Photo Courtesy: http://www.prevention.com/gopowershopping/
I've had a few friends ask me questions regarding my grocery shopping habits when they found out I'm crazy about shopping deals and coupons. I do have a few tips, and I'm always happy to share how we save money and live frugally as a family of four (okay, five including Stella...but she's got her own food budget.). I should add that even though we stick to a food budget, it doesn't mean that we are eating junk. We actually eat whole foods, avoid convenience/frozen foods, stick to organic when possible and practice an overall healthy eating style.
First, I'll just throw out there what my food budget is for the month. I have nothing to hide. I try to spend less than $300 for the entire month. This budget accounts for two big shopping trips, a couple of smaller trips to replenish fresh fruit/vegetables and milk, and maybe one or two take-out meals.
How do we do it? So glad you asked!
1) We only use cash. When you arrive at the store with cash in hand, you spend less. I often find myself under budget when I shop this way. It's so satisfying to walk out of a store with everything on my list and extra dollars in my hand.
2) I always make a list of meals for two weeks at a time. This keeps me from making impulse purchases and stick to only the ingredients/foods on my list.
3) I spend a lot of time scoping out coupons. This takes time, but if you plan for it, you can make it a habit. I check the newspaper as well as these sites where you can print coupons:
I save the sites in my favorites folder on my desktop, so I can visit them anytime. When you see how much money you save by using coupons, you'll kick yourself for not doing it sooner. Okay, maybe you won't, but I sure did!
4) Only clip coupons for items and products your family truly uses. Just buying something because you have a coupon won't save you any money.
5) I make note of the stores I plan on going to (i.e Target) and I type in a google search for that store. I type something like: 'Target Coupons' in a search engine to see if there are any additional coupons special to that store. I also check for manufacturer coupons if there is a specific product I'm looking for.
6) Shop around. This is where people tune me out, but trust me it works! I look at online grocery ads for several stores and plan my trip around the sales. This may mean that I visit three stores one morning, because items on my list are on major sale at each store. To save gas and time, I make sure the stores are in close proximity to each other. For example, not far from my home I can hit Hy-vee, Fareway, Aldi, Target and Dahl's and save big bucks by shopping the sales. Couple that with coupons, and you get the idea.
7) I shop in the morning. My kiddos are happier and the stores are emptier, so I can take my time to truly scan the aisles and get the best deals. I hate feeling rushed, and I hate crowds.
8) We stay away from convenience and processed foods. You will eat a lot healthier if you avoid the frozen food/snack aisles, and you'll shave dollars from your budget too. As David Zinczenko, author of Eat This, Not That, puts it, "...stick to the outside aisles where the fresh food is. Only venture in the center aisles for beans, and whole grains."
9) We don't drink alcohol or pop (soda depending on where you're from). This is not merely a 'religious' choice, but rather based on health and saving dollars. It's crazy how much you save by nixing those items from your budget.
10) Eat everything in the cupboard. Sometimes I get creative by creating meals using those last remaining items in the cupboard. We eat up the items on the shelves and in the freezer before going to the grocery store. My sweet hubby is the one that started this. Yes, that means I have to eat leftovers (yuck!) but, it's amazing how much you save by eating what you have, instead of making a trip to the store. You will also have less go to waste.
So those are sort of the guidelines our family sticks by in order to be frugal. I hope these tips have been helpful! Feel free to share what you are doing to save money in your household in the comments section!