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I hear folks mention all the time on Facebook or here on PPP that coupons are “only for processed foods.” Now, in all honesty, my kids do eat cereal some mornings for breakfast (processed), have been known to enjoy a potato chip or two (processed), and we do have a frozen pizza on occasion (ummm, yes, processed.)
However, the bulk of what we eat is plain old regular food, non-processed items that don't offer all that many coupons. So how do I still save big?
The secret's in the sale.
Truth be told, while I love clipping coupons, at least 50% of the items I buy at the grocery do not include a coupon each week, but they almost always include a sale. (Did you hear me?) If there's something we absolutely need and no sale in sight I'll purchase it, but I would estimate that 95% of what I purchase at the grocery each week (including fruits and veggies as much as possible), is on sale in some way, or I won't buy it.
So how do you make sales work for you? Here are a few tips:
Goodness, this is probably my biggest frustration ever when talking to folks who spend too much on groceries! So many people naively go blindly into the grocery store with a list in hand (or maybe worse, with no list at all), without even considering what's on sale. This is the easiest way to spend way too much at the grocery store, and you can easily save big if you just put a little forethought into shopping!
Can I just tell you the easiest thing you can do EVER to reduce your grocery budget is to know what's a good price? By determining a stock up price (at the very least just for produce, dairy and meat products?) and only buying items at their stock up price, I'm betting you can cut your grocery bill by at least 1/3 each week.
2. Don't trust your grocery store to tell you the best deals.
The grocery stores (and any retailer, really), are notorious for posting signs screaming *SALE* out loud at you just about every look, however often times those sales aren't really a fantastic price. If you know that boneless, skinless chicken breast priced at $1.99/lb. is a stock up price and that $3.49/lb. isn't, you'll be able to skip a not-so-good deal for a stock-up-price deal simply by waiting for a better sale. (And I promise good sales do come around, so when you can, wait for the best price!)
(I love Publix – but this price in their ad that states “surprisingly low price” really isn't – I like to pay no more than $.99 – $1.49/lb for grapes, and especially in summer and early fall, you should easily be able to find that price! Here in Ohio Kroger has had them for $.88/lb for at least the last 6 weeks, which is definitely my favorite price.)
3. Don't be brand specific.
If you need a certain item for a meal this week, buy whichever brand is on sale at the best price per ounce. Recently I was at Kroger and Kraft Shredded Cheese was $3.29, but Kroger's brand was on sale for $1.99. From what I can tell, shredded cheese is shredded cheese (at least when you're choosing between Kroger and Kraft), and there's no way my family will have any idea whether I use Kraft or Kroger shredded cheese when making pizza this week.
Now, there are some items which a certain brand really does seem better, but if you can give yourself a little freedom to try out the less expensive item, you might save quite a few pennies each week just for going with the sale item! And, if you really do love your Charmin or Quilted Northern (toilet paper seems to be one of those areas where people love their brands?) 🙂 watch Amazon or the drug stores for a really good deal.
4. Look everywhere on the shelf at the grocery store for a deal.
Instead of walking down the grocery aisle looking for a specific type of salsa in a recipe, scan all around the shelves to find the very lowest price per ounce that's available. And, if there's a good sale on something you don't necessarily need but doesn't often go on sale, buy it if there's extra room in your budget!
A few weeks ago Kroger had their Private Selection Shredded Parmesan included in a Buy 4 Get $4 off promotion, priced at $1.99. The normal price on that is $3.79 (yikes!), and because it's a store brand I knew there wouldn't be any additional coupons, so this was a pretty good price. Even though it wasn't on my list, I grabbed one because I know those sales don't come around all that often, and I never want to pay full price!
5. Make your menu based on what's in your pantry in addition to what's on sale each week.
I can't tell you how much our family saves by having a menu plan and grocery list in place before the week starts each week. Simply by having a menu we know what's for dinner each night, and the temptation to overspend is greatly reduced because the whole “we-don't-have-anything-to-eat-so-we-might-as-well-eat-out” debate isn't even an option.
There are tons of great menu planning services out there – you can use my menus & shopping lists here on PPP, try out Emeals, or search the internet as there are literally hundreds (thousands?) of menu plans out there which will help make life a little easier for you. By stocking up on most items at their lowest prices, your pantry, fridge and freezer will eventually have most of the items you need to make most recipes, so many weeks you won't have to even make a major grocery run!
What other things do you do to save big each week at the grocery store? Like I've shared before, saving on groceries is one of the things that's complete transformed our family's finances, and there is no other area in your family's finances that you can so easily control. I'd love to hear your suggestions or questions too ~ leave a comment to share!