For years, I’ve tried managing a family of six on one income. It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t pretty either.
Take, for instance, the times where I thought couponing would be my thing. I meticulously clipped coupons every week, sorted them, and shopped for the products on the coupons. Did it work? Not really.
I would have a packed envelope filled with coupons that was difficult to sort through. I’d stand in the middle of the aisles dropping coupons everywhere with babies in tow. It was not a fun process, and it would get even worse.
Folks, I live in New York. New Yorkers seem to have a reputation for being “mean.” They aren’t mean. They’re blunt. Neighbors here have a tendency to get angry at each other one day, and share garden vegetables the next. There’s no hiding of feelings. They get things off their chest and are done with it.
Imagine me standing in a grocery line in New York with small children in tow, and this sorted envelope full of coupons. The hemming and hawing of those behind me in line was enough to make most people want to cry. Not me…I’m all about saving money, and, in the end, even the most annoyed customer would be impressed with my savings.
But, what was I BUYING? Chips? Dips? Things that weren’t good for my family? What was the point?
Coupon clipping can be great for some things as long as you’re not brand loyal. Being brand loyal means you want to stick to one brand and one brand only. However, when it came to diapers and baby formula (back in the day), I chose to clip coupons when I saw them. I wasn’t brand loyal with any of those items. Even better, I used cloth diapers for the most part, and endured the leaking and cleanup in order to save money (which was a lot).
I noticed, over time, that most coupons were for junk food and things I don’t normally purchase. Also, I took marketing and knew that coupons mainly were to promote new products. Most of these new products seemed to consist of products I wouldn’t need.
I became real tired of coupons. I was tired of having the papers in my house. I was tired of cutting the coupons out. I was tired of trying to keep everything sorted.
Then, I came up with a new technique that involved no coupons. Although several stores send fliers weekly, there was only one store I would go to for groceries. Why? It was the closest, and I have four kids. I didn’t have time to run all over the place finding the best deals.
So, here is how we managed to save money on groceries:
Every week, when the flier for our local store came out, I would look at every item that was on sale, and plan a menu around the sale items.
For instance, our local grocery store has “Italian Week.” On Italian week, I knew the exact meals I could make. I had a beef casserole, lasagne (we always spelled it with an “e” instead of an “a”), and stuffed shells and manicotti. There was no need to have to make ALL of these items in one week. I could freeze some of them if I wanted to, but the point is that I was able to get well over a week’s worth of food for a low cost.
On Italian Week, I also seemed to get great deals on ground beef, and we would have chili made with the canned tomatoes that were on sale that would be served with sweet cornbread.
Every week, I make my list. I see what’s on sale and have enough experience with cooking that I know what meals can be made out of what exists in the fliers.
How to Save Money on Groceries EASILY
Take a look at your store flier and see how many meals you can make out of what’s on sale. Think hard about different ways you can make items, and the ingredients you can use with them.
Plan a menu and stick with it. Write down what you’re going to serve on what day, and put that menu up in a spot in your kitchen where you’ll see it to follow it.
Write down EXACTLY what you need at the store. Do not stray from the path of your list. Once the list is written, consider it set in stone.
Make as many things from scratch as you possibly can. Learn to make your own bread and dinner rolls to serve with meals. Make your own cookies and cakes. Make your own pudding. Making items from scratch will often save you money while giving you a great feeling knowing that you aren’t adding a lot of preservatives and things with mysterious names to your family’s food.
Use coupons on things you would normally buy. No need to lug around large quantities of coupons for things you wouldn’t regularly purchase. If you’re going to purchase it just because you have a coupon, are you really saving money?
If there’s a really great deal on an item at the store that you’ll be able to use for other meals, pick up more than one item. Cheese can be frozen. Extra meats can be frozen.
Whole chickens can be made into a lot of different meals. If you see them on sale, buy a few and freeze some.
If you have a favorite item that you like, always check and see if it’s on sale. When it is, stock up. I have a certain toothpaste I love, and I’ve been known to buy a few packages if I see it go on sale.
If you’re on a certain budget for the week, you can write out your menu plan as stated above. Then, on your shopping list, write down what each item is going to cost according to the sale, and you can tailor your list to meet your budget. You may have to estimate on the ingredients that aren’t on sale, but you’ll find it’s relatively easy to save money if you stick to a plan.
Always make sure you have fruits and vegetables, and buy what’s on sale to make sure you have them.
And, the final piece of information and rule that we’ve all been told: do NOT go to the store hungry. I’ve found the need to be somewhere between hungry and not hungry. If I’m not hungry at all, I find myself not interested in shopping.
The whole grocery shopping process can become more like a game when working with what’s on sale. Also, if you do have more than one grocery store to choose from, your options will be limitless because, if one store doesn’t have a great sale, another store will.
What are your money saving techniques at the grocery store?