Thursday, July 17, 2014

Turning Dollars into Cents: How to Save Money on Groceries

I got married at 20, and had my first munchkin at 21.  As a result, my career has always been managing this circus (er, family).  I have had a few part time jobs here and there, but we basically survive on Hubby's salary.  This has always prompted the "How do you do it???" question from friends and acquaintances.

I can understand the curiosity.  We have a large family, and our children are all clothed (in public anyway) and they all wear shoes.  Hubby and I are also clothed, and we don't look like we walked out of 1985.  We obviously go shopping.  Our munchkins do sports and have birthday parties.  We live a semi-normal existence.  We are normal as it gets with munchkins wrecking havoc everywhere.

So, how do we do it?  How do we provide for our family on (basically) one salary?

It's NOT easy.

In order to make ends meet, it is imperative that I stretch our dollar.  I have learned the value of store fliers and which stores double coupons (and what that is exactly).  I have taught myself how to sell on eBay and how to rent our timeshare.  I am relentless when it comes to making ends meet.

For tonight I will focus on groceries.  I have enough money saving and stretch the dollar tips to write until next Saturday.  My munchkins and Hubby would be rather disgruntled with the lack of attention.

I understand there is only so much time in the day.  Yes, if you want to devote an hour each week to planning your meals and writing out your shopping list you can save a tremendous amount of money.  I don't have that kind of time.  Time is a luxury I can't afford, along with designer jeans and an in ground swimming pool.


I save at least an extra 30% every time I grocery shop.  On good days I cut my bill in half.  While starting any coupon system will take time to get used to, if you stick with it, it will only add a few minutes to your regular routine.

First and foremost, do your homework.  Read your fliers.  I am posting this Thursday evening, which means the Sunday Paper will soon be hot off the press.  Two words:  BUY IT.

The Sunday Paper is an arsenal of money saving information.  Fliers and coupons galore.  Read them.  Knowledge is not only power, but money.

One important note, DO NOT CLIP COUPONS FOR STUFF YOU DON'T BUY!  Coupons only save you $ if you buy items you need and use.  Saving $1.00 of a $3.00 yogurt no one eats isn't saving you money.  It's just wasting LESS money.

Make sure you read the coupons carefully. You may need to buy two of an item, which is not worth it if the shelf life is not long.  Also make a mental note of expiration dates.

I always tell Mommies to invest in a coupon organizer.  Clipping coupons is only helpful if you have them with you.  I bought my organizer at the "$1 Spot" at Target.  When I saw them for sale again last spring, I bought some for my friends.  Mine is small enough to keep in my giant "this is not a diaper bag" purse.  I have it organized according to where the items are in the supermarket.
I have the sections labeled:

Baby Items, Bread and Cereal, General Food/Drink, Cold Items, House and Hygiene, Store Coupons and Receipts.

About once a month, I also check online for grocery coupons.  My favorite site is Coupon Mom.  I print the coupons I need and file them away.

Before you head out to the store, read through the grocery store fliers.  Make your list according to what is on sale.  Do your best to match a coupon to as much as possible.  If you don't have a coupon for an item you need, check the manufacturer's website.  You may be able to find printable coupons there as well.

Sale is good.  Sale with a coupon is better.  Clearance with a coupon is BEST.

I like to make my grocery list on a business style envelope.  I mark what is on sale with an "S", and I star what I have a coupon for.  I then place all the coupons I will need for my shopping trip in my envelope.  This ensures you have the coupons ready when you go to check out.  I have been that frazzled mom at the checkout with a screaming baby many flying everywhere...Mommy sweat dripping down my back.  Having coups handy in such debacles is quite a blessing.

DOUBLE COUPONS:  This was a term that scared me in my early days of motherhood.  What did it mean?  It sounded complicated.  What did I have to do to "Double" a coupon?

NOTHING.  Double coupons are a beautiful thing.  Several grocery stores (Shop Rite and Stop n Shop to name two) double manufacturer coupons.  You know all those coupons you just clipped in the Sunday Paper?  All of them, up to $0.99 will be doubled automatically at checkout.  Here's how it works:

Crest Toothpaste is on sale at Shop Rite for $1.00.  You have a coupon for $0.50 off any size Crest Toothpaste.  Shop Rite will match that $0.50, and you just got that Toothpaste for free!

I never pay full price for anything unless absolutely necessary.  If I am without a coupon I buy the store brand if it is cheaper.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to maximize your savings if you have "brand loyalty".  I do for some main items, such as Bounty Paper Towels.  I clean more spills at breakfast than a third grade art teacher does in a day.  Bounty is a must.  But cotton swabs?  I can assure you my ears don't care.  In some cases, even with a coupon, the generic is cheaper.  Give it a try.

I bought name brand eye solution for years.  Always with a coupon, but it was still expensive.  One day I decided to try Target's eye solution.  It was $4.00 cheaper.  A year later my eyes are still in my head and I can still see.

Items to buy generic:
Cleaning supplies
Hand Soap
Cookies (Chips Ahoy or not, your kid will eat it.  I bet the farm.)

Sign up for email alerts at your favorite stores, and print coupons to save on clothes.  Do your best to know what you need before you shop.  Your wallet will thank you!

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