I have decided that I am going to do some experimenting with my savings some more to see where we will reap the greatest savings. I save Scott, myself and our family a lot of money with my savvy shopping knowledge. I have pin pointed things down almost to an art form with a science behind it. It is now easy for me to go into the grocery store with my ads and coupons; get $700 in groceries and pay no more than $220. I am working on learning the different rewards programs from the different grocers to see where the biggest benefit and best savings in the long run is.
First I'm going to give tips on things that have HELPED me save thus far. Then I am going to do some research on these programs that many different grocers offer, and then devise a plan to see what my overall benefit and savings would be.
Tips on Saving Money while Grocery Shopping:
- Best night to grocery shop is Wednesday late night, after 9pm for 24 hour grocers, or 2 hours before closing for other grocers. The reason is because MOST grocery stores have their ads, ready and in your mail box my Tuesday's. The new sale starts/ends on Wednesday's. MOST, not all, and not in every region, grocery stores will honor previous and new weeks ads on Wednesday's. Additionally MOST grocery stores receive their weekly replenish shipment late Tuesday nights, and want to fastly sell their older items, and that's when they know IF they have MORE meat/produce etc than planned going into their new week. IF you can not make Wednesday night work out, Wednesday anytime is almost just as good for savings and quality combined.
- Another good reason to grocery shop on Wednesday is aside from the caliber of coupons you get in the Sunday newspaper, you also get a good caliber of coupons in the Wednesday paper.
- THE WORST three times to grocery shop are: Tuesday, Thursday, and no surprise Sunday's.
- ASK your local produce/meat/dairy workers in the grocery store if they have meat/produce/dairy near expiration that they can still sell you. You wont believe the sales you can get. Again the best night to do this is Wednesday nights. AS LONG as the meat/dairy is FROZEN it will remain good up to 4 weeks passed PRINTED sale by/expiration date. The sale by/expiration date on packages are NOT the actual expiration of the meat. The meat companies especially will often move this date up anywhere from 2-6 weeks to sale it faster, and to stay with in FDA compliance and guidelines.
- ALWAYS GO WITH A LIST! DO NOT EVER EVER just "WING IT". NEVER. Cardinal rule for spending almost 3 times as much is just "winging it". (Later in this blog entry I will run down how I do it for optimal savings.)
- Prior to making your grocery list, go through and make a weekly/monthly menu. (Base this upon how you would grocery shop. YOU WILL SAVE MORE if you grocery shop WEEKLY. I will go more in detail about this later on in this blog). Ie: Monday: Sloppy Joes with Carrots, Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread, etc.
- NEVER go hungry. This will cut down on impulse buying and snack over compensation. I will make sure to go AFTER we have eaten dinner, let it settle, which is just long enough for me to bathe both boys, get them settled in and ready for bed. That way I can leave them home with daddy, or grandpa.
- Elevate ANY and ALL distractions. If a grandparent is not available to watch our boys, then I will leave them home with daddy, so I can go in peace and with out interruption. I have PERSONALLY done a few experiments with this. Every time the result was I paid less, got better food selections and food lasted longer.
- Make a weekly budget along with your monthly budget and DO NOT GO OVER. Not even one penny.
- On your list that you have compiled (The details of the complied list will be below), keep a running total of what you SHOULD have spent, vs what you are ACTUALLY spending. (This is for price matching and couponing reasons. This is where you will be able to see your savings).
- Make a grocery list and keep it on your fridge. When you run out of things, IMMEDIATELY put it on your list. Do not chance your memory to recall it when it comes down to make your master list.
- Make a master pantry list. Include on your list how many of each item you like or would like to stay stocked up on. For example: 12 boxes of Mac and Cheese, 12 cans of tuna, 20 cans of soup, etc. (feel free to break the soup down into chicken noodle, tomato, etc). ALWAYS stay stocked up on dry and can goods. Especially veggies, they make for fast easy side dishes in a pinch, or when produce is wildly expensive.
- Keep stocked up on fast and easy meals, such as spaghetti, mac and cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.
- Cut meat out of two-three dinners a week. Try Breakfast for dinner (non meat, so omelets, pancakes, hash browns etc), spaghetti, stirfry, etc.
- TAKE YOUR LUNCH TO WORK! There is really no excuse to not to when, you can get bread for 4 loafs for $5 or tv dinners 10 for $10, or even left overs. You SAVE $$$$$ in the long run. Think about it. With a loaf of bread you have a sandwich for every day, for 1.50. You spend easily $5 or more if you eat out during lunch at work.
