Try Mint to Track your Grocery Spending

The SpendSmart.EatSmart web page and Facebook have been running a poll asking What do you think saves you the most money on your grocery bill? Here is the breakdown from the 315 people who responded:

Strategy Votes % of Total Votes
Making a list and shopping less often 139 44%
Making menus 65 21%
Comparing prices between brands 43 14%
Shopping at a store with lower prices 37 12%
Coupons 28 9%
Other:  sticking to your menu, shop at the same store because I get too distracted looking at a new store, buy in bulk 3

The results of this poll indicate to me that our readers are very savvy shoppers!  These are similar results to what research and the experts promote as the best ways to save money.

Do you know how much you spend for food each month, how many times you shop and where most of your money goes? That is good information to know before you set goals.   I wrote about tracking my food expenses on SpendSmart last June, but now I have a much easier method.

I downloaded a free app on my phone called Mint a couple of months ago and now it does most of the work tracking my expenses.  Mint, which is also available free on-line at, links to all your  checking, savings, credit cards, etc..  Whenever money goes in or out of your accounts it is recorded.  The best part is that Mint is pretty smart about categorizing your expenses from the names of the businesses.  For instance, it knows to categorize Aldi and HyVee as grocery stores and Younkers as clothing.

There are many more cool features about Mint.  You can see a recent review of Mint in Doughroller.  The author said Mint is a “good concept and very well executed.”

So what did I find out about my spending? First, I need to spend a little more time categorizing transactions.  Second, there is a lot of variation month to month in both the amount and spending occasions. I can tell when I am not taking the time to plan and just running to the store and buying…these are the months when I have 10 or 11 charges from grocery stores.

I really need to follow my own advice.

Spending Less and Eating Healthier: Part 2 of 3

Making a List

Does it really take too much time to write out your grocery list?   Hmm, I guess that depends on how far you are from the store when you have to go back to get something you forgot or how much extra you paid for something you didn’t need.

A grocery list can be just a list on the back of an envelope or it can be something you create special for just your family.

We have tips for making your master list plus several different versions to get you started on the SpendSmart.EatSmart planning tab including:



Top 3 Tips to Spend Less Time in the Grocery Store

My objective when going to the grocery store is to spend the least amount of time possible in the store, yet get everything I need, eliminating the need for a special trip later. (Research shows that the more time you spend in the grocery store, the more money you spend.) I usually end up going every week to 10 days, depending on how many meals I am cooking at home. My tips are below:      

  1. Go when it is not crowded. It takes less time and the shelves are usually well stocked. Five o’clock at the end of the week is the worst time. Saturdays are also bad. Early morning and late at night are usually good times. My sister goes after line dancing which gets over at 7:30 p.m. The other sister sends her husband with a list at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.
  2. Shop at the same stores. This way you don’t spend time searching. I regularly shop at two different chain stores. One store is less expensive, but doesn’t have everything I buy. I shop there when my other store doesn’t have many items I want on sale.
  3. Make your list according to the layout of the store. That way you just go down the list in order and don’t have to crisscross the store (taking more time, more chance to forget something, and more temptation  to buy things you don’t need). I make my list on an envelope and stick any coupons I want to use inside. I write both the item and the price on the list.  If it is on sale, I write S. If I have a coupon, I write C. Sometimes I don’t buy the brand on sale or use the coupon because I check the other brands and compare prices on the spot, looking at my list with the price.

If you have tips that work for you, I would love to hear about them. Just hit the comment section and send a note.

-pointers by Peggy

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