Does the term “couponing” bring to mind grocery carts filled with Spam, frozen pizzas and soda? For many of us, yes, and for good reason. When you look through a Sunday paper coupon insert, for every health conscious food item there are 15 coupons for the latest in craptastic prepared foods. That is precisely why I don’t use coupons to make a major dent in my food budget. For the most part we eat fresh fruits and vegetables, buying organic varieties based on the Dirty Dozen, meat and some dairy. None of which routinely have coupons associated with them. Yet we still manage to save and keep to a decent food budget.
Instead of using coupons as my main way to save on food, I simply pay attention to the prices at my favorite store and meal plan based on those prices. For us that’s the Commissary (which admittedly has lower prices to begin with). I also pay attention to the food prices at other local grocery stores and look for deals that beat the Commissary prices. For example I know a box of Cheerios (a favorite breakfast for Jer) is around $3.25. If I come across a lower price at another store, and have a coupon (that is an item that we buy that I often have a coupon for!) then I buy it at the other store.
Each week I go to the store, or stores, with a meal plan in hand, one which includes three meals a day for all of us for the week, and snacks. I try to include at least one meat-free dinner a week and incorporate lots of vegetables and healthy grains like Quinoa and long grain brown rice into dinners to stretch out the meat portion of the meal for a couple days. I stick to the list and barring any lightbulb moments (like remembering I just used the last of the peanut butter) don’t stray. On average we spend about $110 a week on food for two adults, one hungry toddler and a dog. Knowing this we make a food budget based on $120 a week (a little cushion is always a good thing).
To Break it Down, Here’s How We save on Our Food Budget:
Make a meal plan, including snacks and any special treats, and stick to it.
Have at least one meat-free meal a week.
Bulk up dinners with vegetables and healthy grains to extend the meat to more than one meal.
Know your favorite store’s prices, and keep an eye out for better deals at other stores.
Look out for coupons on your preferred items. Coupons.com is a great go-to site, and for organic foods check out CommonKindness.com.
Schedule in time for shopping at your regular store as well as for making stops at other stores.
Take advantage of traveling to see people. We don’t have an Aldi near us (a great place to save on basics) but there’s one near my in-laws. When we visit them, I visit Aldi as well!
As we all know, it’s not all about the food. There are cleaning products, personal items, bath and beauty products, toilet paper, paper towels…etc etc…that add up, and quickly.
With a few coupons and knowing how to match coupons to store sales you can save lots of money on these every day items, and even get them for free (or better yet, be paid to take them out of the store). I use Sunday paper inserts, coupons.com, and CommonKindness.com for coupons and SurvivngtheStores.com for more coupons and store match-ups (store sales that you can make even better with corresponding coupons). Make a habit of checking your favorite products’ websites for coupons and other savings, as well as their Facebook pages. A “Like” could get you a high value coupon or a free full size product!
Today I saved $14 at Target and walked out with three free items: a box of Cheerios, a Secret deodorant and a full size Lysol Kitchen cleaner, taking my total savings to $23.21. I spent $33 for $56.21 worth of merchandise.
I then went onto CVS, where I saved $15.30 on $31 of merchandise. So basically 50% off.
Between Target and CVS, Here’s what I got:
Charmin Bath tissue (18 rolls)
Soft Soap Hand soap (2)
Tampax Tampons (2 Boxes)
Secret Deodorant (1)
Lysol kitchen cleaner (3 full size bottles)
Crest and Colgate toothpaste (3 tubes total)
Colgate toothbrush (1)
Cheerios (2 Boxes)
All laundry detergent (1 bottle)
For $87.21 of products I spent $48.30. Even the Commissary prices can’t beat that! Not only did I save money, but I stocked up on some essentials. There’s nothing like running out of toilet paper or toothpaste when you or your kid(s) are sick! Having a few extras on hand is always a good idea, especially when you can get them for a deal. I realize there are people who get paid to take products out the store, but I am a bit picky about what I use for cleaning and personal care. I’ve yet to come across those deals on my favorites.
To Break it Down, Here’s How to Save with Coupons and Store Match-Ups:
Check out your coupon resources regularly, and come up with a way to organize them (binders with insert pages, file folders, an envelope….) to make sure you know what you have. Hold onto your coupons as long as you can before they expire to find a deal to match them with.
Keep an eye out for coupon expiration dates. Even if you can’t match it with a sale, no reason to not use it!
Check out SurvivingtheStores.com for nationwide store coupon match-ups to sales. If your favorite store isn’t on there, just grab their weekly circular and match up their sales with any relevant coupons.
On SurvingtheStores make sure to check out a few if not all of the major retailer mach-ups, as there are often links to manufacturer coupons corresponding to a store’s particular sale that you can use later for a deal at a different store.
Only buy what you will ACTUALLY use (or donate if that’s your desire) as spending any money on something you’ll never use or donate is a waste. Even when it’s on super sale.
You don’t have to compromise your tastes or preferences to save money, you just need to budget some time each week to make a meal plan and to find the best deals on the products you and your family use every day.