By: Amy Allen Clark
Go to Coupon
Grocery shopping is one of the first places you can learn how to be
frugal. I am amazed when I go to the grocery store how many times people
are spending so much more money than myself and getting half the amount
of stuff I have within my cart. Here are just a few ways you can learn
to cut back on your grocery bill.
Cut and Organize Your Coupons: There are many people who take the time
to cut their coupons, but there are few who have them organized in such
a way that they get used. Here are a few suggestions for learning how to
be an effective coupon-cutter.
First, if you do not possess an organizer for your coupons I would make
a run to your local dollar store and purchase one of these along with a
small set of scissors that you can carry with you for any
surprise coupons you might run across while you are out.
Once you have your organizer you can began clipping your coupons and
putting them within their appropriate section. I found that by splitting
my coupons into sections though I would end up with lots of expired
coupons and it also created another chore for me which was to clean my
organizer out. If you find this system works for you, by all means,
continue with it. If you are like me, however, and you don't have time
for extra chores like organizing then I would suggest my organizational
method. What I do is cut all of my coupons and group them into one pile
and organize them by date so that I know that the coupons on top are the
ones that need to be used the soonest. It does make it more difficult to
find one particular coupon because it is not in a category, but you also
end up using more of your coupons because you are more aware of their
After you have cut all the coupons out of your local newspaper you can
begin going to online coupon sources for more coupons. There are a
couple of great sites that you can go to for extra coupon savings. Their
is a site that I frequent the most often
Another great place to look for coupons is on the actual web site for
the items you use the most. This is especially handy if you are buying
diapers, baby food or formula. If you sign up with many of these
companies they will in turn send you lots of coupons and magazines
through the mail. Don't limit yourself to just baby items though because
many of the foods you buy have coupons you can print for free on their
Once you have all the coupons printed and cut out you can proceed onto
the next step.
Flier Research: Yes, this doesn't sound like a very exciting task, but
once you get the hang of it you might start feeling the excitement I do
when I run across the grocery fliers.
In order for you to do truly accurate flier research it is good to do
cost comparison charts on groceries that you frequently purchase. Items
that you could list on your chart might be milk, bread, flour, sugar, or
pasta. When you go to a store all you need to do is whip out your Cost
Comparison cheat sheet and write down the store you are at, what item
you are comparing, the amount that is within the item (ounce, pounds,
gallons, etc.), and the current price. Then take this sheet to other
stores you go to especially the wholesale clubs you frequent and start
keeping track of the price for each place. Once you have this in front
of you, you will know the cheapest place pound for
pound where you should purchase your item. This also gives you a good
background to find out if something really is on "sale" within your
Go through all of your fliers and mark the items that you find to be a
particularly outstanding buy. With this information you can do one of
three things. One would be to go to each of these individual stores just
to pick up what you feel is an extremely good deal. This would take a
lot of gas and a lot of effort. As a mother whose time is limited this
might not be the best option. Two would be to find a
store that matches prices on certain items. All you would need to do
would be to bring your flier into the store and ask them to meet the
price on the items you are purchasing. One national chain I know who
does this would be your local Walmart. Third would be to simply pick the
store with the absolute best deals and make that your shopping
destination. The third option is what I usually end up doing because for
me it is the simplest although I have been known to run cross-country if
someone is running a particularly good deal on diapers, for example.
Some of the really great grocery stores do not advertise in fliers so I
would suggest that you do a little research in these places. The Dollar
Store is a great place to find many of your household cleaners, paper
products, and spices at a fraction of the cost. Be wary around the
canned goods though because a dollar for some canned goods is still not
a better deal then the supermarket.
Another factor that can affect your choice in grocery stores is the
double/triple coupon factor. You can save so much money if you go to
stores that offer this. Many do not advertise that they offer coupon
doubling/tripling so call around to your local supermarkets to find who
offers you the most for your coupons. Using the sales from the fliers
and the double coupons can sometimes end up with money in your pocket
and getting many items for free. On average, if I go to a place that
offers double coupons I can come out of the store with fifty bucks in
coupon savings. When you are on a budget this is a huge amount and very
worth the time and effort you have invested into researching.
Another special note is that some stores do put limits on the amount of
items that you can buy- like a limit of two or three. If one store
offers an item unlimited at a little higher cost rather than a store
that limits you, I would definitely take advantage of the unlimited
option if you are needing more than the limit states.
You can always try all of the options to discover which the best is for
you and the best way to use your time. After you have completed your
flier research it is time to begin your menu-planning.
Menu-Planning: For me this is the most time consuming part of doing my
grocery shopping. Trying to plan in advance what you will be eating for
the next week, two weeks, or month can be a daunting task. This was one
of the hardest for me to master, but believe me when I say it is worth
your time. I am a person who truly dreads going to the supermarket and
will go as little as possible to avoid returning to it. I wanted to find
the most effective way to get the job done and not have to return there
for a month so that was my goal. Many people go once a week or every two
weeks, but you need to find what is right for you.
