Friday, July 9, 2010

Save Money on Grocery Shopping ! Part 1 of 5

This is the first in a several part series of how you are going to start saving noticeably on your grocery bill. I'm not an expert or a Coupon Queen, but I have learned a lot about saving money at the grocery store, and I learn more all the time. I just want to share some of that knowledge with you so that you can put a dent into your own food bill.

(The bad kitty could care less about all this....he only wants to camoflage with the bedspread....)

There are a few things to keep in mind - rules, if you will - that will make this whole process work. Now, I live in a rural area, so my rules will be slightly different than yours, but once I share them with you, you can apply them to your own situation.

You know I like to write/talk, so this will be quite lengthy, but my hope is that I am being thorough so it can work for you. We are the stewards of our grocery budgets (Uh, yeh. I'm not good at this part, and I fail, fail, fail, but it is an ideal toward which I strive.), and this is an area in which we should be able to carve out an extra $20/$30 or more a week to spend in other ways - your choice what those other ways are, but at least you'll have that choice.

Another disclaimer. I get tired of the preparation of shopping, tired of using coupons, tired of looking for sales and tired of limiting my trips to the store. So I go way over my budget and spend way too much and blow our budget to where Andy gets very red in the face at me. Writing all this out is my way of bringing myself back on track, so it’s a means of accountability for me for now.  "Do as I say, not as I do..."

That said, let's begin:

1. Subscribe to the largest Sunday paper in your area. The one with the sale ads. You will make your money back on this investment after just one grocery run using the coupons and/or sale ads therein. Now, you could skip this step and plan to purchase the paper faithfully, week after week, but there are a few problems with this approach:

a. You won't go out every Sunday due to snow/sickness/laziness, etc.

b. Newsstand papers cost more than delivered papers - $1.50 a pop vs. $.50-.75 delivered.

c. When you go to buy a paper, you will buy coffee/candy/chips/something you don't need, and thus you will defeat the purpose of getting the sale ads!

d. If you find a great batch of ads in there you can always go buy another paper at the newsstand.

While you're waiting for your first paper to arrive, continue your preparation:

2. Buy or repurpose a hanging file folder holder. This can be a milk crate-style, a sturdy cardboard box, or, as I have, a plastic box specifically designed for the purpose. WalMart has these for around $9. You will also need some hanging files to go in it.

 3. Label the hanging file folders with the dates of the next 3 months of Sundays. Label four additional file folders as: coupon books, receipts, rebates, loose coupons*. I use a label maker that I got for an outrageously cheap price, but you can use masking tape for the labels. This is much easier than filling out those little inserts and trying to slide them in their sleeves. You'll never do it, you'll get discouraged and quit. I know. Write the date on the label in marker and as you rotate your dates you can just put another piece of tape over the old one or peel it off.

You can see here how the older file dates are waiting to be recycled and moved to the back to hold newer coupon flyers....and lurking in the back is an old coupon binder (shudder).  We won't be clipping coupons and tediously filing them under categories....yay!!!

4. Gather your supplies to keep in the file box: Scissors, blank envelopes (repurpose bill envelopes; you only need one "clean" side for writing your list), a pen and paper clips.

5. Put a blank pad of paper (or envelope or whatever) and a writing implement near the refrigerator or pantry, and keep an ongoing grocery list. There are two things you'll need to be keeping track of:

a. Things of which you have run out;

b. Things which are running low in your inventory (more later on that) should you find them on sale. For me, I write "SU" (stock up) or "IOS" (if on sale) on my list.

Got all that? Good. Now you're ready to get ready to shop. It's not as complicated as it sounds. Once you have all of the above in place, things will run rather smoothly.

We'll come back to the coupon box in part 4 of the series. This is the easy part. Besides, there are a few things you need to attend to that will get you saving money right away.

*or, for your "loose coupons" file, you can have it stacked in an easy access place like on your desk along with your other miscellaneous folders for which you can't seem to find a place....

The dreaded coupon binder....lovely to look at, cumbersome and nigh unto impossible for me to use!!

You know where to click below!

PS:  As I reviewed this article, I noticed the verse of the day:
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NIV)
None of this comes before Christ.  Don't let it become an idol.  If its too much trouble, chuck it.  But I think that this is a way that we can honor God with our finances. :)


  1. Ok dear, time to give up the binder, and really hit the stockpiling to your advantage. And I don't mean just getting two of something to last you though the rest of the month, I mean true stockpiling. Here's how I do it - first the binder.. You may not be a coupon queen, but I most assuredly am, and I do NOT use a binder anymore, nor do I cut every single coupon each week. I do get a number of inserts each week, and what I do is file the whole pile in date order in a hanging file system similar to your box above. By date and insert type, Smart Source, Red Plum, P n G, and All You mags by month. Then, after checking the matchups for the stores near me each Weds or Sunday when the new weeks ads come out, I use the lists to pinpoint the exact week and insert whatever coupon I need is in, THEN I cut it (along with all it's buddies at the same time, already stapled and waiting in the appropriate folder for their time to shine), and put it in a small envelope to carry to the store. I only take the coupons I KNOW I am going to use, and only if the deal is good enough or I am desperate for that item. And if it is a great deal, I STOCK UP. I usually have between 12 and 30 of any given coupon, and I know how to use them to my advantage (thank God for Farm Fresh). You may not have a store with the fabulous coupon policies of a Farm Fresh, but you can still do well at Food Lion and Walmart, and especially Kroger (if they double up to .50 like mine does). After a while, you will know what are the items you are running low on or are out of, and can search for coupons specifically for that. I use the coupon database at A Full Cup, it is comprehensive and lists all types of coupons, not just newspaper inserts. If I find an item I KNOW I am going to use or need, I head straight over to Coupon Dede's and order me up a batch to have on hand. Readiness is everything, you must be prepared!! For me it is a no brainer - a mere $4 investment ($3 minimum order + $1 shipping) gets me almost the equivalent of $60 in my pocket of spending power. Even if those coupons expire before I use them all, I made my money back after using only 2 coupons, the rest is profit. I cannot stress enough the importance of stockpiling. Hitting a sale when your item is free or nearly free and getting TONS of them versus paying a somewhat reduced fee over a long period for the same # of items is just no comparison. Hope this isn't too rambling, its late and I jsut found your new blog, ack!! I have many questions about chickens too, lol! ttyl!!

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  3. sorry, I just went back and reread, and realized it was almost an exact repeat of what you posted,lol. I just put in what I do, what I tell the people in my classes. You are doing all that already!! night!

  4. Annie :) You jumped ahead to my next post.... here it is....


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