Saturday, December 31, 2011

How investing 10 minutes a week saved 30% off our grocery bill

I stumbled upon that Extreme Couponing show earlier this year and watched with amazement as people were carting off hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for basically nothing.  The accountant in me was impressed with their ability to score such a bargain, but the Type A in me was put off by the stockpiles of stuff that likely won't ever be used.  I mean, what would I do with 42 jars of Ragu?  There is enough clutter in this house without adding 68 bottles of Dove Men's Body Wash, thank you very much. 

Still, I was left feeling a little guilty.  My normal M.O. for grocery shopping involved running in the store when I got off work and snatching and grabbing what I could remember that we needed.  I never looked at the price, nor did I take the time to price-compare brands. Shame on me.

So, I started to do a little research.  I needed a simple system that didn't involve clipping hundreds of coupons and then having to organize them.  Don't you hate that guilty feeling when you go to the trouble of clipping coupons for items that you actually use and then leave them at home? Fortunately, I found Coupon Mom.  This site has all the tools you need to start saving using a simple 3 step system. 

In a nutshell, here's how it works:
1. Remove the coupon circular from your Sunday paper and write the date on the front. Put the circular aside and forget about it for now.  I keep my circulars organized by month in 9x12 envelopes.
2. Visit the Grocery Deals By State section on  Here you will be able to select the store that you plan to visit.   Once you do this, a grocery deals list will appear that lists every single item on sale that week.  The list will also detail applicable coupons for the sale item.  For example, a coupon in the January 16th Smart Source circular will have a code 01-16 S.  You will be able to scan through the grocery list and put a check mark by the items that you need.  Once you have made your selections, you will be able to print off a list showing only your selections.
3. Pull the circulars that you need, clip the applicable coupons, and refile your circulars in date order.  I always staple my coupons to the back of my grocery list.

Voila! It's that simple. You can also view a video of the process here.

In addition to the above system, I have a few more "rules" that I've adopted which have also contributed to significant savings:

- I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart and started shopping at Kroger.  This helped eliminate those impulse purchases like nerf guns, Tim McGraw cd's and Santa Claus dish towels.  It also seems to help me get in and out quicker. Save time and cut back on clutter. Gotta love it.

- I only buy meat that is on sale.  I buy in bulk and break the meat into dinner-size portions.  My parents gave us a Food Saver several years ago, and it works beautifully for this purpose. I've also used Ziploc freezer bags which seem to work okay too.  I believe our meat savings easily to be 40%.

- When I find a really good deal on items that my family uses, I STOCK UP! For example, Kroger will run General Mills cereal on sale for 3 for $5. Combine the sale with a coupon, and the savings ends up being 60%-75% off.

- Know when to substitute store brands for name brands. Even with a coupon, it's sometimes more economical to choose the store brand.

- has a handy online tool where you can add digital coupons to your shoppers card. You will need to set up an online account and register your shoppers card.  Then you simply go online and choose the coupons that you wish to use, they will load on your card, and will be applied to your bill automatically at checkout.  Beware that these ecoupons typically do not double, and you can't combine with a paper coupon. Sometimes it makes more sense to use the paper coupon.

I promise that you can accomplish the same results in 10 minutes or less per week.  It just takes a little practice, and it's so rewarding to see that "45% saved" at the bottom of your grocery bill.

Do you have other tips and tricks?  Let me know!

1 comment:

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