Saving at the Grocery Store- a 10 minute read
For those of you who know me personally you know that I am a big coupon lady and work hard almost every week to make sure I can save some money when I get my groceries. I have done some pretty impressive shopping trips and I wanted to share some of my tips and my process with all of you.
Get the Ads & Coupons
Where I am from the Saturday paper is the paper you want to get to help you save money. Therefore most Saturday mornings I go up to the local gas station and pick up a copy of the weekend paper for a justifiable $2.00. In the paper I can find the local ads for the grocery stores as well as coupons. Tip: Generally the first week of the month has the P&G Coupons, these are the ones that are for bigger name brands like Charmin, Bounty, Tide, Bounce, etc. Normally the third week of the month are the "Red" Coupons which are not always big brand names but offer lots of savings. Usually I can find a coupon for Kellogg's cereal, Sargento Balanced Breaks, Tampax, Pledge, Cottonelle, Freihofers, and much more!
Once I get home I look over the ads and go through my coupons and cut any out that I might need. I also use this time to go through my mini coupon binder and toss any of those expired coupons I have. I like to cut coupons out if there is even a chance that I might get that product. For some things I may have coupons for two or three brands of the same item, this way I can go to the store and price compare what would be the best price.
Check Your Schedule
I get my planner out for the week and quickly go through what is going on for us in the upcoming week. For example in the winter time Mike bowls on Wednesday nights and he doesn't come home before bowling, and does not get home much before 10PM. Therefore I know that night can be an easy dinner night for me or leftovers. Friday nights I tend to keep open because we normally end up doing things with our friends. I also think about any other items on the calendar that may effect dinner time including prep.
I do a quick inventory of what I have in the freezer to see if there are things I can use up instead of buying new. I suggest doing a full inventory of your freezer, refrigerator, cupboards, pantry, etc. every 3 months. There are times you may stock up on something because it was on sale, or you forgot you had something because it got shoved to the back of a shelf. You would be amazed how many meals you usually can come up with just based on what you have already in your home. Under resources I have an example of my food inventory and a blank spreadsheet that you could use.
Okay, so I've looked at the ads, I have looked at our schedule and done an inventory. The next step is to meal plan for the week. I do not include breakfast and lunches into our meal planning. Mike does not eat breakfast and I normally just have a bowl of cereal, so as long as we have a box of Special K and milk in the house I'm good. As for lunch Mike typically will bring leftovers or sandwiches and I will make myself salad or a sandwich. However for dinner I like to meal plan and there are two ways you can do it. The first way is designate a meal for each day of the week, taking into consideration who may be preparing it, if it will be a late night or if you have to do something quick. The second way is to simply make a list of 5 dinner choices you know you will make that week and make sure you have all the ingredients to do so. I prefer designating a meal because then I usually remember to pull out things from the freezer the night before so that they are thawed and ready to go when I get home.
Making Your Grocery List
The last step is combining all of the things you have done into a grocery list. I tend to look at the ads and see if there are any super good deals on something that we might need. Be careful to not just shop your ad, that is when you buy things that are on sale regardless if you need them or not. Yes, Progressive soup might be 10 for 10 this week BUT if you already have 5 cans of it in the cupboard and you are the only one who really eats it, you don't need it. On the other hand if the store is having what they call a "can crazy" sale and they are offering soup or canned vegetables at 49 cents each, then it might be a deal to consider.
Price Chopper is where I frequent the most, and they tend to have some sale on a produce item each week. I prefer to get something like grapes, mandarin oranges, bananas or apples. These are all items that we can quickly thrown in our lunch bag and go. I also keep an eye out on the celery and baby carrots because they are a quick item to prepare and throw in our lunch bag as well.
To make your list you want to take the following things into consideration: the ads, your coupons, your inventory and what you are having for dinner this week. When making your list don't forget to think about other items you might need such as toilet paper, laundry detergent and air fresheners...all of these items tend to have coupons too!