- Cook and freeze. Ie Lasagnas, casseroles, pastas, much of it will keep very well when you freeze it. Do this on a day off to make cooking dinner on late days at work easy.
- Try a variety of crock pot dinners.
- COUPON, every little penny counts. Just be aware that not ALL coupons will be used, and Not ALL coupons will be the BEST deal.
- No matter what BUY THE BETTER DEAL. There are MANY different apps for these smart phones that will compare prices with values, and quantities that will easily tell you which one is the BEST value in the long run. DO not be afraid to TRY at least TRY the store brands.
- AD/PRICE match. EVERY STORE THAT SALES grocery items. You will need to contact your local grocery stores in order to learn which ones do ad/price match and which ones do not, and what their local policy is on it. You will be surprised the vast differences, even in same states. For example, the Walmart in South Avondale, will not PRICE match unless it's in the ad, the Walmart in South Glendale will price and ad match as long as it is verifiable. Both are in West Phoenix.
- Avoid "quick" runs and "short lists" to the grocery store. Ie, the "I've run out of milk and eggs, and I need to just run in for a second..." runs. They never turn out to be "quick" runs, you almost always end up getting 5-10 times more than expected, and it's never worth it, because you will spend on average 6x's more.
- BUY IN bulk when the price per unit item is always a better deal! BE CAREFUL, don't get stuck in this rut or you will MISS other savings sometimes. For example: I buy my son's huggies diapers (Because they have a rewards program) at Costco. I was buying the Kirkland (Coscto brand) diapers because they were the better deal at first. THEN huggies changed their packaging to where their bulk boxes were the same amount of diapers, for the same price, and Costco often has a $5 off coupon once a month. Hints why it's the better deal in the long run. However, recently I have been experimenting with other scenarios. Once every 3 months it is in my better interest to buy my diapers at Kmart. I get three packages there, equalling the SAME number of diapers I get at Costco for the SAME price, BUT KMART pays me 2% back on my shop your way rewards program for buying those diapers, AND they will more times than not give me a bonus coupon that gives me $5-$10 back in shop my way rewards when I spend over $25. SO to make it worth my while. I buy two packages totalling $26 of my oldest sons diapers in one transaction, then two packages totalling $26 of my youngest sons diapers in a second transaction, and then in a third transaction I will buy one package of my older sons diapers and one of my younger sons diapers. Now I have the SAME amount of diapers I would NORMALLY have gotten from costco, for the same price (assuming I used the $5 off coupon), and I got anywhere from $15-$30 (Depending on what coupon I've gotten from previous transactions) in rewards money back PLUS 2% per transaction. So when you sit down and think about it, I have now made back half of what I spent. I then will take that money and buy other things I need, OR (More times than not) save my rewards money for Birthday and/or Christmas shopping for my boys. So you see if I got stuck in my rut of buying only from costco I would have missed out on this savings, bonus money.
- It may sound like a give me, but it is harder than you think. WATCH the register and watch as each item is rung in. Remember how you are suppose to write the price down on your list as you gather it through the store? Well often times (more than grocery stores are willing to admit it) the price it rings for is HIGHER than the price it says on the shelf. Most don't even look at this or notice it. IF a cashier is going to fast, which they are trained to do so, you CAN CAN CAN CAN CAN CAN ask them to SLOW down and VERIFY EACH price with you. Some will grumble at this, BUT you will lose money if you do not watch it. This is especially IMPORTANT if you are price/ad matching as well.
- COMPARISON shop. This is where it is important to look at a 4oz of bbq sauce for 2.99 and compare it to a 6oz of bbq sauce for 5.29 and compare what the better deal is. Remember you want to know how much it will costs you PER OUNCE (in this case) for the 4oz bottle and the 6oz bottle given the prices. Either using a smart phone app, or quick math you can get this. Long math would be 2.99/4oz=.75 cents per ounce and 5.29/6oz=.88 cents per ounce. So in THIS case the BETTER deal is the 4 oz bottle. So buy 2 of them for .69cents more for 2 ozs more. NOW add in a coupon for .75 off a 6oz bottle. So take your 5.29-.75=(4.54/6oz)=.76 cents per ounce. So is the 4oz or the 6oz the better deal? Even with the coupon the 4oz is still a better deal in the long run over the slightly lowered price of the 6oz and coupon. See where even one penny can MAKE a huge difference?
- Plan out your month so you are not stocking up on the same items every grocery trip. This you will have to figure out based on your local market. For example: I have personally found that it is best to do my regular grocery shopping items the first week of the month, my produce and dairy the second week of the month, my meat the third week of the month, and my bulk items the last week of the month. Each market is different.
