How I saved $1,500 last year!
by Shari Smith
5 Sneaky Ways Grocery Stores Take Your Money
Meal Planning for Success
I have a confession to make. Sometimes I actually enjoy grocery shopping. It isn't the crowds, the high prices, or the long lines at the checkout lanes that get my heart pumping. It is the thrill of saving almost half off of my bill, just by using coupons.
Last week, my bill was $61.55, and I ended up paying $31.97, a total savings of $29.58. Over the last year, I estimate that I have saved a little over $1,500 on my grocery bills.
I've developed a simple system for cutting, organizing, and using coupons, mostly by trial and error. The following steps save me time, money, and my sanity.
- Make a list. I keep a running list on the fridge so that I can add items as we run out or get low. It's corny but true. If I don't write it down, I usually forget at least a few things, causing expensive and time-consuming last minute dashes to the store. A list also keeps me focused and helps curb impulse buys. My husband and two teens add things they want. I appreciate the input so I don't buy things they won't eat.
- Clip coupons. All major newspapers offer coupon inserts every week, except for holidays. In addition, I often find coupons on the box, bag or label of an item, which are good toward my next purchase. Some grocery stores are going to "coupon-less sales." The sale items either ring up automatically or you hand them a coupon card to scan. These work wonderfully and you can use manufacturer's coupons as well, doubling or even tripling your savings.
- Organize coupons. I sort and organize my coupons by type. It saves lots of time. Inexpensive organizers are in most discount or dollar stores.
- Compare the weekly ads for your local grocery stores. One store in our area offers a weekly free item for totals above $25.
- Limit your trips to the store. After trying different things, I've discovered that one major trip a week is usually sufficient. The more trips I make, the less I save.
- Leave the kids at home. This is probably the hardest tip to follow. You will be able to shop more quickly, easily, and cheaply since you won't have to drag along bored, whiny kids who keep asking for treats or throwing things in the cart when your back is turned.
- If leaving the kids at home is not an option, occupy your children. Go to the store after they have eaten, are well rested, and in fairly good moods. When my children were little, I let them bring one small toy from home or a small bag of treats. A small baggie of cereal is a healthy, inexpensive choice.
- Use store brands. We all have our favorite brands, yet often a store brand will taste identical to the higher priced national brand. Buy a few and see what you or your family likes.
- Stock up on sale items. If it is something you use often, buy as much as you can afford, but don't exceed your storage capacity. If the store sets limits on quantities, go more than once. Just make sure the sale item will not expire before you can use it.
- Combine sale items with coupons. Often the store offers a "loss leader," a product so cheap it is at or below their cost. If you have a coupon as well, you may get the item free. For example, a bag of sugar is on sale for $.89 and you have a $1.00 off coupon. The store pays you to take it home. On four occasions, I have ended up with approximately $70 worth of groceries totally free. It takes careful planning and a ton of coupons, but when it happens, I walk out of the store on a cloud with my register tape with $0.00 fluttering in the light breeze.
- Use those coupons! Once a week, I sort through my coupons and note which ones are going to expire soon.
- Don't worry that the store is losing money. Coupon clearing houses pay as much as $.25 more than the face value of the coupon to the store. The fine print on a coupon usually spells out the terms for the consumer (you) and the retailer (the store).
Coupons don't have to be a headache. By using some or all of these twelve steps to grocery savings, you too can simplify your life and put the joy back into grocery shopping.
Take the Next Step:
- Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
- Continue to look for new ways to trim food costs. Visit our food & groceries section each week to get tips for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.
Food, gas and other prices keep rising while my family's income remains stagnant and I worry we are heading for debt trouble. Tell us: Yes, I think we are heading for debt trouble and could use some help! or No, we're not in debt trouble but I like finding new ways to help keep my family finances on track!