If you have ever seen any shows like Extreme Couponing they make it look very easy to get $600 in stuff for $3. The reality is that not every grocery store has coupon policies that will allow you to accrue that much savings. There are no grocery stores within an hour drive from my house that double coupons up to $1 and the ones near my house have only so many coupons they will accept at a time even in multiple transactions. I got over $20 in coupons a few weeks ago at a local grocery store and the register crashed. The extreme couponing situation just does not exist for me; but, I still feed my family of 6 who eat a lot for $200 a month (including all makeup, diapers, toiletries, shampoo, soap…etc) with a medium size stockpile.
The first thing I do when coming up with a grocery list is creating my monthly dinner and snack menu. I use the local ads and combine them with my coupons and see what I am going to fix for dinner and plan it out for the entire at least 2-3 weeks ahead. For example, recently I saw Krab salad buy 1 get 1 free at Kroger’s for $2.99 plus I had a $1 off coupon from the maker of the Krab salad and I planned a cold Crab Pasta Salad with light mayo and light hidden valley ranch and ronzoni multi-grain pasta as a dinner. I plan out what my family loves to eat which is also healthy and I use various coupon sites such as http://www.krazycouponlady.com, http://www.bountytobargains or http://www.hip2save.com to aid me in figuring out my shopping list.
The next thing I do is come up with a shopping list based upon categories of thing I need to go shopping with. First, I focus on fruits and vegetables. The first thing I do is write down what I need for my monthly dinner and snack schedule then I go through the local coupon and sale ads and figure out what will fit. For example, a regular on my dinner menu is Flavorful Beef Stir-Fry from allrecipes.com which main ingredients involve broccoli and peas and round steak. I always try to buy everything fresh; but, if I cannot find it fresh I use coupons to fill in the void.
I begin by going to my local fruit and vegetable store or local ethnic market and going to their discounted vegetable section and see if I can get broccoli and peas for $1-$1.50 for the entire dinner. There are a lot of local ethnic market that have excellent produce for very cheap prices. Local ethnic markets and even so vegetable stores have specials like Wild Wednesdays where they practically give them away because they are going to go bad. I purchase the vegetables about to go bad that are still in good shape and freeze them or use them that day. I purchase fruit and if it is a type of fruit that freezes well like berries which I can use in smoothies later otherwise I consume it right away or use it in desserts. If you have no such luck with the cheap fruits and vegetables from your local fruit and vegetable store discount section or your local ethnic grocery store (Chinese and Arabic grocery stores tend to be especially cheap) than you may have to switch to frozen vegetables or canned which is the least desirable.
I receive a large amount of coupons for fruit and vegetables by knowing the names of the different brands of fruit and vegetables and signing up on their websites for deals. I am signed up on driscolls, cuties, and various other brands. There are not too many fresh vegetable coupons; but, they are starting to become more frequent and it takes work to find them. The next step is I take my frozen and canned vegetable coupons and match what is on sale. For example, Kroger’s near my house in Michigan and Meijers frequently have Green Giant frozen vegetables $10 for $10 or sometimes $10 for $10 and you get the 11th free (which translates to $.89 each) and then green giant very frequently has 60 cents off 3. So it is very normal for me to get 3 boxes of Green Giant vegetables after coupons and sales for $.69 each (I frequently get canned tomatoes during these sales as well by getting coupons for hunts or rotel or the other various brands through the paper and through being signed up at their website and getting them in my email and on their facebook pages). Then, I am spending $1.38 for the vegetables for my meal plus a tiny piece of ginger picked up from the fruit and vegetable market for maybe $.50 and maybe some carrots which I get for $1 at the fruit and vegetable store only using maybe $.30 worth. I also use something called catalinas towards my fruit and vegetable purchases to knock a large amount of savings off as well.
The next thing I need to make my beef stir fry is beef. I know what time my local Kroger’s puts out the meat that is about to go bad which is right after my kids get out of school and I go there and purchase meat only at that time. There are barely any meat coupons besides maybe laura’s beef coupons, tyson chicken and various seafood coupons like seapak or gorton’s. What I do with the meat coupons like gorton’s which had a ton of coupons during lent is I get extra coupons for them by maybe going to get extra coupons from coupon clippling services online or going to my local recycling center which is free or occasionally calling my local newspaper and asking if the have extras because I have a subscription. I then with my extra coupons purchase large quantities of Gorton’s fish after coupons and sales during lent were $1 per 1 pound bag and purchase as many I can (I have a large deep freezer so it was around 100). Target and Kroger’s and occasionally Walmart has tyson and perdue chicken really cheap sometimes and they both frequently have chicken coupons. I wait until I find a super sale on chicken and do whatever I can (ebay, coupon clippers, recycling center) to get the chicken coupons and buy a ton. I got tyson chicken breast 3 pound bags for $2.50 each after the sale and coupons. I purchase like 50 bags and that is my chicken for most of the year.
