest at Publix. You can do even better if you also (but not only) shop at Aldi, Walmart, Target, Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Clubs and your local dollar and discount stores.
To get the absolute lowest price for any meal, you’d most likely have to drive around to different stores, which I’m not interested in doing.
However, if you don’t mind doing a little bulk buying, it’s not a bad idea to drive around to different stores. For example, if Aldi’s has the least-expensive canned soup, instant mashed potatoes and salsa, buy a year’s worth there (if you can afford it). We’re talking maybe 12 boxes of pasta, 12 boxes of mashed potatoes and 48 cans of soup, depending on how much you eat each month.
If Walmart has the lowest prices on canned tuna, pasta and oatmeal, but a year’s worth there.
In my area, every Kroger has a Publix next door or across the street, so I can shop at two different stores without making a special trip.
The point of this site is not to show you how to get the absolute lowest prices — it’s to demonstrated that many Americans are wildly overspending for groceries and that you can eat very well for less than $5 per adult. To put it another way, many Americans are paying twice what they should per person.
A Little Frugal Living Means a Bigger Retirement
If you’re a typical person in Atlanta who pays full-price for everything, you can probably immediately save $100 or more per month if you buy generics and wait for sales. That’s $1,200 per month. Factor in credit card interest. Factor in another $600 if you put this money into a 401(k) match at work. Factor in the interest on that each year.
So, without really doing anything, you can add another $2,000+ to you retirement account each year. Depending on old you are, switching from Green Giant corn to store brand corn might give you another $500,000 when you retire!
That’s a half million dollars you gain by eating generic spaghetti instead of Ronzoni, and generic green beans instead of Del Monte.
Join Loyalty Programs
Kroger’s loyalty card program is pretty crazy, too. They track what I buy and then send me coupons for discounts on those items. I don’t know why they give me coupons for things I’m going to buy anyway, but I’ll take it! They also give me coupons for freebies. I buy a boatload of Tombstone pizzas (one of the few name brand items I buy). Kroger gives me a coupon now and then for a free Tombstone pizza.
If you think “the government is watching you” because you have a grocery store loyalty card, I feel bad for you (I actually heard a cashier tell a customer that once!).
Publix will also accept Kroger coupons (up to $1). So, if I wait for an item to go buy-one-get-one-free at Publix (BOGO) and add a Kroger coupon, I get a very low price.
Publix also does “stacked deals.” This month (January 2021), Publix offered Chi-Chi’s Salsa at half price, PLUS a digital coupon for $1 off. That brought the price down from $2.50 per jar to $1.20 per jar, then $1.00 to 20¢ per jar! I had a Kroger coupon for 55¢ off, so PUBLIX actually paid me to buy Chi-Chi’s salsa.
Typically, I don’t do this because I don’t want to take advantage of odd deals like this (you should always pay something for what you get), but I didn’t realize the numbers until I got home and checked my receipt.
I also get fuel points at Kroger and save about $100 year on gas (I don’t drive much – a friend of mine saves about $900/year on gas with Kroger fuel points).