With the budget we’ve set in place we’ve limited the funds we have for things like eating out and grocery shopping. So we’ve had to become quite frugal in the way we spend our money on food and necessities. One of the ways that has helped me reduce my grocery bill quite drastically is by shopping with coupons. I thought I could share my “method” with you.
It’s not a breakthrough new plan, it doesn’t involve anything complicated and it saves me at least 40% on my grocery bill every week. And when I pair this plan with meal planning each week I am able to stick with my budget and create a healthy menu for my family.
Here’s how I prepare for a grocery shopping trip:
Writing My List
A grocery list is a must when it comes to shopping on a budget. It helps me stay focused and only buy what we absolutely need and it also helps me gauge how much the shopping trip will cost.
When writing my grocery list I first look in the fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry to see what we have on hand already and what we might need. Then I write a meal plan for the week’s dinners based on what we already have. I double check my meal plan and the food we have on hand to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything that will cost us a trip to the store later in the week. Meal planning helps us save money by not spending anything extra on going out to eat.
I also keep a pad of paper and a pen next to the pantry so I can write down the things we’re getting low on or that we use up as the week goes by.
Browsing the Sale Ads
The first source I go to when planning out my weekly meals and grocery list are the sales ads that come in the mail once a week. I go through each store’s ads, circle what we need, and compare prices at the three major chains in the area. I do this while sipping my coffee and eating breakfast with the kids. If there’s something I think they might like I ask them. My son has gotten great at circling what he wants too!
I adjust my meal plans based on what is on sale. By being flexible with what we eat for dinner I’m able to save big on seasonal items that go on sale at certain times of the year. I can also help stock up the freezer with family favorites.
Online Couponing Sites
There are a few sites that I love to browse while looking for deals at the grocery store. One is CouponMom.com. CouponMom.com not only has links to online coupons but it also has coupon deals listed by state. I simply select the state I live in, and the grocery store I shop at, and I can see all of the current deals advertised as well as the coupons I can match with the current sales to get the most for my money.
I use my store ads and grocery list to pinpoint what items I’m looking for and where the best deals are in my area. I can gauge where I can purchase a product for the cheapest price and then re-organize my grocery list by the store I purchase the product at.
Another great source for deals are couponing blogs. There are hundreds of blogs out there dedicated to finding you the best deals around. They are also great for pointing you in the right direction when a company has a coupon on their website or social media site. I follow quite a few couponing blogs via facebook and through Google Reader.
After I’ve seen what’s on sale at the store, I grab my stack of coupons for the week. I receive coupons in four ways:
- Sunday’s newspaper
- In the mail once (or twice) a week
- Online (Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, Target.com, Company websites, Facebook deals)
- My mother-in-law – she’s awesome and brings me her coupons each week!
I don’t cut any coupons out until I know what I’m going to buy. And I browse through the coupons first to match potential deals with my grocery list and store ads. I do this to limit the amount of coupons I have floating around and to make sure that I’m not doing any extra work.
Once I’ve cut out what I need I organize the coupons by the store I’m going to. I put my shopping list for that store around the coupons and keep it in my wallet. When I’m ready to go to the store I just grab my list and coupons and I’m ready to go! This makes it very easy for me to shop at different stores because if I pass a particular store during the day while going about our daily activities I can stop in and pick up the things on my list without wasting gas by going to three different stores at once.
Any coupons that aren’t used go into my coupon holder. I organize them by Dairy/Eggs, Snacks, Pantry Goods, Refrigerated/Frozen, and toiletries/miscellaneous. I keep this coupon holder with me in my purse when we’re running errands in case I run into something I have a coupon for and need. This also comes in handy when we find things on clearance at the grocery store or at Target and it wasn’t on our list.
Checking Clearance Items
When I am at the grocery store I always stop by two places when I’m done picking up all of my items. I check the clearance meat section and the clearance racks at the back of the store (usually by the back doors to the store’s warehouse).
The clearance meat section is a section for meat that needs to sell within the next two to three days. The use or freeze by date is quickly approaching and the stores want to get it off their shelves fast so that they can sell the meat coming in. The best part about these meats is that the date they go off of is the use by or freeze by date. Since we have an extra freezer in our garage we can stock up on meats that go on clearance. As a note, I always use up these meats within a month of purchasing. I’m sure they’d last longer but that’s our family rule.
The clearance racks at the grocery store are just like the clearance racks at the department stores. The store is trying to phase out items that are taking up space on their shelves. And I’ve found some amazing deals here. I check the clearance rack for bread, sweets, miscellaneous food items and toiletries. Day old bread is perfect for french toast casserole and other delicious meals!
A few months back I was able to find Earths Best organic baby food for $5 a flat and they had three flats. I also had two Earths Best coupons with me so I bought two. I ended up paying around $0.15 for each jar of baby food. I made my own baby food most of the time but wanted a quick and easy solution for meals on the go. Talk about a deal!
So by writing my list and sticking with it, checking the ads and deal websites, clipping coupons, and browsing the clearance items I’m able to really make the most of my grocery budget. I’ve been able to cut our grocery bills in half with this method and it takes maybe 1/2 an hour from my day.
What do you do to save money on your grocery bill?
This article was first featured on February 24th, 2012.