I purchase almost all my beef and lamb on the clearance rack at the grocery stores. The key thing is to work at being in the know to figure out what time they put their clearance meat and clearance fresh seafood on the racks. I try to use 1.5 pounds of meat per meal for our family of 6. Hamburger I try to use 2 pounds. No matter what I try to keep all non-vegetarian meals around $2 or less for the meat, chicken or seafood. The local Arabic market has specials on meats and it is really close so I drop in to get their flyer and they frequently have specials on pricey things like lamb. You just have to be more careful with local ethnic markets because sometimes they try to pass of almost expired meat as good, fresh meat. I have found great quality meat on special for super cheap. I have gotten legs of lamb for less than $20. My husband for example really loves Lamb Curry by Curtis Stone like once a month. It is expensive; but, by planning way ahead and buying it on sale and cutting it up and saving the meat in good freezer lock bags (get frequent glad bag and ziploc coupons through email).
The next focus would be on your carbohydrates. I would high recommend for rice to go to an ethnic market and purchase a large 25 pound bag or 50 pound bag of rice. I got my most recent 25 pound bag of rice for $10 and it lasts maybe 3 months. I would use coupons to purchase special things like uncle ben’s brown rice, success rice, and the other brands; but, only when they are 50 cents or less when on sale combined with coupons. Boxes of pasta I refuse to pay more than 50 cents a box. Ronzoni and Barilla and Meuller’s frequently have $1.00 off 2 boxes of pasta and nearly every grocery store has $10 for 10 sales including pasta on occasion. On those occasions when they have 10 for $10 sales or even better 10 for $10 and get the 11th item free (.89 cents each) purchase extra coupons from ebay or colletablecoupons.com
or my local recycling centers or however you can get them and purchase as many as I can (maybe 100) and that way I get them for $0.40-0.50 each and I don’t have to buy pasta for a long time (these offers very frequently include garden pasta and whole wheat for good health). The other staple of carbohydrates in meals I cook are potatoes. I recommend going to a specialty fruit and vegetable store and purchasing a 50 pound bag a refrigerating as much as you can. Either that or going to your local ethnic market and getting them on special. I pay $13 for a 50 pound bag at my local market. I pay around $20 for sweet potatoes more often though and it lasts a couple months. I on occasion also use cous cous which I purchase only when there are coupons for it (mideast brand) and also I use quinoa on occasion only purchased from the local bulk food store (never from the grocery store it costs and arm and a leg). Any time you need something like pine nuts or quinoa or other things that are really expensive or sesame seeds always, always go to your local bulk food market (they are very expensive at the grocery store).
You need to either try to be very flexible with snacks and frequently change them with the coupon cycles or get your hands on extra coupons through the internet, from family and friends or the local recycling center and stock up while on sale. I tend to be flexible and try all the new things and stock up on the ones I like. Like I really, really like wheat thin sticks. They had coupons for $1 off them for the last few months. I got lots $1 off wheat thin sticks through ebay and when they were on sale for $1.88 at Kroger’s a few weeks ago cleared out their shelves and purchased tons. Just focus on snacks you like and get extra coupons when they are on super sale and stock up (they are good for a year). I even got expensive snacks like sun chips when they were on sale for $2.00 (never happens) and I had $1 off and I got tons and tons. It rarely ever happens I even got doritos for $1.25 after sales and coupons plus a free pepsi max a few months back. I would focus on what snacks you like and check whatever your local coupon website (in Michigan its http://www.bountytobargains.com) or check national ones like http://www.krazycouponlady.com.