I know it sounds over whelming and time consuming and you are shaking your head at me saying I have no time to do this. I agree at first it will take some time to get use to, but if you make it a habit and do it regularly you soon will be able to breeze through this whole process in under a half hour and it will become worth your time.
Here are some other tips:
1. Extra Savings
For extra savings I like to use the Coupon App and print coupons off that may not have came in the Saturday paper. And at Price Chopper using the iSave machine when I walk in. Half of these coupons are only good for a week, but the other half are manufacturer coupons that are good for a month and worth saving. At Price Chopper because you use your Advantage Card to get these coupons they are typically targeted to items that you buy.
Ibotta is a great app to use, if you remember to do it! Ibotta has you choose your store and then click items that you may buy and get money back on. The trick is to remember to scan your receipt within one week to get those savings. Lots of times you need the bar codes of the items too, so I suggest doing in while you are unpacking your groceries. Although the savings are not automatic once you get up to $20 worth of savings you can redeem that money for gift cards for stores or restaurants. The trick is being diligent about doing this weekly, and yes it does add some more time to the whole process.
3. Family Dollar/Dollar General Apps.
I live one block away from a Family Dollar and there are plenty of times I have to run there for something. Family Dollar & Dollar General each have their own store app with coupons. Generally they are the same coupons that you would have found in the paper but digitized onto the app. The first step is similar to Ibotta where you have to go into the app and check the products that you want, but while checking out you can scan the bar code on your phone or enter your phone number and get instant savings. Occasionally the price is comparable to bigger stores and/or is good to have for when you do need to pick something quick up.
4. Price Match
Going off of tip #3, something to consider doing is comparing prices at your local stores. Take items that you get at least monthly, if not more frequently and compare the prices among your top 3 stores. My 3 stores are Price Chopper, BJs and Aldi. For Price Chopper and Aldi I need to use recent receipts or visit the store, but for BJs I can usually find the prices online. You will need to not only consider the price, but also how many ounces or items per package. Under resources is one of my old price matches and a blank form that you can use. I try to do this at least once a year, typically in the winter when I have more time.
5. Stacking Coupons.
Price Chopper and other grocery stores tend to have about 5 coupons per weekly flyer and they allow you to combine with one manufacturing coupon. Meaning you can combine savings for one item two ways. A good example of this is cereal. Let's say Price Chopper has a sale for General Mills cereals, limited to 5 types, the sale is 3 for $5. However you have a coupon that says buy 2 General Mills Cereals you get $1 off. That coupon can be combined with your store coupon to get the 3 cereals for $4. Therefore you could have saved up to $3 on these cereals, depending on the brands. Make sure to read the fine print carefully, but stacking coupons can help you save tremendously.
6. Know Your Store's Policy.
Like I've mentioned I do frequent at Price Chopper so I have what their store policies are on coupons printed out and in the back of my coupon binder. A surprising policy was they do not accept digital coupons, therefore you can not have them scan bar codes off of your phone. They either have to be added to your Advantage Card on the app or be printed. A nice policy they have is they double any manufacturing coupon up to 99 cents. So that 75 cent coupon actually can become a $1.50 coupon! So make sure to check out what you can and can not do.
7. Coupon Binder.
I have a mini sized binder that has dividers in it with business card pages. The business card pages are perfect size to fold coupons into and see them as you flip through. In the back I also have the mini page protectors with show some of the other information I have mentioned above. There are multiple ways that you can organize your coupons and savings, this is what I found works best for me. Another technique I've used is taking an envelope and writing my list on it and putting all the coupons I am going to need inside of it.
Hope all of this information and tips help you become a savvy saver! Don't be afraid to comment on my posts and ask me questions or suggest other ways to save!!
The filled in price match is an example of what I did.
The food inventory is an example of one my in depth ones.
A blank price match sheet for you to use
A blank and editable food inventory Excel sheet.