I’ve learned a lot about real food on a budget over the years, and it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that can make or break your success.
But, if I HAD to name one thing, it would be good planning.
There are lots of ways to “plan,” but I’m definitely referring to meal planning, so you don’t buy food you don’t need at the grocery store. I’m also talking about planning a budget, so you know exactly how much you can spend at the store.
And when you want to stock up on holiday grocery sales? You need to plan ahead to know what to look for, and what price is considered a good deal.
Psst! I’m talking about stocking up on holiday grocery sales in this post, but I go into EXTREME detail on meal planning and budgeting in my course Grocery Budget Bootcamp. Enrollment is only open 3 times a year, but join the wait list and you can download “Simple Ways to Save: Drastically Cut Your Grocery Spending in 3 Easy Steps” right away. Click HERE to get started!
How do you know what the best holiday grocery sales are?
If you’ve been keeping up with your price book (here’s how to make one!), you’ll know right off the bat whether the sale price worthy of stocking up or not.
If you haven’t been keeping a price book, that’s actually one of the reasons you might not be saving on food!!
Go to this post and download the printables. Then watch the sales for the month leading up to the holiday and track the prices. When the price hits the lowest you’ve seen it, buy your ingredients for the holiday meal.
That same week, re-evaluate your budget and see if you can dedicate any funds to stocking up on the good deals you found. Prioritize the deals according to what would benefit your family most – i.e. baking supplies if you bake often, or meat if you have a “meat and potatoes” type of family.
When is the best time to buy?
If your store has a “sale cycle” that starts on Wednesdays, the best time to buy will be the week before Thanksgiving.
If your store follows a traditional Sunday to Saturday sale cycle, the best time to buy will start the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Can you find good deals the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving? Yes of course!
However, we want to focus our time and energy towards the things that will yield us the best return, so don’t jump the gun on shopping. Wait until the week before (if your sales start mid-week) or the week of (if your sales start on Sunday) and take care of your list in one fell swoop.
What if the stores run out of stock?
Get a rain check! Many stores will have limits on certain items so there’s enough to go around, so buy your limit and then get a rain check for more.
Then several weeks later, when the holiday shopping bonanza has settled down, go back and pick up what you missed for that awesome price.
Look beyond the grocery store too!
Don’t forget that other stores carry these items too, and they’ll be discounted there as well! Think about stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and other “discount” stores that tend to carry specialty items.
Also look at drug stores like CVS and Walgreens, and warehouse stores like Sams and Costco. In fact, Costco often issues coupons for these items during the holidays. This makes for some AMAZING deals on things you’ll use year-round!
Best Foods to Stock Up on During Holiday Grocery Sales
- Turkey: Look for all cuts – whole, breasts, legs, ground – and then use as you’d like, but consider substituting for chicken in these 39 rotisserie chicken meals.
- Ham: Slice it thin for homemade lunchmeat!
- Whole Cranberries: Use them in cranberry orange granola, autumn rice pilaf, cranberry orange scones, delicata squash salad, sweet kale Costco-copycat salad, slow cooker potpourri or make your own dehydrated cranberries for snacking!
- Onions: Save some prep time later by dicing them now, and freezing them in 1 cup portions.
- Sweet Potato: Make crash hot sweet potatoes, fried sweet potatoes with runny eggs, crispy sweet potato wedges, bake the perfect baked sweet potato OR steam and freeze for later!
- Nuts: If you won’t use them up withing 6-8 weeks, freeze them to prolong their shelf life.
- Chocolate Chips: This will be the best price you’ll see for chocolate chips all year. Stock up for zucchini mug cake, chocolate chip cookie dough hummus, the best soft granola bars, chocolate chip scones, strawberry chocolate granola clusters, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, banana chocolate chip muffins and healthy peanut butter cups!
- Other Baking Chips: Think vanilla chips for white bean blondies, butterscotch chips, sprinkles, etc.
- Shredded Coconut: Make your own homemade coconut milk, or as I prefer, make sweet and salty energy bites and pumpkin larabar bites.
- Sugars: Look for all types – granulated, powdered, light brown, dark brown, etc.
- Honey/Maple Syrup
- Pumpkin: Look for pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice, but also whole pumpkins to make your own pumpkin puree. Also consider pumpkin-flavored things. Just read the ingredients to make sure it’s not filled with junk!
- Parchment Paper
- Aluminum Foil
- Muffin Liners (we use re-usable silicone liners at home, but we keep a few disposable ones on hand for when my daughter hosts a bake sale or when we take baked goods to school)
- Plastic Storage Containers (we’re slowly switching to glass containers at home, but again, having plastic ones on hand make it easy to cook and bake for others without worrying about getting your “good” containers back)
Also Keep an Eye Out For
- Seasonal Blends of Tea , Cocoa and Coffee
- Spice Blends (it’s cheaper to make your own, but if you might break even if they’re marked down enough)
- Paper Plates (great for hosting parties so you can focus on the fellowship and not clean-up… look for solid colors to use year-round)
- Meat, Cheese and/or Vegetable Trays (depending on the price, you can break even on the cost of food and save time on the prep work!)
- Clearanced Halloween OR Thanksgiving specific items (depending on when you shop)
Holiday Grocery Sales: Honorable Mention
However, I know it’s convenient to have a can or a carton of stock in the pantry, just in case. Or maybe you just prefer to buy chicken stock instead of make it.
Whatever the reason, if you tend to keep cans or cartons of chicken stock on hand, this is the time to stock up.
Condensed Cream Soups
Ever since I realized that homemade cream of mushroom soup takes about 5 minutes and tastes WAY better than the can, I don’t buy cans of condensed cream soups anymore.
But… like chicken stock… you might not have the ability or desire to make condensed cream soups at home and simply prefer to buy them. If so, watch for those sales!
Gravy is one of those foods that seem hard to make, but is actually really easy once you do it. I made Pioneer Woman’s turkey gravy recipe last year and I swear, I could have skipped the turkey and just eaten gravy with a spoon for dinner!
If homemade gravy sounds scary to you, track prices and pick up a few extra jars when the price is best.