- Consider using different stores for different reasons. For example: my regular grocery shopping week I use Walmart to ad/price match, my produce/dairy week I typically use Frys (almost always a better deal, not always the case, so keep up with the ads and trends), my meats I typically get at Albertsons the third week during their buy one get two free deals, if they do not have this deal, I will price/ad match at walmart, and my bulk is done at costco.
- When you come across an unbeatable deal, do not be afraid to stock up on it (with in reason), just make sure to adjust budget as needed, or buy less of other items in budget. IE: 4 months ago Costco had Huggies diapers on sale for 21.99 for large bulk box (normally 39.99) and a $5 off coupon. In this case, it is MORE than okay to stock up and take from another budget, just REMEMBER to do this in your budget book. IF you have no wiggle room from another budget, then resort to savings. BUT ONLY if it's a deal that you CAN not pass up.
- Grocery stores STILL HONOR RAIN CHECKS! IF they are OUT of something, ASK for a rain check. Don't be shy, ask for one!
- Stick to your lists.
- Use store savings cards/ rewards programs, etc.
- Substitute some of your drinks for water. Start with substituting one drink for water a day.
- If you know your grocery well enough, you will see even more savings when you create your grocery lists by grocery aisle.
- Try to limit eating out to either or/and once a week such as after Church on Sunday as a family, or a special family treat. (This does not include a once a month nice dinner out with your spouse. Just the two of you, make sure to budget that in for your monthly budget as well.)
- Use a calendar to remind you of important savings, etc, and when it is the better time to buy what in your local market.
Here is my work flow each week.
First my "Master Pantry List": (these are items that last long, you can buy in bulk when you find sales and stock up on that serve also for fast easy meals, for example on occasion I am low on food I can make what I call a dry beef stew. I use hamburger meat, brown in, and then cook a variety of canned veggies, and then mix it all together. Sometimes I will throw the meat into the pasta noodles, or mac and cheese, or even the veggies in these. When these items are on a unbeatable sale is when I stock up. OFTEN if the sale is good enough and I am still within budget I will stock past these qualities. BUT as a rule of thumb I always keep these quantities on hand and in mind when I go through ads and make my list. So in a sense they are always on my list, I may not always BUY them, but I can check the prices and see if there is a better special that week or not.)
- 15 cans each of each veggie we like. (ie: 10 cans of carrots, 10 cans of corn, 10 cans of green beans, etc) (I almost ALWAYS get these when they are 3 for $1 at Frys once every two months. This is when knowing your market will come in handy. Took me six months to figure this one out.
- 20 cans of Tuna. (Also almost always get these when they are 5 for $1 or cheaper. Again seems to only happen once every other month. I know if I see this deal I need to stock up, I also know that if there is a better deal than this, then I need to stock up on the better deal.)
- 20 boxes of mac and cheese
- 20 boxes of rice a roni
- 5 boxes/bags of spaghetti noodles.
- 2 jars of spaghetti sauce, 2 jars of Alfredo sauce, 2 cans of tomato paste/sauce
- 30 cans of soup (10 chicken noodle, 10 assorted cream of..... and 10 any other combo variations)
- Assorted assortments of baked goods. I typically like to keep 20 boxes of baked goods. There is no rhyme or reason. However I do like to keep a variety of muffin mix, bread mixes, and some cookie mixes.
- 3 boxes of oatmeal
- 4 boxes of cereal
- 1 large container of gold fish
- 1 large container of animal crackers
- 1 large bulk box of graham crackers
- 1 large bulk box of assorted snack crackers
- 3 large boxes of Bisquick/pancake mix
- 10 lb bag of sugar (in a container that is ant/bug proof)
- 50 lb of dog food also in an ant/bug proof container
- 2-3 loafs of bread
- 3 18plus ozs of peanut butter jars (typically one crunchy for myself and two creamy for Jayden and Scott)
- Hot dog and Hamburger buns
- 1 package of unopened tortillas (Corn tortillas are cheaper and healthier)
- 40 cans of assorted beans (this includes black beans, pinto beans, baked beans, refried beans, red beans and at least 2 cans of chili beans)
- 10 cans of manwich
- 30 cans assorted spaghetti o's and ravioli's
- 10 boxes of jiffy corn bread mix
- 3 cans of shake and bake mix or 5 boxes of shake and bake mix (depends on which one was the better deal when I last shopped for them)
- 2 64oz or more shelf stable apple juice's
- 1 24 pack of Pepsi and 1 24 pack of Dr Pepper (In addition to whats chilled in the fridge
- 1 back up of the following shelf stable bbq sauce, ranch, mayo, ketcup, mustard and salsa (if I haven't made my own salsa that month which is cheaper. Also making your own ranch is cheaper too.)
