I recently met a very nice lady who told me that she spends about $1,000 a month on groceries. She lives near me, has 2 young children like me and wanted to know how to reduce her spending. $1,000 a month boggles my mind. I don't think I could spend that much a month if I tried. So I figured for the New Year, I'd write up some tips to help you save in 2010. Sure, probably all these things have been mentioned in the hundreds of thousands of other articles posted in grocery store savings, but whatever. Sometimes people just need a crazy redhead to tell them how things work.
Saving Money Without the Hassle of Coupons
Not everyone is motivated by coupons. Changing some habits could help you save. Here are some:
- Give up brand loyalty. Sour cream is still sour cream whether it's Daisy, Breakstone's or store-brand. Buy what's the least expensive (and suprise, it's not always store-brand). Obviously there are some things you personally want to stick to. Me, I prefer Coke over Pepsi. I won't buy generic coffee - not like Maxwell House and Folgers is high-class or anything, but I can't do the store brands.
- Make a list each and every time you go to the store. And stick to it. This year, I made a list up almost every single time I went to the store. I really think it helps curb the impulse purchases.
- Do not go to the store hungry. Do not go to the store when it's busy. Try to go without distractions (i.e. KIDS!). If you're hungry, you'll buy stuff just because you're hungry. If you go when it's busy, you will get frustrated and might not be able to take the few seconds it takes to scan prices on certain items to see what is the better deal. If you go with kids, you end up buying things like Watermelon in the middle of December (probably it's most expensive price).
- Use the circular as your shopping list. The weekly circular could be your best friend. The front and back pages usually always list the "best" deals. Usually the front page is a great combination of meats, produce, dairy and some grocery items that are on sale.
- Try to not do a big grocery trip one week (maybe just pick up milk, bread, eggs) - and live off of what you have in your house. If you are spending a few hundred a week, you must have a pretty full pantry and freezer. Not only will you purge your cabinets and refridgerator, but you'll save $100-$200 by not doing a weekly shopping trip. You'll also get creative...
- Save and eat leftovers. Sounds crazy - but I think most people save their leftovers - but end up tossing them after a week because they get hidden in the refridgerator. I recently made a lasagna. It probably cost about $8 to make - but it provided 4 meals (9 servings). So it was .88 cents a serving. If we didn't eat the 6 remaining portions and just tossed it after a week of rotting in the fridge, those first 3 servings would have cost $2.66 each.
- If you are spending upwards of $1,000 a month and WANT to reduce it (you may be perfectly happy spending $1,000 a month), maybe you should just sit down and think about what in the heck you are buying. Sure, if you have a baby, you might have to factor in diapers and formula. Are you buying all organic things? If so, you might want to check out THIS LIST of things that DON'T need to be organic.
- Buy your milk at Tedeschi's or BJ's. Generic 1% gallons at Stop & Shop are $3.79. Garelick Farms 1% gallons are $2.29 at Tedeschi's & BJ's. That's $1.50 savings per gallon. If you drink a gallon a week, you save $78 buy buying milk at Tedeschi's or BJ's. If you go through 2 gallons a week, that's over $150 in savings if you just pop yourself into Tedeschi's.
So you want to start Couponing...
- Most grocery stores double Manufacturer's Coupons (MFCs) up to .99 cents. So you want to pay attention to the .50s and .75s. They could be your best friends.
- You can use store coupons with MFCs. Shaws.com produces weekly coupons. Say there is a coupon for $1 off 3 Betty Crocker Brownie Mixes. If you have 3 .50/1 MFCs, you can use all 4 coupons and save $4 off 3 boxes of brownie mixes.
- I subscribe to the Boston Globe. I get just the Sunday edition delivered to me. I think it's $13 and some change a month. It's worth it because I get at least $13 worth of coupons that I use a month. Plus I like to read the Sunday paper.
- The best coupon sites out there are Coupons.com, & SmartSource.com. Redplum.com sometimes has good coupons. Kraftfoods.com, Boxtops4Education.com & BettyCrocker.com are also good sites to score coupons on your purchases. Set your color on your printer to "Black Only" and use a medium quality. They do not have to be in color and if you use best quality, you are just wasting ink.
- Don't bother cutting every coupon. Cut the coupons for the products you use or might use if they price is right. You can score Tag cheap with sales and coupons - but if you have no desire to smell like a frat boy, just skip over that one.
- The best way to maximize your savings is to combine coupons with sales. Nowadays - you can use sites like WickedCoolDeals.com and Dealfindingmom.blogspot.com to help you match up sales to coupons - so you don't have to. I try to do it from time to time - but I'm a slacker so you can't count on me.
- Some people buy coupons off Ebay. I have never done this, but it could be very worthwhile. For instance, Michelle over at WickedCoolDeals.com just bought 20 .75/1 Ronzoni Smart Source Pasta coupons on Ebay for $2. These went on sale for $1.50 at Shaw's - so her coupons doubled and she was able to get 20 boxes of pasta for free at Shaw's. She paid $2 for the coupons - so overall - she paid 10 cents per box of pasta.
- Coupons can be overwhelming after some time. I'll admit they do get a bit too much for me at times. Sometimes I just take a breather and toss most of my stash and "start fresh". People have different ways of organizing them. Find what works for you. I don't do folders. I just have 3 small plastic bins (purchased at A.C. Moore for $1 ea) I put all grocery ones in one, health & beauty in another, and household stuff in the 3rd. Not the most efficient system, but it works for me.
- Don't try to buy every single bargain out there. Sure, there are tons of great deals to be had out there with coupons every week. But don't try to get them all - especially if you are just starting out. Buy what you need or what you'd eat if it was really cheap. Baby steps is the best way to start couponing.
- The more into coupons you are - the more you crave! When you are psychotic like me, you'll find yourself starting to scan the isles for those little coupon machines and check packages for coupons. Seriously - some manufacturer's put great coupons RIGHT IN FRONT of the product or even on it. My recent good deal was the Planters Mixed Nuts at Stop & Shop. They were on sale for "Buy 1, Get 1 Free" - at $4.79 ea. They all had $1/1 MFCs attached to them! Since I was buying 2, I was able to use 2 of the $1 offs. So I got both containers of nuts for $2.79. If I bought them at regular price, it would have been $9.58. The sale and coupons made me save over 70%! On the flip side - I would never have bought these nuts at regular price - so in theory - they did get me to spend $2.79 that I otherwise would not have - so that is why I say to use caution and not try to use every single coupon you have. You may end up spending more than you really want to.
- I am at a loss as to what else to say. If you have questions, comment on any of my blog posts and I'll probably answer it.
- Some stores (Shaw's in particular) do sales from time to time called "Catalinas". These are the sales that boast "Spend $25, get $10 off your next purchase" or "Buy 10 items, get $10 off your next purchase". There are tricks and whatnot with these sales. When the next one pops up at Shaw's, I'll write up how to start working it if you've never done those before.
With that my friend, I must end this post. Hopefully any newbies might learn how to save a few bucks at the grocery store.