Grocery $ + Savings + Teachable Moment System [FORMULA]

Who doesn't want to save money at a very practical level.  But how? 

Is cooking your thing?  Many, including me, don't relish it.  If it can be catered, or arranged to "eat out", then I'm good with it.  

One of my friends is the opposite.  Ask anyone that knows her, really.  If she can create a concoction in the kitchen, 50 dirty pots and all, she is good with it.

I drive her crazy.

BUT, what do we both have in common?  More importantly, what might you have in common?  We are both frugal.  Some would describe us as CHEAP.  How about you?  I taught my kids long ago that whenever and however you can design a system or habit to save money, you are ahead.    

Parents ask us all the time for practical ways to teach the rewards of savings.  This is about as practical as it gets.  If fact, if you want even more practical teaching ideas, you can find them here:  (free) 8 - Step Parent Teaching Guide 

You can chalk this whole exercise into the phrase money management, or even into the word “budget”, though again, if you know me, you won’t use the word budget around me!  The word budget is negative and seems to limit your money control.  However you choose to this, you will find the next minutes reading this article entirely worth it.  It’s practical, teachable, and scaleable. 

Whether you are the committed cook, or the buy-out “foodie”, you spend $ at the grocery store on some level. It's an opportunity for saving money and creating a lifetime habit of racking up those savings to buy something more significant later.    

Step 1:  Get your Motivation Game Going First

Think of something you are saving for.  For your young adult, it might be designer jeans or concert tickets.   For you it might be a philanthropy to donate to, the family vacation, college funding, or yes, even a designer pair of jeans of your own.  

Step 2:  Target your Savings Potential

  • Identify the top 5 (or more, remember, I promised scaleability) items that you buy all the time.  Preferably you buy these things every week.  Might it be eggs, milk, cheese, bread, or diet coke?  Is it your favorite breakfast food or the ice cream dessert?  Or is it bottled water, toothpaste, or orange juice? 
  • Write down what you buy each item for currently.

Step 3:  Name the Top 3-4 Stores You Frequent. 

  • Go online and see how much each of these top items are currently at EACH of these stores. 
  • Record that amount.

Step 4:  Think Outside the Box.

  • Every week, RE-CHECK those prices at each store.  Did they fluctuate?
  • Do they have a loyalty program that reduces the prices?
  • Does buying in bulk help?
  • Google coupons for those 5 items.  Don’t get overwhelmed on this one.

Step 5:  Buy When the Time is Right.

You’ve now got a 4+ week pattern on these items. 
Pricing cycles to watch for:

  • Wednesdays and Sundays are when many grocery stores print circulars with sales. 
  • Look at expiration dates.  If it is a perishable, look to the back of the freezer or shelf at the store and buy the furthest out expiration date. 
  • Look at savings by buying in bulk. 

The Results:

  • You will probably save several dollars a week. 
  • Remind yourself (or your teachable young adult) that anything multiplied by 52 weeks will be a more impressive number. 
  • Increase your items beyond 5 as you get your first 5 under control. 
  • What have you taught yourself or your mini-you? 
    The power of research
    The power of saving for something – delayed gratification.
    How to watch for spending cycles and trends. 
    The power of money management at a level they can completely relate to.


5 frequent purchase items + 4 weeks of trend research = $ savings x 52 weeks

BONUS:  The Teachable Young Adult Moment

  • You help them start an easy HABIT that can grow
  • You help them see how to get a long-term gain with minimal short-term sacrifice.
  • You've got an opening to start a great conversation about spending plans.

If you as a parent are paying for the items, but wanting to show your kids how much purchasing power they have by using this formula, then make it a win-win for you both.  Split the savings.  You agree to keep 50% for your household management, and your child gets 50% for their prized “widget.”  This works for any age.  In fact, to make this even better for your mini-you, get a jar and glue a picture of the item they are saving for on it.  Every week the savings are realized, convert their 50% into cash that you both drop in the jar. 

Have a great week, and BON APPETIT

You CAN Have Success in the Middle of it ALL!


Author of (free) 8 - Step Parent Teaching Guide for parents of nearly grown adults.

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