contributed by Mary
My husband works in a volatile industry (brokerage/financial), and we never know when he may be out of a job. And, although I have a part-time side business, my main job is raising our two elementary-age kids. I am determined to remain available to them as a full-time mom. Therefore, I am on a mission to save, save, save on everything, especially groceries. Here's what I do to create everyday savings:
- Always compare brand name prices with store brands. Compare per the lowest common denominator. What does it cost per ounce? In almost all cases, the store brand is much cheaper. And the store brand is the exact same item as the national brand, only with a different label! Cub Foods has "Cub" brand groceries. Rainbow Foods has "Roundy's" groceries. Our local hometown grocer, Maus Foods, has "Our Family" groceries. All are much less expensive than the regular prices of corresponding national brands.
- We almost always eat at home. There is no question that we save a ton of money by cooking at home. We reserve restaurant outings for special occasions.
- I rarely ever pay full price for any groceries except common staples like milk, frozen concentrated orange juice, salad greens, etc.
- For nearly everything else, I only buy when something is on sale and when I also have a manufacturer's coupon for that item. You can use two coupons if one coupon is the store's coupon and the other coupon is the manufacturer's coupon. Using this method of combining store coupon and manufacturer coupon, I frequently find that national brands are even cheaper than even the store brands.
- Our local Cub Foods chain prints weekly "Buy 1, Get 1 free" coupons for brand-name items. Since I am "purchasing" two of those items by using one of those coupons, I am also eligible to use two manufacturer's coupons at the same time. I am already getting one item for free. With the additional savings from the manufacturer's coupons, I can save a bundle. I usually end up paying 25 percent of the regular price of one item, or less, for two of the items.
- I adjust my mindset so that I am always shopping from a "surplus" rather than a "deficit" perspective. I stock up when something is on sale (and when I also have a manufacturer's coupon), so that I can get it at a much cheaper price. If I wait until I run out of some grocery item, I'll most likely end up paying full price for it.
- Chintzy is definitely not the best way to go. I hate wearing cheap clothes from discount stores that look tacky and don't hold up well. But I love wearing fine, well-tailored clothes that I bought out of season on the clearance rack at Marshall Field's for 80 percent off.
- I apply the same principle to furniture, dishes, household items, etc. I've made it a habit to head straight to the clearance section of every store I enter. I recently purchased a lovely set of Pfaltzgraff dishes by the piece from the clearance section of our local outlet store. The dinner plates were $1.96 apiece (down from $15 apiece), and the side plates, bowls and mugs were marked down proportionately, for a total of nearly 90 percent off regular price. I had to order a few pieces online to complete the set, but the clearance prices were good online as well, so it was totally worth paying a few bucks in shipping to complete the set. (I can't believe I ever had my wedding guests go to a bridal registry and pay full price for kitchenware. Ugh!)
- I have zero store loyalty. Since we are lucky to have several grocery stores in our area, I'll go to wherever the best deals are each week. However, I do not waste time or gas by adding on mileage unnecessarily. If for some reason I can't make the stop during my regular errands/kid rounds, I'll skip it and rely on my standby favorite store, which tends to have good sale prices on just about everything anyway.
- Finally, I do maintain a grocery coupon file and I use it all the time, but I don't spend a ton of time messing around with it. Each week, I take about 20 minutes cutting out coupons from the Sunday newspaper for products we might use. Then I take another 30 minutes during my son's piano lesson, while I'm sitting there anyway, to go through the grocery ads (and my coupon file) and come up with a grocery list. So for about an hour's worth of work each week, I save at least $50 to $75 on groceries.
"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 MyStory@Stretcher.com
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