I am a picky eater, but if I like a specific food I will eat a ton. My favorite is pizza. I could eat pizza every day without blinking an eye.
This would drive my wife insane and is partly to blame why I have needed to lose weight. The point is I am not some skinny rail of a person who lives off of air. I eat a good amount of food.
When I tell people that, before we added three more to our household, my wife and I could eat well only spending $200 on groceries and $140 for dining out each month I get some looks of disbelief. Even now, with a family of five and my wife working as a teacher, we spend less than $800 a month on food.
I will be honest; we are not organic food people. Though the prices are going down, if you are going to eat organic, you are going to pay a premium. So how do I keep costs so low?
Shop at multiple stores
Not everyone can do this. If you live in an area with only one grocery store, you will have to forgo this principle.
However, if there are multiple stores around you, that means more sales from which to take advantage.
In my area near Greenville, SC, I am now able to shop at Aldi, Walmart, Bi-Lo, Publix, Ingles and Harris Teeter. While I do not visit all these stores regularly, I do check the ads for each one on a regular basis to make sure I am not missing a steal of a deal.
Know the price of things
When you shop at multiple stores, the regular price of items is different at each store. You need to know this so that when a % off deal comes along, you know whether it is indeed a deal or not.
A good example was this last week two stores had Edy’s ice cream on sale buy one get one free. One store sold it for $5.19 regular price the other $6.29.
That is a significant difference and I was able to catch it because I knew that $6.29 seemed high. The only way to get used to this is to pay attention to the sales ads and to the items you purchase at regular price.
Never purchase items at regular price
I buy very few things at regular price. The only items that I can think of that I frequently get at regular price is dog food, because we feed our dogs one specific brand, and milk since we get it directly from a creamery.
For pretty much everything else I will adjust what we eat each week to the sales that are available. Now I know there are times that you have to do this, especially as you first start out.
However, over time, you should be able to eliminate most of the need to purchase regular price items.
Stock up when there is a great deal
This piggybacks on knowing the price of the items you are purchasing. By stocking up on these everyday items, you will only have to buy them when they are on sale.
The first few months you may have to spend a little more on groceries as you start to stockpile everyday items like razors, cereal, meat, etc.
Right now I have enough razors to last for at least a year, eight pounds of ground beef and three pounds of chicken breasts in the freezer. I got the razors for free after the rebate and coupons and the meat at 50% off the regular price.
I am not a big fan of clipping coupons. I just started using them at the end of February.
The savings that I have seen as a result of using coupons has been astounding. I am now a firm believer in using coupons and buying the Sunday paper every week.
Using the Web for Groceries
The Internet has so much out there to help with using coupons. Currently, I use Couponmom.com.
Each week they put out a list of deals at various grocery stores and match them with coupons for you. The sites even go so far as to tell you what paper the coupons are in, if there is an online printable coupon, or if you need to use one of the grocery coupon apps.
So if I were buying razors at CVS, it would tell me the sale price, where to get the coupon, the final amount and the percentage off. You can sort the list for each store using the various categories.
I sort by percentage off and stock up on the best deals. Coupon Mom is my primary site because it is so comprehensive, no matter where I happen to be at the time. It has all major pharmacies, Walmart, Target, and at least three grocery stores for each state.
This also saves me the hassle of cutting out all the coupons. I can go to a specific circular or website for each coupon and get the ones I need.
Grocery Store Scenarios
Publix is an expensive place to shop when buying items at full price, but they tend to have a good number of buy one get one free deals. Here is what I purchased at Publix yesterday and last Monday.
