My Story: The Secret to Grocery Shopping Success
contributed by Lisa
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The Check Out Check Up
10 Things You Can Stop Buying at the Grocery Store
I thought you might be interested in my "system" for grocery shopping. I have five kids, three in diapers, and I homeschool so we are all home for snacks and lunches everyday.The keys to my success are my price box, my list, and my grocery ads! I very often shop with five small children (all under age six) and found I just couldn't juggle lists, menus, a price book, grocery ads, and a calculator, so I combined them.
The first thing I do is shop at our local Wal-Mart Supercenter, because they match all competitor ads. There are five other major grocery chains in my area, so I can get the best prices and loss leaders without visiting six different places. Check around and call local grocery stores to see if they will match prices. Wal-Mart doesn't match "buy one get one free" offers, however, so I might visit another chain store if they are having a big sale.
Then I purchased a plastic recipe box and a pack of index cards. I made my own coupon box by writing categories at the top of the card. I file the coupons behind the card. It doubles as a price book, as I write down relevant pricing information on the card itself. I can add categories easily by simply adding another card. I also have a category for "store coupons" for all those percentage off coupons for places like linen stores, thrift stores, etc. that I get in the mail or weekend ads.
Then I have several cards at the back where I listed different types of meat, such as pork, chicken breast, ground beef, etc. I listed on the card my family's favorite recipes using that type of meat. For instance, my ground beef card lists spaghetti, lasagna, tacos, etc. That way, if there is a terrific sale on pork chops, I have an instant list of recipes, so I can pick up any additional ingredients. Whenever I cut out a recipe to try out of the newspaper or a magazine, I file it in the appropriate category. By doing this, I have a list of all of the things I need to try it.
My other "big secret" is my grocery list. I only make my list after reviewing the weekly ads. I fold a piece of paper in quarters, making a total of eight sections, front and back. I label the sections according to my list (pantry, produce, cold, etc.), but I also have a "menu" section, which lists the meals I plan to make. Planning a menu before you shop is key! The menu section is important to fully take advantage of sales. If I see that stir fry is on the menu, and the store is running a sale on bok choy instead of green cabbage, I know I can easily switch. If the menu lists sauerkraut, I know that bok choy just isn't going to work.
I also list, next to the item, any price matches I need and which store ad it is in. This is only relevant if there is a grocery store that will match competitor's prices. When I purchase an item that I need price-matched, I circle it on my list, and I have all the information I need to give the cashier right in front of me.
Another section I label "other store." Here I list things I might buy at my warehouse store or discount store. That way, if it is cheaper at the grocery store I am shopping at, I can pick it up for the cheapest price. I spend about half an hour planning my list and menu and about 20 to 30 minutes a week with my coupons. I regularly save 30 to 40% off my grocery bill, so I consider it a good return on investment, especially when I consider the time saved daily by knowing what we are going to have for dinner and by having all of the ingredients on hand.
Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com
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