Ok, now that you have your coupons organized, what do you do with them? The first step in saving money at the grocery store is to meal plan and make a grocery list. So many people go to the grocery store way more than they should and in the end spend more than what is reasonable to feed their family.
Making a meal plan is not as difficult as it sounds. I use iCalender on my Mac to set up a calender of meals. I try to incorporate different kinds of meals throughout the month and my goal is to not have the same meal twice in any month. We typically eat chicken more than any other meat but I also make sure we get a variety of other meats – ground turkey, beef and fish. I would also like to throw in some meatless meals throughout the month but my family puts up a big protest when I do that, so for the most part I save those for myself at lunchtime.
Once you have your meal plan made, next you need to make a grocery list. I keep an excel spreadsheet with everything I buy at the grocery store divided into categories – dairy, beverages, frozen, meat, etc. I also input the latest prices into my spreadsheet from several different stores. For example, I have milk on my spreadsheet and then a column for Target, Publix and Kroger with the price from each store on there. So, if Kroger puts milk on sale for $2.88/gallon, I can look and see not only what Kroger’s regular price is but also what the regular price is at Target and Publix. This enables me to buy it for the best price around and not take Kroger’s word that their price is the cheapest.
While making my grocery list, I keep the sale flyers from the different stores available, either on the computer or in hard copy. If I know that I am going to need something special for a specific meal, I look first to see if anyone has it on sale that week. Depending on how expensive it is, I might move it to another week when it might be on sale or substitute another ingredient in it’s place. For example, if I have pork chops on my menu plan for this week but they are not on sale, I might move them to next week in hopes that they go on sale then. Since I shop multiple stores, I normally can find what I need on sale at any give time. It might not be a rock bottom stock up price but it will at least be cheaper than paying normal price for it. I also make sure I shop for fruits and vegetables based on the season. I don’t buy strawberries in December or cherries in February. You can typically see what is in season by looking at what fruits and veggies are on sale that week. They in season produce will normally be the cheapest produce the store has at that moment. This week I am buying blueberries, strawberries and raspberries since it is summer and berries are in full production.
Ok, now your grocery list is partially done. I say partially done because you only have those items on there that you need for the meals that you are going to make this week. I then fill in the rest of my list with stock up items. These are the items that are on sale this week for a stock up price with or without a coupon. I visit several websites during the day to get updates on coupons available, what is on sale now and what is going to be coming on sale. My favorite websites are totallytarget.com iheartpublix.com, iheartkroger.com and iheartsavingmoney.com. These websites do a terrific job of updating what is on sale at these stores at any given moment. She also cross references the coupons that are available for what is on sale so you can get the best possible price. Search around and find the websites that work the best for you and the stores that you visit. A lot of sites will do all the work for you. They tell you what items are on sale and what coupons to use to get the lowest price. They will even do the math for you so that you know exactly what you will pay for the product. By looking around the site, you can often pick up the lingo that they are using such as RP=Red Plum and SS=Smart Source and then they put the date along with it so you can find the exact coupon you need. This is why we kept all the coupons and dated them – so we could find them when we need them. You may not have needed a Cottonelle toilet paper coupon when it came out in May but now that it is on sale in June, you need it to get cheap toilet paper. Coupons will vary depending on the region you live in and your local newspaper, so there might be a change in your coupons but they often list those variations also.
The key in saving money on groceries – matching coupons to sale prices to get the best possible price.
When an item you use, no matter the brand, goes on sale and has matching coupons for it, that is the time to stock up. For example, Publix recently had a sale on Peter Pan peanut butter. I am not brand loyal to peanut butter and we eat enough of it in our house to warrant stocking up on it. I bought 12 jars of peanut butter and used both Publix store coupons and manufacturer coupons to pay only $0.12/jar for it. So, for less than $1.50, I have enough peanut butter to last us through plenty of PB&J sandwiches. When you find a good deal on something that you know you will use, buy enough of it to last you until it goes on sale again. My rule of thumb is to buy at least as much as I have coupons for and if the price is low enough, I will buy more than that. You can also buy additional coupons on certain websites but I have never needed enough of something to warrant buying extra.
A lot of stores have becoming very accommodating to the coupon shopper. Most of them now double coupons, let you use a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the same item and even take competitor coupons. If you are not sure what you store’s policy is for coupons, it never hurts to ask. I have found that customer service is very nice when you approach them with a humble heart and ask in a friendly way. They will often tell you how to sign up for additional store coupons that are not widely available or tell you what their specific policy is for their store.
In almost every shopping trip that I have at the grocery store, I end up saving at least 40% on my groceries and getting free items using coupons. Just since the beginning of May, I have save almost $500 using coupons. This savings goes a long way in feeding my family and stretching our grocery dollars. There is no reason to not use coupons since they are available for almost any product you want to buy. It is free money just sitting out there waiting for someone to take it – why not you?