Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Save. Save. Save...

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!

Happy Tuesday!


Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

Great tips! I have several friends who are CRAZY about couponing - but the result is that they a) buy a lot of JUNK food and b) buy a bunch of stuff they don't need. I won't deny that I'm a little jealous of their trips to the store where they get $100 worth of groceries for $17...but if that means you're getting $100 worth of junk and stuff you don't need, well, it's just not worth it for me! I like your tips better. :)

Nikki said...

Very true Mary! I have friends who say the same things, and it never made sense in my mind.

Anonymous said...

I needed this! Thanks!!!

Heather said...

Another thing I find helpful is knowing about a specific store's coupon policy. For example, not all Hy-Vees do this, but my Hy-Vee will except competitor coupons. That means if I've got a good Target or Walgreens store coupon for an item, I don't have to make a extra trip to Target or Walgreens just to get that one thing. I can take my coupon to Hy-Vee during my weekly shopping trip and use it there.

One of my favorite things to do is get items at Walgreens that they advertise as "free after Register Rewards." You buy the product at Walgreens, and then their computer prints out a coupon equal to the selling price for your next Walgreens purchase. It keeps a lot of customers coming back each week, b/c customers want to use their RR's before they expire. But customers also use the RR's on products they wouldn't normally buy, just b/c they feel like they have to use it or lose it. Well, a little secret I've learned is that I can take those RR's over to my Hy-Vee and use them to buy my weekly groceries. When I use the RR's on things I regularly buy anyway, it really does make that Walgreens item a totally free purchase!

Also, Fareway will match competitor's prices and accept most competitor's coupons. Unfortunately, they won't accept the RR's or other coupons from Walgreens. But you can often save yourself from having to run around to lots of stores if you use your ads and coupons in stores that will match their competitors. :)

brent said...

Thanks for the heads up Heather!!! I totally forgot about some stores honoring coupons for other stores! I don't always think to do that! Like you said, the key is finding out which stores do that in advance.

haverlee said...

oh geez...you unknowingly gave me a big guilt trip with this post!! i'm guilty of so many things, its just not even funny. i have some work to do! (i already knew it...this was just a reminder to me how bad i've been lately! i just HATE grocery shopping! i pretty much buy half frozen foods so i hardly ever have to go!!)

by the way, have you done any comparisons on Trader Joe's prices for organic stuff? some of it is just so cheap, its worth a special trip!

Nikki said...

Hey Have! NOOOOOOO!!!! Don't feel guilty! I'm just now making big changes in our house after learning from other friends.

Trader Joe's is a great place for organic produce. The produce looks good and it's a pretty good price. Watch the sales at the other stores before going to Trader Joe's, because sometimes you can snag it cheaper at Hy-vee. I still try to stay away from the packaged foods at Trader Joe's, because there's still a pretty long list of ingredients, and some of it still has quite a bit of sugar.

Chanell Gay said...

Thanks Nikki!
My husband, Doug, and I have been working during our 1st yr of marriage to save money grocery shopping too!! We love to do add matches (esp. at Wal-Mart) so that we can purchase the majority of our items at one store.
My sister loves being the "coupon woman" and has saved tons of money doing so!
I only hope that the savings continues, once we begin having children. I'm a little nervous to hear how much extra they do cost; however, Doug & I are very excited to start a family! And we know that He is our sole provider!!

Thanks for blogging! I've really enjoyed reading your entries. And have been praying for Lil Miss to get better. Praise God for the glorious report!!

Love ya girl!! Keep on blogging!