Two boxes of Total cereal and two boxes of Cheerios cereal– regular price $3.49 a piece — on sale for 1.75 and had coupons for $1 off two — final price per box $1.25
Four pack of Yoplait YoPlus yogurt (bought five) — regular price $4 — on sale for $2.00 and had coupons for $1 off — final price per pack $1, per cup 25 cents
Three bags Totino’s pizza rolls — reg price 3.69 — sale price 1.84 and had a coupon for 40 cents off which Publix doubles — final price $1.04
Six boxes hamburger helper (yes I eat this stuff about once a week) — regular price $1.99 — on sale for $1 and had a coupon for 80 cents off three — final price per box 83 cents
Northland fruit juice — reg price $3.89 — sale and final price $1.95
Pasta Sauce — regular price $2.69 — sale and final price $1.35
Bertoli Olive Oil — reg price $6.99 — sale and final price $3.50
4 Pack of Publix Bath Tissue — reg price $2.39 — sale and final price 1 cent
A loaf of Publix white bread — reg price $1.09 — sale and final price 1 cent
Totals — Reg Price $66.92 — Savings $42.63 — final price $24.29 or 64% off
I used to do most of my shopping here because it is convenient to my home. I still do a portion of it but make sure only to get the best deals.
Their regular prices are lower than Publix or Bloom but not quite as low as Wal-Mart. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart because it is out of my way and they run very few sales on groceries.
First aid Alcohol – Reg price $1.09 – sale and final price 76 cents
Four pack Jello pudding (bought 3) – Reg price $3 – sale price $2.50 plus had 50 cent coupon that Bi-Lo doubles – final price $1.50 or 37.5 cents per cup
7.65 lbs lean ground beef – Reg Price 3.99/lb – sale price 1.99/lb – final price$15.28
Totals – Reg Price $40.69 – Savings $20.11 – final price $20.59 or 49.4% off
Grand Totals – Reg Price $134.96 – Savings $76.32 – Final Price $58.64 or 56.6% off
That is just what I did at the grocery stores. That doesn’t include the fantastic deals I got at the major pharmacies. This is why my grocery budget used to be $200 for the month.
I am a little ahead of schedule on my shopping, but I will not be spending any money for the rest of the month on ground beef, chicken, paper towels, and a few other items. By stocking up, I can spend the remaining money on foods that are more fun to eat like steak!
In the past, I have always found their prices to be inflated. As a result, I only focus on the bargains that are available each week, and what bargains they are.
The three major pharmacies in the States are CVS, Walgreen’s, and Rite Aid (though Rite Aid has been bought out by Walgreens so many of their stores are are either closing or being converted). Every Sunday these stores change the promotions they are running, and they have a good number of month-long promotions.
The upside for pharmacy sales is that these companies run sales that are instant off along with printed rebates. So from time to time I stop in and take advantage of the deals. I have gotten soap, razors, and acetaminophen all for 80% off or more.
My favorite of the pharmacies is CVS. Why? CVS has chosen to use a rewards card style of promotions. You sign up for the CVS extra care card.
Every time you purchase something at CVS you scan your card, this qualifies you for the promotions for that week. With every purchase, 2% of what you buy goes into an account.
At the end of each quarter the 2% prints out as CVS Extra Bucks (works just like a gift certificate). This sounds pretty good, but the 2% is only the gravy it isn’t the meat of the deal.
The meat comes every week with extra bucks promotions. The way these work are that you purchase an item or group of items and you will be rewarded with a specific number of extra bucks that print off instantly on the receipt.
When I purchased Softsoap body wash for $4.99 I got a corresponding $4.99 in extra bucks on my receipt. The bucks spend just like money the next time you come in.
After paying full price the first time for a few items, I have been able to use my extra bucks to purchase items that produce more extra bucks. Since my first visit, I haven’t spent more than $5 at a CVS store and have bought tons of practical items that I would typically buy at the regular grocery store.
In my last three visits, I used coupons on top of the extra bucks promotion and ended up making money. So now I am up to $18 in extra bucks just waiting for the next good promotion.
The best part about the pharmacies is you do not have to do any work to find what the best deal is. Couponmom.com gives you a free list every week of all the sales available at these stores.
Online Grocery Shopping
As the Internet takes over industry after industry, it reaches more and more into our daily lives. You can now purchase your groceries online and have them placed in your car when you drive up.
For my organic food oriented friends, services like Brandless, offer you the option to buy non-perishable groceries online and have them delivered directly to your home.
Ont top of that meal delivery services now allow you to select specific meals with all the ingredients delivered directly to your home. All we have to do is follow the recipe and do the cooking.
These great options make it easier for us to provide healthy meals to our families while spending less time in aisles and lines. And as we all know, time is money.
I hope this has been beneficial to you and will save everyone money over the long haul.