I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I cut my grocery bill by more than 30 percent in the first month I began couponing, and it looks like this month will be at least 50 PERCENT LESS THAN what I spent on groceries each month prior to embarking on my “Journey In Frugality” just four months ago. That’s huge for our family budget!
The coupons are helping a great deal, but I’ve also significantly changed the way I shop for groceries, household and personal care items. So let me tell you what I’m doing differently when it comes to my shopping.
First let me say this: Prior to my frugal journey, I did most of my shopping at discount grocers: Shop N Save and Aldi. I would visit the more expensive grocers in my area for things that we ran out of between my major shopping trips or for more gourmet items, but otherwise, I was a loyal SNS (Shop N Save) and Aldi shopper.
Going to Multiple Stores
It doesn’t sound like fun, and I’m not advocating going to three or four different grocery stores each week. In fact, let me say this loud and clear: THAT IS NOT NECESSARY. But here’s what I’ve discovered: while SNS and Aldi do have lower prices on almost everything across the board, it is very beneficial to comb the ads of all the grocers in your area and decide what sales work best for you. If I’m running low on ground turkey, cereal, bar soap and yogurt, and Dierbergs (known for being one of the more expensive grocers in my area) has a really good sale on these items that beats the price at SNS that week, then it’s worth it for me to make a trip to Dierbergs. Likewise, no one can beat the Aldi price on milk. But if SNS has a coupon in their ad for a free gallon of milk when you buy four 12 oz. bags of shredded cheese, and I need shredded cheese (who doesn’t? — it’s freezable) then free is even better than the price at Aldi.
That brings me to another point: Before my frugal journey, I would buy one of an item that I found on sale, thinking, “Wow, I saved 75 cents on my baby’s favorite juice today.” And because my grocery bill was already insanely high, I never wanted to buy more than I absolutely had to buy each week of any given item. Now, I think about it much differently. If I find a 75-cent coupon in the newspaper for my daughter’s favorite V-8 Fusion juice, and Schnucks has it on sale 2/$6 (normally it’s about $3.79 per container), then I’m essentially getting one container of her juice for $2.25. That’s a $1.54 savings off of one V-8 Fusion. So, doesn’t it make sense to try to collect as many 75-cent coupons as I can find (from friends, neighbors, or the purchase of additional newspapers) and then buy containers while they’re on sale, too? So if I buy six containers, it’s almost a $10 savings. And, I’m not constantly running out of her juice and having to go back to the store and pay full price for it.
Of course, this only works if items aren’t perishable, but a LOT of items aren’t perishable. Now when I find good sales on items my family regularly eats or uses, and especially when I find sales combined with coupons, I stock up to the point that my budget can manage it or to the limit the store allows. We no longer run out of toilet paper, paper towels, deodorant, soap. laundry detergent, chicken broth, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, cereal, etc. I have a stash of these and many more items that I am buying in larger quantities when the price is right.
Plus, as you begin to buy things on sale and build your stock, your grocery bill continues to drop. I saw a 30 percent DECREASE in my grocery budget the first month I started couponing, and that was WITH the additional purchases I was making when I found things on sale. As I mentioned above, the month isn’t over yet, but I believe I will see more than a 50 percent cut in my grocery expenses this month! Part of the reason for that is my stockpile of groceries and personal care items. So, your savings add up over time.
Use the Grocery Ads and Make Lists
Previously, I grocery shopped according to what I wanted to cook for my family that week. I’d plan a loose menu in my head and then head to my regular store. If I found stuff on sale that was on my list, great. But if not, I still purchased the things on my list. Now, I grocery shop and build my menus and grocery lists according to the grocery ads. And remember this very important point — the store’s loss leaders (the items they’re willing to deeply discount and possibly even lose money on) are almost always the products on the front and back page of the ad. So, it’s wise to build your lists accordingly.
I also am much more disciplined about making my lists and sticking to it. For example, Dierbergs and Schnucks often run 10/$10 sales. These are usually great bargains (but not always). But Dierbergs also has lots of delicious, expensive convenience items that are usually slightly discounted to make them appear to be a “good deal” and tempt shoppers who are there for the 10/$10 items. So, I challenge myself to only buy items on my list! It’s hard, but I love it when I leave the store with a register receipt that is as tall as me but only cost me $50!
Remember, however, that not all items are a deal in the 10/$10 sales. For example, 10 Sobe Lifewaters for $10 means they are a $1 a piece. You can find much better deals on this product, and many other products that often are part of the 10/$10 sale, so it pays to know the prices and the sale prices of your favorite products so you don’t fall victim to the excitement of a sale that isn’t such a great deal, afterall.
Get Organized Before You Shop
In the four months I’ve been doing this, I’ve slowly perfected my organization method for grocery shopping. On separate pieces of paper, I make my lists for each store I will visit (and I seldom visit more than two stores in a given week). Then, I comb my coupon binder for coupons for the items on my list, and put the lists and appropriate coupons in separate envelopes labeled with the store name. I put those in my car, and hit the stores during the week as I run my regular errands. I still take my coupon binder into the stores with me, however, because not everything that is on sale is in the store ad, and sometimes I find deals on items we love, and I just so happen to have a coupon for that item, too! I love it when this happens!
Of course, I’ve started using lots of tips and tricks for shopping with coupons and taking advantage of store sales and reward programs that also have significantly reduced my grocery expenses, and I will continue to share those with you in the days and weeks ahead in this Getting Started series. I’ve changed the way I cook, participated in the Eat from the Pantry Challenge (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) , and I’m really perfecting my Walgreens and CVS shopping skills. I’ll be writing about all of these things and more, so be sure to subscribe to my feed in the upper right corner of this site!
In the meantime, I highly suggest this book: Miserly Moms: Living on One Income in a Two-Income Economy. It was a huge inspiration for me and really helped me realize that I could live frugally without sacrificing the things that are important to me and my family. In fact, we’re starting to see that we have more money for the things that are important to us. So, check it out.
And if you want to read the Getting Started Series from the beginning, here are the links:
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