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Save money grocery shopping

Grocery shopping is the place where I save my family the most money, but it wasn't always this way. Somehow, I came across this book Live Your Life for Half the Price: Without Sacrificing the Life You Love (Debt-Proof Living) and decided to put it on hold at our local library. 6 months later, it was my turn to rent the book and I was shocked! I thought I was good at saving money. It turns out, I had A LOT to learn. Over the next month, I took our family of four's grocery budget from $600 a month to $300 a month and I was buying MORE food! And I was able to buy all the produce I'd always bypassed because it was "too expensive".

I recommend getting a copy of this book and reading it for yourself. I would say rent it from the library, but there have been only two cases in my life when I thought, "man, I should have just bought that book". In this case, waiting on the list for 6 months likely cost my family between $1500-1800!! So, let's see I could have paid $15 dollars for the book, saved $1500, then resold the book for a few let's do the math. But as always, hind sight is 20/20.

If you would like to buy Mary Hunt's book, you can click on the link above or on the picture of the book, on the righthand/bottom of my blog. Those links will take you directly to amazon. If your library has a quick turnaround for books, give it a try there, but otherwise you won't be disappointed if you buy it.

The other book, by the way, was One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life. I intend to post about it later, it's a good read.

After you read the book and get the general idea, you could probably sell it and be just fine. Unless you want to keep some of the recipes inside. I wrote them down and of course, lost them, but I survived, so...on to what I learned from this book.

I used to make a list of what I wanted and went to the store and bought it. If I had a coupon or the item was on sale, that was a bonus. I stuck to my list and thought I was doing a great job shopping. But I could do better.

Here are the basics to saving money when grocery shopping.

1. Know your prices. Know what the usual prices are for items you use regularly, then start paying attention to what those items cost on sale. This is helpful, so you know when to buy a product (on sale of course), but it's tricky because supermarket's advertise sales all the time that aren't really sales at all. For example, I like to buy whole grain breads with no high fructose corn syrup and other additives. These breads are usually pretty pricey, around $3-$4 per loaf. But I often see them on sale for $2/loaf. But they occasionally go on sale for $1.50 or less per loaf. When I see those prices, I buy a bunch of bread. It freezes well and it's so nice to have enough bread on hand that I don't have "run to the store to get bread". We all know how that turns out. So I know that my price for bread is $1.50 or less, but the grocery store will often have this bread in their flyers as $3/loaf. That's not a sale! So keep track of prices. I recommend a little notebook until you eventually remember them.

2. When things are on sale, try to pair the sale item with a coupon. Save your coupons for when the items are on sale. I used to get coupons and think I had to "spend" them right away. That's wrong. Sales come in cycles, so if you saw something on sale a few months ago, chances are it will be on sale again soon. So save your coupons. And remember that you can usually use a manufacturers coupon and a store coupon at the same time, on the same item. Extra savings.

3. Only buy things when they are on sale. For fruits and veggies, these sales usually correspond to what's in season, so you are also making a much greener choice. You also get a varied diet because not all fruits and veggies are on sale at the same time. FYI--bananas almost never go on sale, and when they do it saves maybe 10c a pound and that's a whopping 10-30c savings, so forget about this rule for bananas. But them when you want them and enjoy them. Apples, melons, grapes, and berries go on sale often. Pay attention to those sales and enjoy your produce at it's cheapest, and possibly it's ripest.

4. Stock up on sale items. For non-perishable things, or things you can freeze and store, buy enough to last you to the next sale. For example, I like to make chili often, but I like to use a certain brand of organic beans. They go on sale every 3-4 months. So when they are on sale, I buy about 2-3 batches of chili worth and use them up by the time the next sale hits. But in the meantime, I have chili beans on hand each time I want to make it rather than paying full price those 2 or 3 times.

5. Make a list based on the store flyers and the coupons you have on hand and try your best to stick to it.

6. Some stores (like Walmart) price match, so take your ads there and get all the best prices at just one store. Running around to a zillion stores wastes time, resources, and money. Know which store has the best prices for your staple items and go there if you need to make a basic item run. You'll still be saving money, but without having to wait if the items you need aren't on sale at the moment.

7. A quick hint...often the priciest grocery stores have the best sale prices. But there is a catch. Be careful when you go in to buy "just the sale items". Most of the other items in the store are things you may want or need, but they cost 30-40% more than your usual store. Hence the reasons for sale...who can go in and only buy the sale items? Well...maybe you...eventually.

8. Save your coupons. Manufacturers plan the grocery sales a few weeks after coupons come out so they get increased sales from the coupons originally being sent out (it seems other people like to spend them right away too) and then a few weeks later with the store sales. But if you are smart and save them to use at the same time, you can save a lot.

9. Only save coupons for things you would really use, might use if it were close to free, or absolutely must have. Others will just bog you down and make organizing them a nightmare. So if you don't have a dog and don't have a friend that could use them, ditch your dog food coupons. I personally don't think 25c coupons (or less) are worth my time, but coupons over $1 are rare and worth holding on to.

10. Ask your stores about expired coupons. Some will take expireds for a long time, which can mean extra savings for you. Most stores do not. Some stores also double coupons, most do not. So, just ask and you'll get the hang of it soon enough.

Well, that's how I grocery shop. There are a few more tricks and ways to make deals. The book covers a lot of them. That's how I learned after all, but there are a bunch of websites dedicated to hunting deals and coupons as well. The Sunday paper is the best place for coupons. Writing to companies you purchase from is also helpful. And you can sometimes find good coupons online. The possibilities are endless. Try not to stress out. Always remember that sales will come back. Most are in regular cycles. Good luck.

Updated: I've received a lot of emails asking about the best places to find coupons. I've created a separate coupon post here, but here is a quick answer. I get most of my coupons from the Sunday paper and I print a lot online. I print most of them fromFree Grocery Coupons. Check out the coupon post to see more.

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  1. I started shopping this way last fall, and I thought I was good at saving money, too--but I was able to cut even MORE off our budget by "stockpiling" when things are on sale and getting the better coupons online. I have a family of 6, and the past two months, we've spent $200 or less on groceries and household items (including diapers). It can be done, and it can be fun! But you have to give yourself time to get the hang of it before giving up.

  2. usselman.kara@yahoo.comJuly 22, 2009 at 3:25 PM

    With in the last 6months I have really started clipping and stockpiling coupons. I arrange them by their expiration dates and use them right before they expire. I only go shopping twice a month. I try to stay below $100 for myself, my husband and our 2month old (only need diapers for him). Unless we have been out of town and need to stock up, I do pretty well.

  3. Love your blog! :) Great ideas and I am going to check out that book!

  4. I came over from your other page and read this; this is how I shop, too. Of course, I have a family of 7, so we need more food than you do.

    And, as I mentioned on the other page, I shop based on my monthly budget.

  5. That makes a bit of difference. :) A family of 7 would go through almost double what we go through. :)

  6. You can get discount offers on shopping at local supermarkets by using grocery coupon at

  7. Great tips! Thank you for sharing this.

  8. Try to shop at grocery stores or supermarket that double or even triple coupons for the best use of grocery coupons.


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