Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Save Money on Grocery Shopping, Part 3 of 5

I'm not talking Y2K style - remember that? Scary times. And you should have enough food on hand for emergencies, anything from power outages to weather emergencies to economic problems. I'm not going into the politics of all that; I just want to show you how to save the most money on your grocery shopping. but for the most bang for your buck, stockpiling is a must.

Simply put, you buy the most of an item at its lowest price so that you have plenty of that item on hand (in your pantry, under your bed, in your basement storage, in your garage) to last you until it goes on sale again at its lowest price. Got it?

OK, here's an example. Not a great example, but a good real-life example. We only use Ragu Traditional Pasta sauce. I know that a good sale that comes around quite regularly is to purchase it at 3/$5 or $1.67 each. If I am low, I might purchase 2 or 3 at this price. A few weeks ago, though, I found it at $1.19 a jar after coupons. So I bought 10 jars of it.  (Don't argue that we could make the sauce for cheaper - it ruins the example!)  The expiration date on the sauce is over two years out, and this should last us about 3-4 months, long enough for another sales cycle.

Another example: I found several boxes of 1lb. Heartland whole-wheat spaghetti on sale for $.50 a box. I bought them all.  I know that a good price for pasta is $.90 or less a pound, with whole wheat being more - the regular price is almost double more. Since I am familiar with the price of pasta, I knew this was a good deal. So now I have pasta (which never goes bad) that last us for months and months.

I do this with perishable things, too. We'll often find milk (at Kroger) marked down because it is close to the sell-by date. It is not going to go bad, but grocers can't sell it past the sell-by date. So I scoop it up (usually at $1.79/gallon, down from $2.70/gallon which I normally spend on full price milk at WM) and pop it in the freezer. I've had as many as 8 gallons of this milk in the freezer before. I don't do anything special - the containers expand due to freezing without bursting the plastic. I simply thaw them on the counter in a bowl to catch the condensation for a couple hours, or thaw them for 2-3 days in the fridge, also in a bowl. One time only did a container crack, and that was near the middle, so I lost about 1/3 a gallon. 

Milk is also an exception.  If the price goes up over $2.75/gallon, it is usually less expensive for us to buy powdered milk, which I can make for about $2.50/gallon.  But plain powdered milk is a tough sell, so I buy half and half or cream to top it off (thank you Nancy for that tip!).  I'd rather find it on sale, though.

Cheese is another item that I find at low prices. I don't buy it unless it is less than $3/pound. After I save out enough to keep in the fridge (cheese lasts a very long time unopened), I put the rest in the freezer. when I want to use it, I let it thaw for an hour or so on the counter and then shred it. We eat most of our cheese shredded anyways. Oh, and cheese you shred yourself melts and tastes better than pre-shredded cheese, which is coated with a silicone powder.... Just sayin.

Finally, my favorite stockpile item is butter. I buy the store brand when it goes on sale at less than $1.75 a pound, although I prefer $1.50 a pound. (Off sale, it's around $2.38/pound). I'll buy 20 or so pounds at a time at this price. I put it in the chest freezer, and pull it out as needed. It doesn't pick up flavors of other foods - but if you're worried it does, pack it in freezer bags.

So, why does stockpiling save so much money? Well, consider the examples above. I've got butter, cheese, pasta and sauce waiting in the pantry. Those are items that will stay off my grocery list for weeks - or months, leaving room (and therefore grocery money) for other items. If -and it does happen - I have enough things stockpiled, my weekly grocery run can come in well under budget, and I can bank that money for the next trip to stock up on another item that I find on sale.

But there's more!

Here's the last way to really punch up your stockpile savings. I've only done this once, because I am so disorganized, but I'll be doing it more as I aim toward our goal of becoming debt-free. Here it is: use multiple coupons on stockpile purchases. What, buy 10 newspapers? No. There are several reputable and legal coupon-clipping services from which you can purchase bulk coupons for certain items. For example: Right now, Kroger has Hunt's ketchup on sale for $1 a bottle. Coupons by dede has clipped Hunt's coupons for $.20/1 - purchase 10 of these and pay $1.20 for a clipping fee. Kroger doubles coupons up to and including $.50. So, if I bought 10 $.20-off coupons at $1.20, I'd save $3.80 ($.20x10=$2, double coupons = $4, less $1.20 handling fee=$3.80). Thus, the ketchup would cost something like $.65 a bottle. Get it? OR, you can save the coupon clipping service fees entirely and use just one coupon from your own newspaper to get it at $.60.

Truly, I am not organized that much to do a scenario like the one above. But I hope to be.....

**Thanks, Annie for the preview!  What can you add?

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