One of my biggest ways to save money is at the grocery store. I wanted to do a post with just a few getting-started tips to show just how easy it is to save!
*ALWAYS make a list before you go! If you are shopping on Friday, start no later than Wednesday when you are writing your list. I go bi-weekly, as I seem to save even more that way.
* I also make a dinner list before writing my grocery list. I don't go so far as to decide what night we are going to eat what, but I will make a list of at least 14 meals that I need to be sure I have the ingredients to make. Spaghetti, chili, fried chicken, beans and cornbread,pizza, pork chops, tuna casserole, ect. Then I can refer to my list and check my pantry to be sure I have all items on hand.
*Before sitting down to write it, gather together all of your local store ads--hopefully they are all located near each other. I shop at Meijer, Kroger and sometimes Target so I get all of their ads together so I can see what is on sale at each store. If you don't have printed ads, check them out online! I then sit down with a couple sheets of paper with each store's name at the top.
*You should have an idea of what you will need necessity wise and what you are running low in--toilet paper, laundry detergent,milk, eggs, cheese, ect. Leave out cookies and ice cream-as they are not necessities. Also, refer to your dinner list and add anything not in your pantry to the necessity list.
* Scan your ads for who has each of these things on sale--for me this week Kroger had milk 1/2 gallons on sale and Meijer did not-so I make a note on the Kroger sheet of milk-.99 cents x 4(to equal 2 gallons for that week--milk is the one item that I will buy in-between shopping trips), Meijer has eggs for .79 cents, so I write that on the Meijer sheet. So on and so on, until I have the necessities covered. If you have a dinner that you need a lot of ingredients for and nothing is on sale, you may want to consider switching that meal with something else in your recipe box.
* Keep an eye out in your ads for exceptional deals. Once in a great while I will come across shredded cheese on sale for $1 a bag(which is awesome!), so I encourage you to stock up!! That way you will get it for $1 now, and not have to pay $3 the next time you get groceries and it isn't on sale. Only stock up on items you use a lot of.
*Remember you can freeze most items and they will be ready when you need them! I stock up when the really good breads are on sale for $1 and then I freeze them, if I buy them on August 10th and they have a best by date of August 20th and I freeze them the day I buy them, then they should be good for 10 days after I thaw it out. It is generally that way for anything-kind of like they are frozen in time. =) You can really save buy stocking up.
*Buy meats that are being clearanced out--freeze them until you need them. Stores want to sell them BEFORE they go bad on their shelves so as long as you use them right away or freeze them, they are fine!
*Buy your fruits and vegetables in season and you will pay less. Try to buy the locally grown items as they cost less because you are not paying the extra amount that it costs stores to have them shipped across the country. You should also check out your local Farmer's Market, as that is not only a great way to save, but the food may also be better for you!
*Clip those coupons! Buy the Sunday paper-if you know they will have lots of coupons inside-peak if you need to. Also, check with any friends and family and if they don't use their coupons see if they will be willing to share them with you. If they too use coupons, maybe you can start a sharing system--where you share anything you won't use and they can do the same with you. Maximize your chances for those great coupons. Also, do not forget internet coupons! I have never had any trouble with a store accepting them and you can find coupons on just about anything online with a simple search.
*Check your store's coupon policies. Both Kroger and Meijer double my coupons, so my .50 cent coupons are really worth $1.
*Keep a coupon organizer with each section broken down. In mine I have it broken down by the way my favorite store is set up. Meijer tends to be cheaper overall, so I have it set the way I go through the store-back to front. My sections include, Dairy, paper products, cleaning, baking, helpers, cereal/breakfast, crackers/cookies, chips, drinks, frozen, meat, bread and veggies. If I need a coupon, I know exactly where to look for it.
* Use them wisely. If you have a coupon for .25 cents off a loaf of bread that is normally 3.19, save it for when that bread goes on sale and buy the loaf that will be cheaper that week. Obviously if the bread is on sale for a $1 that week, hop ALL over it!! Coupons really help so much more when the item you are buying is already one sale or you just HAVE to have it(i.e. toilet paper) otherwise I say save it!
*Keep in mind brand names are really only better than store brands 9 out of 10 times for me. Store brands can really save you tons of money. If you have never purchased a store brand product before-say Meijer spaghetti sauce versus Ragu- then only buy one and just try it. If you don't like it, make a mental note and don't buy it again or just try a different variety. I really only have a few particular item I HAVE to have the name brand for and that is where those coupons will help. =)
*After I write everything I know we need to buy for those two weeks, I write down my estimated cost for each item. I buy mostly the same things each shopping trip or at least have an idea of what each thing should cost. I then add all of those prices up and write my estimated total at the top--to be sure I keep under my budget. If I am under, then I can add in the sweets and treats if I want to, or I can simply be proud of myself for saving that extra money and apply it towards something I need it for! If you decide to apply it towards something else, be sure to wait until after your grocery trip, of course. =)
* When you have your list done-stick to it no matter what! If you went prepared and wrote down everything you will need, then you should have no need for that impulse bag of chips or cookies.
Final Grocery Note
If you do not already have a budget amount in mind-create one, so you know how much you need to stay under and whether you can really afford those extras(cookies and ice cream) this week. If you can't, cut them out! For my family of 4 my budget is to stay under $140--which I always do. Most of the time when I go to Meijer I spend half of what I would have if I had bought everything at full price and no coupons. If my bill should have been $120, I should spend around $60. Obviously that fluctuates-depending on what we need and what is on sale.
And last, but not least: Have fun with it!! I LOVE walking out of their feeling like I have just saved us so much money. It is a great contribution to our family and very worth the time it takes to be prepared. The best is when you find an item in your grocery ad for that week that costs $1 and you have a .50 cent coupon that you know will double. Ta-da! Instant freebie bliss!! =)