Drug stores are frequently the best place for candy and ice cream. I go to my coupon websites and figure out what will make the bill negative and give me money off order. For example I got a free 5 pack of zyrtec through signing up through http://www.krazycouponlady.com, then I had two John freida coupons for $5 off each certain kind of product, and then a $1 for a razor. I went into cvs and paid $0 for the zyrtec and got $5.99 towards my next purchase, then used the two $5 off John Freida and paid $0 and got $3 towards my next purchase and purchase a schick quattro razor for $4 and got $4 off my next order. I used the combined $12.99 off my next order and used coupons and got $35 worth of candy in ice cream for $5 including shampoo and conditoner, a razor and zyrtec. You can get ice cream cheap in the summer at most stores though. Look out for stores that combine their coupons with manufacturer’s coupon. Target is the best at that because their coupon policy states you can do that. Go to target.com and go to the bottom and find coupons and print them and combine them with the ones from your local paper and you get mega savings on everything. A lot of local grocery stores do the same thing and combine their coupons with manufacturer’s (cvs, walgreens & rite aid does that too so I frequently get free candy and ice cream and numerous other things).
Health and beauty products and cleanres I would look at your grocery store when they are giving things away. By far the best place is the local drug stores. I would get up every Sunday and get 4-5 newspapers and search the drug store ads and go to http://www.krazycouponlady.com or http://www.hip2save.com or the numerous others and work a few hours and Sunday itself as soon as you can after Church or earlier if your not busy and head towards those drug stores and figure out what is the best for you. They frequently are giving away things for free. Tomorrow I am going to go to Rite Aid to get free St Joseph Aspirin, better than free toothpaste (.67 negative towards my next order in fact), at Walgreens I will get free Shampoo and Conditioner and at Target I will get almost free cleaners. For diapers I usually purchase them at Walgreens or Riteaid (occasionally cvs), I always combine the video coupons (adperks.com) for riteaid or their in-ad coupons while diapers are on sale and combine them with a manufacturer’s coupons (usually $2.00 off any huggies movers or $1.50 off any pampers) and then use my rewards towards my next purchase that I usually made money on and get diapers for usually $2-3 a 31 pack. At walgreens I get the walgreens coupons books that are usually next to the pharmacy and have walgreens diaper coupons in there frequently and combine them with the $1.50 pampers or $2.00 off huggies movers while they are on sale and combine them with the money off my next purchase which I usually get for free or near free and get the for as low as $1-$2 at Walgreens a 31 pack (smaller sizes are always cheaper for everything including food just slam the coupon with the sale price and they cost less).
I would not go chasing every sale because of time constraints and gas is very, very expensive; but, I would figure out which local grocery stores have the best deals and are really close together. For example rather than going to the Krogers a 1/2 mile from my house I drive 20 minutes when I do my biweekly grocery shopping and go to where there is a Kroger’s, Meijers, Walmart, and Target within a 1/2 mile of each other. If there are no great deals (10 or more like there are not at Walmart this week I avoid it). I go shopping every 2 weeks and just go out on Sunday for extra newspapers and go to where there is a riteaid, cvs, and walgreens within a 1/2 mile of each right by my house for my health and beauty needs on Sundays.
Another very important thing never to be forgotten is catalinas. What are catalinas they are special coupons that can be anything from money off your next order to coupons such as $5 off your next diaper purchase like they have at Meijers right now. What you do is you go to your favorite grocery stores website and find it (I could not locate the ones on the krogers website so I called where to find it) and you figure out what matches up with your coupons or sales. For examples recently they had a catalina at my local store Meijers purchase 5 Meijers organic products and get $3 off your next organics purchase. I purchase 5 cans of organic tomato paste on sale for 40 cents each on sale and got $3 off my next purchase and I gain $1. Or I purchased on another occasion $20 in diapers before coupons which only cost me $10 after coupons (bought for huggies movers on sale for $7.49 a 31 pack and got them for $5.49 each and got $5 off my next diaper purchase).
The most important thing is to always, always focus on your dinner meal plan as the center of your shopping. Secondly, if you have the money get snacks and sweat treats and always go out Sundays to get free or even better than free things at the drug stores and Target. Then you save those and purchase sweet treats and snacks when they are on sale there.
It is hard work; but, just like life the more you work at something the more you tend to get back. And for those super healthy eaters out there there are tons of coupons on wholefoods.com and traderjoes.com and tons of different organic brands websites for healthy, natural and organic product websites. It does take a lot of extra work; but, you can save money on gluten free, natural and healthy and even protein and diet bars.
It is a pain, and yes a lot of work; but, you save tons of money and isn’t better to have a part-time job saving money on groceries from home and saving money then being forced to get a second job or not save for as much for retirement or whatever your financial situation?