- 10 packages of taco seasoning
I have a master freezer and fridge check list as well. Items such as butter, sour cream, etc are on there. (I can provide my lists if requested. I only provided my pantry lists above to give you the idea, and so you can get the complete picture that I include everything. My TOTALS are based off of what my family will eat and how often they will. Jayden loves his raviolis for lunch or corn dogs, and chicken nuggets, so my list will have more than most of those items. You have to amend it to fit your family needs).
(THESE NEXT LISTS ARE EXAMPLES AND NOT ACTUAL just because I have not done my list for this week as of yet, but it will give you the idea of how my work flow goes)
My refrigerator list (the things we are out of or low on):
seasoning rubs for pork, chicken
My meal plan for the week:
Monday: sloppy joes with steamed veggies
Tuesday: Taco night (with mexi rice and beans w/cheese
Wednesday: bbq pork ribs in crock pot
Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread
Friday: Crock pot lasagna
Saturday: Hamburgers and Fries
Sunday: Breakfast for dinner (pancakes, omelets, and breakfast burritos)
My Weekly ads for price matching: (Main thing to remember making this list is to INCLUDE all details, because it saves you time from having to hunt it down in the ad, and it's faster to look for this item, and compare it to other similar items to find the best deal) (I normally do this in alphabet order but because I'm not doing this based off of an ad, just giving an example it's not alphabetized.)
10oz kraft bbq sauce 3.99 w/coupon .50/off on 10oz kraft bbq sauce
Bananas .58/lb when you buy 2lbs
Hidden Valley Ranch 20oz bottle 10.99/bottle w/ 1.00 off coupon
Bone in chicken breasts .48/lb
Tyson chicken nuggets 5oz bag 2.99 w/coupon 1.00 off.
buy one assorted package of pork chops at 1.99/lb get two of equal or lesser value for free (MOST places will NOT price match a bogo UNLESS their is a unit price on the ad).
Hidden Valley 10oz bottle of Ranch 5.99/bottle w/coupon .45off (I typically make sure the coupon matches or is with in parameters of ad if I'm going to include it on the lists, more times than not, the ad will say Hidden Valley 7-10oz bottle of Ranch 5.99 and the coupon will often say Hidden Valley 8oz bottle of Ranch .45 off).
I then will go through my matching ad and strike out things that are similar and figure out which one is the better value.
For example: I found two stores that have Hidden Valley Ranch in their ad, I now need to figure out WHICH one is the better deal, and if the coupons fall with in the parameters. Lets just say the coupons are good with what the ad is advertising. So at Fry's it is .50 cents per ounce using the coupon and ad match. At Albertsons it is .69 cents per ounce with the coupon and ad match. So that makes the one at Frys a better deal in the long run. You are paying .19 cents less per ounce by ad matching to Frys and using the coupon.
You would then go through the list and do the same with all like items.
Then you combine your final lists into one master list, but make sure to do it according to aisle at the store. It should look like this (Mind you mine is not by aisle at the store, just going off of the example)
Hidden Valley Ranch 10 oz bottle 5.99 @ Albertsons w/ .45 off coupon
Bone in Chicken breasts .48/lb @ Food City
(Make sure to check the ad for things already ON your lists: your master on hand lists, your out of/low lists, and your weekly meal plan lists and include them on your master lists, EVEN if you do not find them on the ads. MAKE SURE to compare all like items at the store for the best over all price in the long run.) Don't forget to write the price that the store has it at next to the item so you can calculate your savings afterwards. Keep in mind that you wont use every item you have selected to price match, because you will still compare every item to other like items to find the best value in the long run.
Now take these SAME pointers and apply them to everything else, like hygiene items, bulk items, cleaning items, etc. Your weekly ads will ALSO have these items in them as well. Get to know sales and trends of these items in your local area.
Now as far as couponing goes, I make it simple. I only clip what I WILL use. I only get two Wednesday papers from the dollar store EARLY wednesday morning before anyone can steal the coupons and before the papers are gone, as well as I get two Sunday papers EARLY Sunday mornings. I clip my coupons Sunday nights, after my family has gone to bed. I will check my master lists Monday nights after my family goes to bed, and on Tuesday nights I make my lists, and prepare to do my grocery shopping Wednesday nights.
I hope this helps! Ask me for clarification. Just remember you will have to also put in the leg work and figure out your budget, what works for your family, your local market trends/sales, what coupons work/do not work for your family, etc. These are just POINTERS and Guidelines.
Let me know if I can help you!