Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thrifty grocery shopping

SCORE! Here's a picture of my grocery receipt from a couple of weeks ago. It's not nearly as good as this week's Meijer and CVS receipts, but it still illustrates my point. (I spent $75 at Meijer during the week of the above receipt.) 

For a few months now (six? eight?) I have been very consciously trying to get our grocery bill as low as it will go. This involves shopping at several different stores, watching the grocery ads like a hawk, and couponing. For a family of six, we spend $575 per month. Not bad, but I think I can get it lower. 

My strategy so far has been to visit Hot Coupon World and view next week's ads for the grocery and drug stores in my area. The folks that post on HCW scour their coupons and post which sale items can also be paired with coupons, reaping even bigger savings. I keep a little list next to the computer, and I take copious notes. 

On Thursday nights, after I've gotten the ads in the mail and scoured them again, writing all over them (circling things I have coupons for, figuring out per-unit prices, and the like) I make out my grocery list. With my freezer inventory next to me (so I don't over-buy), I make a list each store at which I'll be stopping. For items on sale, I write the brand & per unit price next to the item, so that I can compare prices while I'm at a competitor. I put a star next to anything for which I have a coupon, and a circled star for items that have coupons, but might not be as cheap as another brand. (It's a trigger for me to pull out my calculator and do some in-aisle figuring.) And did I mention that I put my list in order according to the layout of the store? That's so I don't have to backtrack and be tempted by impulse buys. Some other things that help with my system: 

1. All of the stores at which I shop are on a circular route - I drive pretty much down one main thoroughfare to get to all my destinations. It takes less than a gallon of gas, but about 2 hours. I also do our banking and drop off recycling during grocery trips. 
2. I get most of my coupon circulars for free. My mom gives me her old coupons, and sometimes her neighbors share their (mostly uncut) circulars, too. I often have duplicates of the same coupon, which enables me to stock up on a good deal. 
3. I only take Grace with me to the grocery store. There are no husbands throwing snacks in the cart, and no children begging for things or running up & down the aisles distracting me. I am a bargain-hunting machine. 
4. I am NOT brand-loyal. I do have standards, and some things that I just won't buy (we don't eat beef, I try to eliminate as much high fructose corn syrup as I can, I don't buy chips or soda or other junk food, and I want as much whole grain as I can get my little hands on), but I really have no preference for a particular toothpaste brand, or shredded cheese brand, for example. 

Yes, it takes a long time for me to make a grocery list, and shopping takes time. I look at it this way: my husband works HARD for his paycheck. It's my job to make that paycheck stretch as far as I can.  And what else would I be spending this time doing? Mindlessly watching TV, or playing on the internet? I choose to be productive with my time! 

This week at CVS, by combining sales and coupons, I got 5 packages of deodorant and a package of 8 AA batteries for $7. That's just what I'm saving at one store. I think it's paying off! 

Now I just need to tell you about my beloved clothesline...

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