Rules for Shopping like a Frugal Mommy
There are really just four simple rules to follow to be a smart shopper:
1. Use a coupon if at all possible
2. Go in prepared, have a list and have your coupons cut and ready to go
3. match your coupon to a sale for the best possible deal, and when you find that best possible deal…stock up!
4. don’t buy things you don’t need (this includes things that you want, have a coupon for, but know you shouldn’t really have…in my case that is fruit roll ups!)
I don’t even know what first made me start wanting to coupon to save money. I can’t recall a defining event like many can. I’ve been a stay at home mom since my son was born (although I do work part time during the school year at a Mother’s Day Out program) and we’ve been doing pretty well as a one income family. By no means swimming in cash, but we had a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. A nice cable package, a playroom fully stocked with toys for the kids. But I knew it was possible to stretch our dollar further, and I knew it was going to require a lot of education on my part.
If you are one of the lucky kids whose parents sat them down and explained how to find a good sale, and what a good price was for chicken…and you actually listened and retained that information I am very envious! I had to learn the hard way. I read all the blogs and forums I could get my hands on. I poured over store ads and probably ticked off a few cashiers along the way (be organized!). It was so worth it though. Because as I like to tell my husband so often…it’s honestly like I’ve almost doubled our income. And you can too.
You want to save money grocery shopping, but you aren’t sure where to start. Here I will help you step by step become the savviest shopper you know!
Start off buying the paper
Just buy one, or if you are very ambitious buy more than one. I buy 3 every single week. Now you have a choice, you can either cut out all the coupons or write the date on all of the inserts and file them away whole. I use the binder method. This means I have a really large binder filled with coupons filed inside baseball card holders. You might want to start off with something smaller though, like an alphabetized accordion file you can fit in your bag.
Find out when the stores in your area send out their new ads
You can either wait for the ad to come in the mail, look it up online, or find a website that posts the new ads every week (sometimes they do coupon matchups as well which makes your job very easy!)
First look at what meat is on sale
If you see a good price for meat, don’t just buy enough to get you through the week, buy enough that will comfortably fit in your freezer and that will last you until the next great deal comes along. Freezer bags come in handy when you are buying in bulk.
Next look at produce
Typically whatever is in season at the moment will be the best deal. Don’t be afraid to buy a lot and freeze whatever you know you won’t use before it goes bad. Some veggies and fruits change in texture a bit when frozen but when cooked or baked into something they taste fine. Flash freezing flat on a tray is your best bet, so it your produce doesn’t freeze into an unrecognizable clump.
Now look at what kind of promotions your store has going on.
Are they having a sale where you buy 10 participating products and immediately get $5 off your total bill? If so, look at the participating products and match what you want to a coupon.
Finally, write up your list
Gather your coupons. And go shop!
The best deal you are going to get is when the store is having a sale, that sale item is part of a bigger promotion and you have a coupon; when this happens, stock up.
Sales cycles run around 6-8 weeks. Get enough of a product so it will reasonably last you until the next sale and nothing more. You don’t really need 2 years worth of cereal. Even if it’s free, it does you no good if it expires or if it takes up too much space in your life. The same goes for any product. Now if you just can’t pass up that great deal, and you have enough and you don’t have to shelf clear to get an overabundance…donate. Now that you are a savvy shopper, you can pass on your good bargains to others who are in need.
You don’t have to shop at multiple stores, but I do. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes the most “expensive” grocery store is actually the cheapest. They can afford to have the really fantastic sales because everything else is so high priced. It’s good to have a “sale” store and a basic needs store.
Most of all remember that all coupons are a form of advertising. Sales prices aren’t always great prices! The goal of the store is to get you in there, get that one thing that you got you in the door for a low price and pay full price for everything else. In addition, they want to hook you on a product at a low price. When it goes back up to full price, they want you to have to have it. It’s brilliant, and it is a system that clearly works. The key to being a smart shopper is to make that system work in your favor by buying when the price is low and the coupon is high.
Now you have the tools you need to grocery shop like a pro! Frugality is a way of life!