saving money on groceries

I used to be a big coupon clipper but fell away from the practice for a year or two, for several reasons. 1. It is time intensive and I got lazy. 2. We are always trying to get away from eating too much processed food, which is what most coupons are for.

Now I am back to couponing out of necessity. It started with the gas price surge, when food costs just shot up overnight! We want to have enough to share with those in need. A lot of the processed foods that we may not enjoy can be bought very cheaply and donated to food pantries-one example is Hamburger Helper, which we don’t like, but is often available for as low as .17 cents a box. Though we have the luxury of being somewhat choosy about our foods, a lot of people do not. When I read about this idea on the coupon message boards, I was so embarrassed that I had never considered using couponing as a way to bless others! Now it feels good to have a big donation bag that doesn’t cost much more than the time involved in clipping the coupons and going to the store. This enables us to be generous in an area we hadn’t been able to do much in, before. I am not trying to boast, because this is a very small thing, but it could add up if we all did even a little! I appreciated hearing this idea, because every time we find a new way to bless we need to share that with each other. So many families are needing the help now, and as Christians we need to keep an eye out for practical ways we can help the hurting and needy.

Another reason I am focusing on couponing again is this recession. Like Proverbs suggests I am “looking to the ant” who works tirelessly to store up food for the colony. That’s how I look at food bargains now-it’s just tucking away during Summer bounty, knowing that Winter is coming!
With the way our U.S. economy is struggling now, it’s just a good idea. We don’t know how long these tough times will last nor do we know just how severe it will get. I look at it as mere stewardship to stockpile for tough times. For our family, and for others.

Besides these reasons, the fact is that our grocery costs just keep increasing!! This is because John eats lowfat, I eat low carb, Caleb eats gluten-free and the other two boys are galloping towards adolescence and just eat everything! Knowing that you are going to be feeding three teenage boys for a few years can be quite the incentive to stretch your grocery budget.
I can’t make our mortgage payment lower, and I can’t reduce the cost of firewood but food is the most fluid part of the budget. We are blessed here in America that we still have lots of choices in what we spend on food. If money wasn’t an issue I would happily eat organic only and do all my shopping at Market of Choice! Because what we eat determines our health sometimes (Caleb, especially, has taught us this!) I realize food is NOT a “bargain” if it’s processed junk, so we are wise about our choices. The fact remains though, that money is an issue so a good compromise for us is gardening-picking and freezing fruit from local farms in the Summer-keeping chickens for eggs-buying most of our meat in bulk at Costco, and couponing for the rest.

So if you can relate to any of those three reasons and are interested in looking into couponing, here are some things that have worked well for me:

1. Organize your coupons. I used to just throw them in a ziploc, but it’s too easy to forget what you have! I had a giant notebook divider before but it was too bulky in the shopping cart. Now I have this:It’s just a check divider from BiMart, and was about $6. I tabbed the files for frequent items (frozen items, pet food, paper products, etc) Looks like this, inside:

In the very front pocket I put the coupons I will use THAT trip. I usually go once a week, on Wednesday or Thursday…I get a few necessities (milk, fruits/vegs, meat) and all the rest I buy is coupon stockpiling. The way I decide which coupons to use is by going through the Wed newspaper ads and matching my coupons to the sale prices. Couponing is only a good deal if it is used WITH a sale. Regular price, plus a 50 cent coupon? That’s not worth it! But 1/2 off, plus a .50 coupon, plus a doubler? That’s worth stocking up on!

2. Pick a coupon friendly store. Some places (Walmart grrr!) forget your coupons every time. Other stores (my experience at Safeway) have clerks who act like your money savings is coming directly out of their paycheck! I go to Albertsons because they match up to 10 competitor coupons. This means I clip Rays, Safeway and Fred Meyer coupons, match those to my reg coupons and the sale ad from Albertsons. I get ALL my shopping done in one stop and as a bonus-I don’t have to go to Winco or Walmart (which I despise because of the crowds and poor produce! Still, I went for the bargains) Now that I do most of my shopping at one place, I actually save time…even with the time invested in coupon clipping/organizing. If I have a big trip to do I wait until Sunday afternoon or later at night so the boys can stay home-they will start moaning if they see me get out the coupon binder, haha! But it’s interesting how they always ask excitedly “How much did “we” save this time?!” I love the checkout where you get this enormous bill and then they start scanning coupons-minus $1-minus $2-minus .75-etc etc Afterwards you get a receipt the size of a tall 9 year old:

3. Make it fun! Everything in life can be a fun challenge or a weary burden-WE get to DECIDE. This has become a friendly competition with myself, to see how much of my husband’s hard-earned paycheck I can save. Last week was my best yet! This slip that Caleb is holding is our new record:I spent $74.14 and SAVED $127.60.

I normally range in the 50% area, with a full cart of groceries for around $65-80. A lot of women on this message board:

AFullCup.com

do a LOT better than that! But I am still buying a lot of gluten-free foods, produce and meat that rarely go on sale, so I am happy with that. Another nice thing about Albertsons is that they add up your purchases for gas rewards. Yesterday I got a slip for .45 cents off PER GALLON and it can add up to $1.50 off per gallon, eventually. That is just a great bonus.

4. Get extra coupons. We get the paper but if you don’t, just buy Sundays and Wednesdays. Claudia shares her extra coupons with me, and John will bring home the circular from work if I need extras. Also, when there is a big sale I will go on ebay and buy 10-20 of a duplicate coupons. Did you know people sell coupons?! For around $1-$2 you can buy 20 $1.50 off coupons-even if I use half of them , I still save, especially on items like cat food, canned goods and other things that keep a long time. A bonus is that most of the ebay sellers who clip and sell these are stay-at-home moms or charities, and you are supporting them a little.

So that’s my latest “thing”-couponing. If you have any questions, leave a comment or email!

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About sparrowjourney

Christian homeschooling mom to three boys, married to my best friend, John, for over 20 years. I love gardening without gloves, learning history with my kids, cooking with lots of butter, serving others, great books, rich coffee, studying the Bible, camping outdoors, scrapbooking, vintage home decor, the smell of rain and cut grass, authentic people, poetry, laughing until your sides hurt, and babies. oh and black licorice is pretty awesome.
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One Response to saving money on groceries

  1. ~Chris says:

    Safeway has a program that you can sign up for (I think) and get coupons for Proctor-Gamble products. It’s linked to the Safeway card, so you go to the website, choose what coupon you’d like and it’s automatically taken off when you use the card.We have a REALLY good Safeway here, and I like knowing that I don’t have to worry about forgetting coupons, which I ALWAYS do! :)Hopefully other stores will follow suit and start using electronic coupons too!

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