Here’s a really informative post that I wrote last year – I continue to receive a bunch of questions on how to save at the store while using coupons – here’s how I do it!
Every week I receive several emails asking for tips and advice on how to really save at the grocery store. More specifically, how do I stay on budget, plan my meals, and keep my sanity (okay, okay, I added that last one).
One of the emails I received last week was from Meredith and 2 of her specific questions were:
- Could you talk a little more about how you keep your spending so low?
- Do you strictly match coupons with what’s on sale and plan your meals that way?
.I thought I would use my grocery trip from last Friday to illustrate how I save big. Keep in mind, you may have to play around with these methods and find what works best for you and your family.
Meal Planning: I flip flop between two methods of meal planning on a budget without much rhyme or reason.
- Some weeks I plan my meals around sales and matched up coupons.
- Some weeks I plan my meals around foods that are currently in my stockpile. I might only need to pick up a handful of fresh ingredients at the store, as I am usually well stocked on pastas, meats, etc.
Grocery Shopping: Simply put- I shop the sales WITH coupons. You have all probably seen my Acme and Superfresh matchups that I post each week. I scour the circulars and match current sales with coupons currently available either online or in recent newspaper inserts. Keep several things in mind when using this approach:
- Buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper. I am telling you, if you want to build a decent stockpile (for pennies on the dollar) it really helps to buy a few copies of the paper for those valuable coupon inserts. Having multiple coupons allows you to purchase several of each item, thus building that stockpile. I decide how many copies of the paper to buy each week after checking out the coupon preview list (to see how good the coupons are based on typical sales in my area and what my family purchases). A good rule of thumb is to purchase one paper per family member.
- Remember that there are other places to find coupons (make sure the stores you shop at accept internet printables before including them in your weekly shopping!). There are online coupons available at SmartSource, Red Plum and Coupons.com. If there is a super hot coupon for a product that your family LOVES, you can always purchase additional coupons from sites like The Coupon Clippers and Ebay. Last week I purchased 20 $.75/1 coupons for Breyers YoCrunch yogurt for $1 plus $.44 shipping. We LOVE this yogurt and Superfresh requently puts it on sale for $2-$2.50. Superfresh will double those coupons to $1.50 and I will be able to snag 4 packs of YoCrunch for $.50-$1 each. That’s a great stock up price!
- Match sales to available coupons. You can do this yourself (I just keep a running list of current newspaper insert coupons in an MS Word doc) or find a blog that does the legwork for you. I am lucky to have several fantastic bloggers near me who cover the local stores that I don’t. I also like looking through store deals at www.afullcup.com.
- Be flexible. The more flexible you are willing to be with brand names and stores you shop at will maximize your savings. I bounce back and forth between 3 or 4 different grocery stores in my area, depending on who has the best sales/matchups on any given week. Sometimes I will even hit 2 stores in one week to get the best deals from each one. Likewise, being flexible with the brands you buy will save you a lot. Brand X might be on sale for $3 from $5… but Brand Y might be on sale for $3 from $5 AND have an available $.75/1 coupon. You’ll pay $1.50 for Brand Y if your store doubles coupons- literally half of what you would have paid if you fell into the brand loyalty trap.
- You don’t have to buy meat or other items every single week. To build a true stockpile, some weeks you will buy a mega pile of meat if there’s a great sale. You can freeze that meat and use it, even on weeks that meat is not on sale and you might not buy any. On any given week you will see a big variation on what I buy. One week I might buy 10 boxes of cereal because I was able to get it for less than $.50/box. You may not see any additional cereal purchases by me for another 2 months… it all depends. When I have a good stockpile of a certain item, the only way that I would buy more before it runs out is if I can get it for FREE to less than $1.
- You can get things for FREE with coupons. This one baffles a lot of people- I know I was shocked to learn about it. There are so many times that you can get products for FREE using coupons. It’s simple: a product is on sale for $1. You have a $1/1 coupon= FREE. Or if your store doubles, a product could be on sale for even more… say $1.50 and you have a $.75/1 coupon= FREE. The scenarios are endless, but the result is always the same. Coupons can get you free product. Free is free- you win! :) When your store runs a catalina sale and you use coupons with catalina deals, you can even MAKE MONEY on what you buy.
- Saving is not limited to coupons. Of course, I won’t lie. I save the majority of my money from coupons. But there are other ways to save some dough. Simply by shopping by the sales and using store loyalty cards, your savings will add up! Become a price savvy consumer: learn what prices are rock bottom markdowns for your store(s). That way you’ll know when it’s time to stock up on product.
So keeping all of that in mind, let me show you what I purchased at Superfresh on Friday. My weekly budget for my family of 3 is $50. That does NOT include diapers (which we buy by the case @ Walmart every 2 weeks or so for $13.67).
You will see that I used my multiple coupons to purchase several of certain products. In other words, building a stockpile. The products that I bought multiples of were all on sale and I was able to use coupons for them as well, further lowering my price.
The shelf price for the food you see above is $72.08.
I paid $28.58.
Here are the following products that I stockpiled using sales and coupons and how much I paid/saved:
- Bounty Paper Towels: These rolls are usually $1.19 but were on sale for $1/each. I bought 6 ($6) and used 3 $1/2 coupons (-$3). I paid $3 for all 6 rolls, or $.50/roll. We actually don’t use paper towels much anymore. We use dishtowels for almost all wiping and cleaning in the kitchen. However we still keep paper towels on hand for pet messes and such. I consider $1 to be a good price for store brand paper towels, so to be able to get the name brand rolls for $.50/each was a great deal!
- Quaker Chewy Granola Bars: We love these to snack on so I always stock up when they go on sale. I would say between $.50 and $1 per box is a great stockup price. These were on sale for $1.24/box (when you buy 5). I bought 5 and used two $1/2 coupons. Total was $.84/box.
- Francesco Rinaldi Pasta Sauce: We use lots of pasta sauce, so I always stock up when there is a good deal. I won’t pay more than $1 for a jar of sauce. Normally $2.49, these sauces were on sale for $1/each. I bought 4 jars and used 4 $.30/1 coupons which each doubled to $.60 off. I paid $.40 for each jar of sauce.
- Rold Gold Pretzels: Such a healthy snack! I’m always looking for a great price on pretzels and this was one of the best I’ve ever gotten. Normally $2.99/bag, these were on sale for $1.50/each. I bought 2 and used 2 $.55/1 coupons which each doubled to $1.10. I paid $.40 for each bag of pretzels. (I was so excited about this price that I actually purchased a set of 20 more of these coupons on Ebay! These will be super for summer bbqs and snacks both at home and when we travel.)
How does all of that sale/coupon matching add up?
I bought: 2 bags of Rold Gold Pretzels, 4 jars of Francesco Rinaldi pasta sauce, 5 boxes of Chewy Granola Bars and 6 rolls of Bounty Paper towels for a whopping $9.60. Price before sale and coupons: $55.77.
That’s a savings of 83%!!!
So, in a nutshell, that’s how I do it. That’s how I consistently save money while purchasing name brand items that we will use. Having only spent $28.58 at the store this week, I still have $21.42 left in our weekly budget. I went to the QMart over the weekend and purchased $15 in produce: 5 lbs potatoes, carrots, oranges, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, green peppers, yams, grape tomatoes and broccoli! We may also have to stop at the dairy for milk- 2 half gallons @ $2.05 each.
New to couponing? I highly recommend The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bill in Half– it is a fantastic, very easy to read book that will serve as your couponing bible!
I would love to hear your thoughts! Do you shop in a similar way? If not, what have you found that works for you?