After you have decided how often you plan to go to the grocery store
you can begin planning your meals. Because I go once a month I plan
seventeen meals out for the month. On the list I include side dishes
which can be rotated and desserts that I can make on occasion instead
of purchasing store-bought cakes/cookies. Seventeen meals is what I
have found is enough for one month since we do eat out occasionally as
well as have leftovers from meals.
If your recipe index is limited or you are tired of eating the same
thing, this is a great time to try out new recipes. I love to cook so
I subscribe to "Taste of Home" magazine as well as "Cooking Light."
Both of these magazines offer lots of new recipes each month as well
as tips on cooking techniques. You can always try to get the magazines
at the library so that you don't have to pay for a subscription or
just request this as a birthday or Christmas gift. A free place to get
great recipes is
www.flyerspecials.com/recipe. On this web site you can type in
the ingredients you have on hand and the site will offer you recipes
using these ingredients. The best part about the site is that you can
create a grocery list right from the recipes you chose so it saves you
from writing them down on your grocery list. I pay special attention
to the reviews of these recipes as well because if many people have
found the dish to be lacking, I do not want to waste my time and money
making it. Other great web sites that offer wonderful recipes are
www.campbells.com and www.kraft.com. You can always use these recipes
and substitute the brand name foods for the off-brand in your grocery
Making the List: Get out two sheets of paper and use one for your
grocery list and the other for your menu plan. On the grocery list
divide your list into categories based on the aisles that you would go
through for your items. For example, you would have a category for
dairy, cereal/breakfast, frozen foods, grains/pastas, baking needs,
canned goods, paper products, and household cleaners.
I then write down what I need on my grocery list, making sure that I
do not have the items I am listing already in my pantry for all of the
meals I have chosen for the month. If I have a coupon for the item I
write a big "C" by it, pull the coupon from my organizer, and put it
in an envelope. If the item is running on sale in the flier then I put
a large star by it so I can make sure I buy the item that is on sale.
It is important that you write a good description of what you are
looking for that way you do not forget once you get to the store.
Instead of writing "butter" on your list, you would write "Land of
Lakes Butter" if you had a coupon in order to avoid confusion once you
are in the dairy aisle.
Make sure that you have plenty of lunch meat, condiments, bread, eggs,
and cereal on your list. These are items that you might forget to list
that you will definitely need during the week.
Making Your Trip: Finally, you have made your research, grocery list,
and menu plan and now you can make your trip to the grocery store. It
goes without saying, but as a reminder always make sure that when you
go to the grocery store that you are not going on an empty stomach. I
have done that plenty of times and am both amazed and horrified at the
amount of money I spend not to mention my choices of food.
Once you have a full stomach, it is time to decide how much money you
plan to spend at the grocery store. I pick an amount that has been
budgeted by my husband and I and do not go over the amount. It is so
easy to become sidetracked by all of the great things on the end caps
as well as other things that seem appealing, but by setting a budget I
know that I cannot stray from the list that I have made. The best way
to stick with your budget is to go to the bank/ATM and withdraw the
agreed upon amount of money to spend. By having the cash only you will
be surprised how much easier it is to stick with your budget.
Now that you have your cash withdrawn you can hit the grocery store.
Make sure that you have your envelope of coupons, your coupon book
(just in case) with your small scissors, a pen to cross of your items
on your list and a calculator to keep a tally of how much money you
The most important advice I can offer you is DO NOT GET SIDETRACKED!
It is difficult to do, but essential if you want to stick to your
Once you have paid for all of your items be sure to put the money
leftover from your budget back into your envelope. When you get home
write "Food Money" on the outside and keep this envelope on your
fridge. This money can be used to put towards milk/bread as well as
pizza or a night out for your family. By having the cash you really do
end up staying in your budget.
Wrapping Up: You can never do too much research when you are doing grocery shopping and each minute you spend doing that will be time well spent. It is great if you have a good friend who is equally enthusiastic about saving money because you share tips on where to shop together. Many times my "grocery- buddy" will call me and ask if I saw that a particular item was on sale. Sometimes I have looked so quickly through the flier that I have not seen the item and this
really helps me when I do my shopping.
Always remember that if the store runs out of your item that you need and it is advertised as being on sale to get a rain check for the item
so that you can still take advantage of the sale price. When they ask the quantity you are planning to buy when you come back to the store
always aim high. It will never hurt for you to say that you need more then you do, but it will really hurt your wallet if you have to buy
more then what you stated.
I wish you luck on your shopping adventures and hope that using these helpful tips you can find the best technique for you and your family.