Don’t want to bother with cutting coupons? I don’t blame you- it is extra time and energy every week. For me, the amount I save is well worth the time invested but if you are new to couponing, here are a few tips to save with out using coupons:
1. Know your prices. Do you have to carry around a price book? No. You probably already do this anyway without realizing it. Do you instinctively grab an extra box of Cheerio’s when it is $1.99 versus $2.99? This is the art of learning your “buy” price. I would suggest paying close attention to the prices for a few weeks on the top items your family buys- everything from cereal to chicken and try to get a general idea of when prices are at their lowest. You might be surprised at how much prices fluctuate- for example my buy price on boneless, skinless chicken is $1.69. It can be “on sale” for as high as $3.99 at my store. When you see something you use regularly hit its lowest price, buy a little extra to get you through to the next sale (probably every 4 weeks or so).
2. Study the circulars. For the most part, the weekly store circulars will have a lot of loss leaders to draw you into the store. I have certain stores I prefer to shop at but I take 15 minutes every week with a sharpie and circle the best deals at several of the stores in my area. Then I go back and take a look at the overall picture and decide where I will shop that week.
3. Be loyal to yourself not the store. I have zero loyalty when it comes to stores. I am just as happy shopping at Raleys as I am Safeway or Target. I decide where I will shop based upon who is offering the best deals that week. I would recommend finding at least 2 or 3 stores that are convenient and decide where to shop based upon who is offering the best deals.
4. Price Match. If Walmart is a convenient store for you, then grab all those store ads and Walmart will match the advertised price on any item in store. Simply circle the items you need, hit Walmart and when you checkout the cashier can adjust the prices to make sure you get the best deal. (I would call and confirm your store participates in price matching before heading out).
5. Menu-Planning. You have heard it before, and here it is again! You have to have a general idea of your menu, if not the week’s plan mapped out. When you go to the store without a clear menu in mind, I guarantee you’ll come home with an assortment of ingredients that don’t work together and you’ll likely wind up tossing. Not to mention the three other trips to the store that week to pick up a few more things you forgot.
6. Empty the fridge. I suggest spending 15 minutes a week cleaning out your fridge. Pay attention to what you are throwing away. Did you buy double the produce you needed? Some fancy cheese that you couldn’t figure out what to do with? A loaf of bread because you forgot the lunch meat? See what it is you are wasting on a weekly basis and adjust your shopping accordingly.
7. Stick to basics. If pasta is on sale this week- it is no longer a good deal if you are paying top dollar for gourmet olive oil, buffalo mozzarella and organic heirloom tomatoes. Stick to basic ingredients and basic menu items that can be prepared in a variety of ways. You will not only save time in the kitchen but you will save your pantry from being filled with random items you will probably never use again.
8. Stick to a cash budget. If you have a designated amount you can spend at the store- it becomes easier to say no to the impulse shopper in all of us that wants two of everything. I find that I spend less when I use cash and I have an easier time keeping track of exactly what I have spent. If you don’t want to use cash, I would at least determine a realistic budget and stick to it.
9. Pay attention. It kills me to see people grab an item and pay full price when there were coupons stuck right to the display or package. I also notice people glancing at signs without reading them- the sign might say .99 when you buy 5. I see people grab the item all the time thinking they are paying .99 when they are actually paying 3x that amount because they didn’t actually read the sign and get 5. This applies to your receipt as well. I can’t tell you how many times I am overcharged, double charged etc… It may seem like too much bother to go back and get a refund but those small amounts really add up.
10. Figure out the Game. Some stores have rewards cards and other loyalty programs. Sign up as you never know what may come your way.
11. Check the clearance rack. I always look for the clearanced meat at my store and almost always find high quality items 50% off. I simply freeze the meat when I get home (which I would have probably done anyway). You might find discounted bread, dairy products, wine etc… all in clearance areas at your store. I also look for discounted produce- like this bag of bananas I got for 50% off. I got a discount because the bananas were not together in a bunch.
I hope this helps a little as almost everyone can benefit from smarter grocery shopping.