Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to Cut your Grocery Bill in Half

No, this is not an advertisement. It's a way of saving money often called "the coupon game" and I love it! About a year ago I was introduced to this fun and exciting (well, I think it is) world of saving major bucks on your grocery bill. To keep your attention I have included a few recent receipts.

Full Price: $148.43, Paid: $59.20, Saved: $89.23

Full Price: $118.90, Saved: $59.99, Paid: $58.91

I'm guessing many of you have heard about the coupon game, but may be skeptical of this unconventional way of shopping. I wasn't a believer until I tried it myself and it works. How you save so much is by only buying things that are on a good sale and then adding a coupon to the sale item whenever possible. By stocking up when things are cheap you create a mini grocery store in your basement and thus rarely pay full price for food and household supplies.

Part of the basement grocery store

It takes some getting used to because you don't really have to plan out meals for each night of the week. I probably have food for 30 dinners in my house right now and each afternoon I just think... "What do I feel like tonight?". After I have decided what strikes my fancy I go "shopping" downstairs. So are you in? If yes, here is the rundown: Warning, it does take some prep time.

1. Know your stores. You can only get great deals if you know what your stores offer. Give them a call and ask them the following:
A. Do you double coupons? Most stores will double up to $1.00; $0.30 becomes $0.60 and $0.75 becomes $1.
B. Do you accept other store's coupons? For example, accepting a Walgreens "only" coupon at X grocery store.
C. Do you offer scan guarantee? This is if an item rings up wrong you get if for free... I've gotten free cheese and pizza this way. Either they will give you one item free (even if you bought 5) or they will give you all the items free.
D. Do you match competitors prices? Target does this "as is" and Walmart will do it, but not if it is a buy one get one free or 50% off deal.
E. Can I get $0.05 back for each reusable bag that I bring in?
F. If I bring in a store coupon (target specific) and a manufacture coupon (general mills cereal) will you take both for the same product?
G. Will you take expired coupons... if so, 
how expired?

2. Make a master list of frequently used items. I have on my computer a list of things I frequently buy (canned soup, chocolate chips, pasta, dried fruit, cleaning supplies...). I review the list every so often to make sure I have a stock of the things I need. If I am running low on a product I start watching the ads to see when it goes on sale so I can stock up (last week I bought 20 boxes of pasta and 20 jars of sauce... they won't expire until 2013, I think I'm good).

3. Collect your coupons. There are several places to get coupons, save them all until they expire. You might think I would never buy that! BUT, you might buy it if it is free! I "bought" 6 bags of nature valley granola clusters for free... I wouldn't buy them at their typical $4.00, but I'll take them for free!
A. Subscribe 
to your local paper. Save the coupon booklets in a 3 ring binder until they expire, just because you won't use a coupon this week, doesn't mean you might not need it next week or in a month.
B. Check for printable online coupons. has it ALL. Just make your way through each of the groups (A, B, C and singles) to see them all. You will need to install something to print, but after that it is a breeze. You can print 2 of each coupon (you need a coupon for each item you are buying... 5 bags of chips needs 5 coupons). New coupons come out at the beginning of the month, so this is the best time to get them. There is a limited number of coupons that can be printed across the nation, so once that number has been hit, the coupon disappears.
C. Gather coupons from products you buy. Backs of cereal boxes, inside oatmeal boxes and inside muffins boxes are just a few places I have found coupons.
D. Check 
your local grocery store website for coupons you can download right on to your saver card. These coupons will not double.
E. Check 
your stores for printable coupons. Target has a ton of Target specific printable coupons on their website.

F. You can even buy coupons online at sites like for a small handling fee.

Look through those ads! Ads come to my mailbox on Tuesday, so when the kids go down for their nap I start circling all the items that I might want to buy and crossing off items that are on sale for a cheaper price than another stores advertised price. I've seen weeks where potatoes are on "sale" for $3.99, $2.99 and $1.99, depending on the store... obviously you want to get them at the $1.99 store.

Match your coupons with sales. This is where it gets really fun. I pull out my coupons and check the web to match up products. I have gotten TONS of free things from granola bars to deodorant to frozen veggies to chicken broth to chex mix... I could go on. Once I got PAID $1.00 to buy five tubs of icing... that was really cool.

Make your lists. I then write a list of specific things to buy from each store and make a pile of coupons to put with each list. I also add to the list where to buy things I don't have coupons for. Someone usually has bread, milk and bananas on sale, so I buy them according to the cheapest store. I also write a list of things that I need that I will have to pay full price for. This list is a sad list, but must be done.

Have fun shopping! I get really excited watching the total drop and drop. At first I would point out my free items to cashiers, but they didn't appreciate it, so now I call my husband or text a local friend, so they can join in on the fun!

So yes, you do have 
to put a little money into buying the newspaper and ink for the printer, but I used $35 in coupons last week alone, which paid for the newspaper for the year. And yes, it does take time, but I like to think of it as giving myself a $100 paycheck for saving a $100.

The final awesome part about all of this is you don't have 
to stock shop every week! When things are busy I take a week or three off and just go to one store to buy about $20 of perishable necessities and I am set because I have so much at home on reserve. And with so much at home I don't find myself running to the store for that one ingredient I need to finish a recipe, because I have more in the basement!

Now I know what some of you are thinking... Lisa, you are expecting me to go to multiple stores... it's difficult enough to make it to just one with the kids! Well, here is my secret, on Wednesday morning (when the new sales begin in my area) I wake up at 5:30, hit three stores and return home by 7:30 with my loot. I know 5:30 is early so some fellow thrifty mom's will make the rounds in one night after the kids go down or brave it with the kids. Remember, once you are stocked, you don't have to do it every week!

Happy shopping!


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