I post to this blog pretty much every day, and coupons seem to be included in at least one of those posts, if not all of them. It’s become a lifestyle for me, as I’m sure it has for some of you too.
But what about those weeks when you are just DONE with couponing? Those weeks where your newspapers are still piled up in the corner, not even removed from the plastic wrappers. Those weeks when you can’t even keep track of what day it is, let alone what insert the dish soap coupons are in. We all have them.
With grocery prices on the rise, most everyone is looking for ways to lower their grocery bill. Often, the first thing people turn to are coupons. Let’s face it, after TLC’s Extreme Couponing hit the airwaves, it sparked an interest in coupons like no other.
There’s no doubt that there are some real savings to be had with coupons. Couponing does, however, take time… and we don’t always have that time. Some people may never have that time. Others may have the time, but choose to do something more worthwhile with it… and that’s ok! Coupons are a great way lower your grocery bill, but you can also save a significant amount of money by simply shopping smarter.
Whichever category you fit in, these 5 Ways To Lower Your Grocery Bill will significantly cut down your spending. No coupons required.
1. Shop The Sales
This is HUGE. What most people don’t realize, is that the biggest savings that even the most extreme couponers get, is not really from coupons. Sure, coupons do add to it, but the largest percentage of savings is coming from the store’s SALE.
You probably get your store’s grocery ads in your mailbox each week. (If you don’t, most are available in the store and/or online.) Before tossing them out, scan the front page. Retailers typically put their loss leaders on the front page of the ad. Loss leaders are items that the store is selling at a loss in order to attract customers into the store. They lure us into the store with the loss leaders, knowing that most impulse shoppers will pick up additional items while there.
I’m not saying run out and buy everything on the front page of the ad. However, if it’s something your family consumes, this is when you should plan to buy it. We should never pay full price. Pretty much everything will go on sale at some point. This includes healthy options. Everything you currently buy will eventually go on sale. There is no need to change your buying habits.
TIP: Be sure to also find the clearance area(s) in your store. Retailers will slash the prices on items for various reasons. For example, when the packaging changes, if items are scratched or dented, if they are overstocked, if the item is being discontinued… you just never know! You can save big money by shopping clearance. Some stores may have multiple areas in the store, so be sure to ask. You can even find clearance deals on meats and produce.
2. Stock Up
When you see an item that you regularly purchase go on sale, especially when you see that item at a ‘rock bottom price’, it’s time to stock up. Stock up on items when they hit their rock bottom price. Ideally you want to purchase enough of that item to last you until it goes on sale again. Items will go on sale at a rock bottom price at least once every 12 weeks (give or take).
Yes, sales repeat!
What is a rock bottom price? That is the term that we use here in the frugal world, to describe the lowest price we’ve paid for a particular product. Your rock bottom price may be different than mine. It will also change as your stockpile grows. If you are used to paying $7 for a bottle of laundry detergent, a $4 sale may trigger you to stock up. (Especially if you are out.) However, we may see that same brand go on sale for $3 the following week. Since that price is lower than the price you previously paid, your rock bottom price changes.
The term stockpile is also relative. It is not necessary to turn your garage into a grocery store. We want to try and build up enough stock to last until the item goes on sale again. In other words we try to have a three month supply of everything on hand. If you only use one bottle of laundry detergent per month, your stockpile will suffice with just three bottles. However if you are like me, and use one bottle per week, your stockpile would be more effective with twelve bottles. A one person household stockpile looks much different than my family of seven’s. (Even with my large family, I can still fit my laundry stockpile in the cabinets inside my laundry room.)
What happens if you don’t take advantage of this step? You end up paying full price for your item because you will run out before it goes on sale again.
3. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning helps reduce our grocery bill in many ways. First and foremost, it keeps us from running to the grocery store for last minute dinner items. When that happens, we usually head to the store hungry and with food on our mind. If your store is like mine, as you walk in the door you are instantly hit with that wonderful aroma of hot French bread, and are greeted with a beautiful display of bakery treats. Less time in the store means less impulse buying. Distractions are evil!
Plan your meals around your stockpile, the weekly loss leaders and sale items.
If you are stocking up on chicken breasts this week, make that your protein. If you don’t want chicken every night (most people don’t), freeze it. As you build up a stockpile of meat in your freezer, you will have dinner ingredients on hand, and won’t have to run out to the store.
Remember, different items are on sale from week to week. You may have stocked up on beef last week, and possibly pork a couple of weeks prior. Once you have started stockpiling (step 2), you will also have several staple items in your pantry such as spices, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes and broths.
There are several options for meal plans. You can come up with your own, based on your favorite recipes, or take advantage of some of the services out there.
If you have your meals planned out, it will also cut down on eating out. It’s much cheaper to eat at home. Eating out multiple times a week can really drain the bank account.
4. Shop Multiple Stores
If you are only shopping one store, you may be missing out on some of the best sales. When it comes to food, I typically compare the loss leaders across the main grocery stores in my area. Most weeks, I choose to shop at just one (the one with the best deals on what I need to stock up on that week). Largely I do this to save myself time, gas and my sanity. However, there are several weeks that I do shop multiple stores if the sales are good enough.
I also recommend that you choose to shop a drugstore and/or a big box store such as Target or Walmart. Often these stores will have much better sales on our health and beauty, personal care, baby and household items. The drug stores usually have additional rewards on top of the sale prices, which often lead to items being super cheap, if not FREE after factoring in those rewards. Target runs gift card promotions that essentially work the same way.
5. Try Different Brands
If you are loyal to a specific brand name, that’s perfectly ok. It will eventually go on sale, and you can stock up just as we have discussed above.
However, if you are willing to try different brands you can save a significant amount of money. I have tried several new products over the years simply because they were free or cheaper than my typical brand. In several instances, this has caused me to switch!
Do you have anything to add? What do you do to save money on groceries?
Sheila York says
I am trying to learn here but it seems that Store Brands and off Brands are generally cheaper than Name Brands even with a Coupon. I would like to try some “better” Brands but I really have to figure this out.