Steve and Annette Economides don't dread food shopping, even as prices rise. That's because the north Scottsdale couple, known affectionately as "America's Cheapest Family," shop so strategically, the faltering economy hasn't hit them hard at the checkout counter.
Steve and Annette Economides don't dread food shopping, even as prices rise.
That's because the north Scottsdale couple, known affectionately as "America's Cheapest Family," shop so strategically, the faltering economy hasn't hit them hard at the checkout counter.
"It's like a game and I always win," said Annette, 47, on a recent Wednesday evening as she and Steve, 50, armed with a stack of coupons and sale fliers, set out for their monthly grocery shopping trip.
The Economideses, authors of "America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money" (Three Rivers Press; 2007), have spent most of their 26 years of marriage honing their cost-cutting skills.
For nearly a decade, the Economideses say they have been feeding their family of seven -five children ranging in age from 14 to 25 (four of whom live at home) - on an average monthly food budget of $350. That figure, they say, includes food, paper goods and personal care items.
Steve Economides, who worked in advertising before becoming a full-time author and public speaker on finances, said there is nothing secret about how he and Annette have been able to cut costs.
"It's (a result) of putting smart strategies together at once," he said.
Acting like savvy commodity traders, the couple seek sales, making a purchase only if the product is at their "buy" price.
"If a price goes up on something because of a shortage, we use something else. There are other options out there," said Steve, adding that by stocking up on sale items they regularly use, they have enough in their pantry until the items go on sale again. Over the years, the couple invested in a second refrigerator and a large chest freezer so they can stock up on larger quantities of food.
Annette said the family eats well. "We eat healthy. We don't exist on Cheetos and ramen noodles," she said. She does admit to splurging occasionally on treats, such as chocolate and ice cream.
Planning ahead is key, say the couple.
"You can save dollars if you think ahead (of the shopping trip)," said Annette, a stay-at-home mom and co-author of their book. She advises consumers to take the time to plan a menu (she plans a month in advance but says even a weekly menu makes a difference) and make a shopping list with items needed for the menu. She also suggests clipping coupons and limiting the number of trips to the store. Each trip, she says, offers the temptation of impulse buying and wastes gasoline.
Annette said these strategies can easily save 60 percent to 70 percent on a food bill.
The couple live by what they preach.
On their latest monthly food shopping excursion, Steve and Annette chose to go to Bashas' at Tatum Boulevard and Bell Road (they felt the store had the best sales flier that week) and Super Wal-Mart on Northsight Boulevard and Raintree Drive because of the company's price-matching policy on sale items advertised in other stores.
With Steve in charge of searching the outer store aisles for meat, dairy and produce, while Annette scoured every inner aisle for sales, the couple filled two food carts with $152.54 of merchandise before coupons. After coupons, the total came to $119.52.
At the Super Wal-Mart, the Economideses filled another two shopping carts, spending $208.15 before coupons and $182.45 afterward.
At the evening's end after five hours of shopping, the Economideses headed home with about 40 bags of groceries costing a little over $300 in total.
The couple seemed pleased. "We got a lot of great deals," said Annette.