MEALTIME STRUGGLES Part II – Saving in the Grocery Store
Important details to remember about SHOPPING and SAVING in the grocery store:
It has happened to me many, many times in my early days and I am certain you will be able to relate. You run into the store for milk only and you walk out spending at least $30. Well, it may seem perfectly harmless but it is actually very detrimental to your budget. When you go over your budget in one area, another area has to make up the difference. That is where we start to get into trouble financially, my sweet friend. And then that gets your stress brewing!
PLAN – plan your trip so you have your coupons, you have had a moment to review the sale flyers, you have your shopping list, you have your cash and you will also be saving on gas from less trips to and from the grocery store. Plan your menu based on what is in season, on sale and based on the items you have coupons for. If you want to stay in budget or under budget when it comes to groceries, you absolutely must plan for what you and your family will be eating for the next week or two weeks.
MAKE YOUR LIST – Check your coupons against the store’s sale flyers that week. From those items, you can plan your menu. Look up some recipes to match those meals and then add the additional ingredients you will need after checking your pantry. Once you add the additional ingredients you still need to your list, double check your coupons to see if you have any coupons that will match those additional items. Add any staple or stock items that you are running low on. Bring an extra envelope and staple it to the back of your list to put the coupons you need to give to the clerk at check out.
WHAT IS YOUR GROCERY BUDGET – you must know this number and it should have been decided at the beginning of the month when you received your first paycheck for the month. Always know exactly how much you can spend and how much is left over in your “Grocery” cash envelope. Leave your credit and debit cards at home to resist temptation and to ensure you stay within your budget.
DO NOT BUY WHAT IS NOT ON THE LIST – if it is not on your list, do not buy it because you did not budget for it. If it happens to be an absolute necessity that you forgot to add to your shopping list, then put it in the cart, round up the price and put a star next to it. Make sure the clerk rings up that item last in case you see you will not have enough money for it, you can ask the clerk to not ring up that item for you and they will return it.
EAT BEFORE YOU GROCERY SHOP – if you are hungry when you are shopping you will be more tempted to make impulse purchases that you should not. Eat before you go or bring a small snack in your purse.
BE AWARE – stores can have some cleaver tactics to entice you to purchase more. Free samples are one way. Go ahead and take a free sample. If it is really good then make a note of the product. You can add it to your list next time if you find it to be a must have…but first take a look at the company’s website for coupons. Stick to your list.
JUST SAY NO – a huge money waster is magazines. You can find all of the same material, photos and stories online and that information is all FREE. Magazines are expensive and they pretty much have just a one-time use.
IN SEASON STOCK UPS – in season fruit and vegetables is so much cheaper than when it is out of season. When fruit and vegetables are in season and it goes on sale, then you have got yourself one heck of deal lil’ darlin’! So stock up and freeze what you will not use right away. Then you will have it when it is out of season but without the hefty price tag. Buying items when they are at their absolute lowest price is a great way to save.
NO ONE LIKES A CROWD – especially a busy or single mama! Pick a day and time to shop when the store is the least crowded.
WHOLESALE BULK SHOPPING STORES – know what is a deal to buy in bulk and what is not a deal. Often times this is a personal decision because not only is it based on price but also what foods your family eats on a regular basis or what items are used most. Most grocery stores run specials in cycles. This is when the item reaches the stores rock bottom price. It won’t happen again for another few months. So when you see a rock bottom deal in the grocery store, purchase enough of that sale item to last a few months. Then you will never have to pay full price for that item again. Learn your stores pricing schedule to take advantage of mark downs. Sales cycles are generally every 6-8 weeks.
GROCERY STORE DISCOUNTED PRODUCTS – stores will heavily discount their products when they come close to their expiration date. Purchase these products and freeze what you do not use right away.
GENERIC WITHOUT COUPON Vs BRAND NAMED WITH COUPON – You may have a coupon for a brand name product but could the price of the generic or store brand item gives you the greatest savings. Comparison shop. These products are most often identical except when it comes to price. Does your coupon make the brand name product cheaper than the generic or store brand? If so, then definitely go with the brand name. Remember…just because you have a coupon does not mean you have to use it.
RESIST THE URGE – to buy pre-made foods at the grocery store by making them at home with the kids. These products are usually so overpriced compared to the cost to make at home. This will really stretch your grocery budget and you are teaching your kids how to cook and bake some of their favorite foods. Cooking together can create fun memories, allows you to bond with your children and it is a great way to get your kids talking to you about what’s going on in their life.
10 FOR $10 SALES – you must read the fine print. Stores would like consumers to believe they have to purchase 10 of the same item to get the $10 price when most often that is not the case. It will say on the display label and if it does not then just ask. Usually there are groupings of foods throughout the store that qualify for the 10 for $10. This enables you to purchase different items while still taking advantage of the 10 for $10 special.
MEAT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THE MAIN COURSE – you can always serve meat as a condiment and not use meat as the main portion of your meal. You can easily bulk up your ground meats with rice or beans. This will really stretch your dollar. Redefine the word meal. You do not have to have meat at every single meal. Get in the habit of planning two or more meals per week without meat. Meat is usually the most expensive item on our shopping list so eliminating meat from a few meals each week will create huge savings. You can cook ground meat up small enough to just add flavor instead of the main part of the meal. This is perfect for soups, sauces, enchiladas, pizza toppings, etc… just get creative. Buying hams and turkeys when they are at rock bottom prices during the holidays is a great way to save too. Just toss them in the freezer. If they are pre-cooked hams and turkeys, cut them up into several different serving sizes and place them in plastic bags to freeze for casseroles, soups, pasta dishes and salads. Saves you time in having to thaw out the entire turkey and then only using a portion of it.
ITEMS YOU MAY WANT TO STOP BUYING – Does your family like bread? If you purchase two loaves of bread per week at $2.50 per loaf that equals $240 per year, just on bread alone. Consider baking your own bread. It is a really great activity for the kids to help with. Fresh baked bread is so delicious and makes your house smell amazing! Not only this, but you know exactly what ingredients are in the bread you are feeding to your children. You can also make your own gravies, broths and cream soups with the meat you are already cooking. It is so much healthier and saves you money! Pet food is best purchased at your bulk shopping stores, feed stores or there are recipes on the internet to make your own.
YOU NEED A PRICE BOOK – save your Menu Planning and Shopping List worksheets after you have used them. You can even carry the old ones with you when you shop each time. You will see your most commonly purchased items on the worksheet time and time again. Get familiar with the prices you have written down for each frequently used item. This way when you see the price drop drastically from what you are usually paying, then you will know this would be the best time to stock up on the product. Just because the store says its “ON SALE”, doesn’t mean it is a good deal. You will know this from looking at your previous worksheets.
CELL PHONE APPS FOR SMARTPHONES – there are some amazing FREE apps available now to help you save money, find discounts and use coupons. Do an internet search to locate what is available right now for the type of smart phone you are using. Some of the apps locate the area you are in and will pull up coupons and savings for every retail store in that area. You click on the store, pull up the coupon on your phone and show it to the clerk in the store when you check out…it is super easy! Other apps allow you to scan products bar codes and it will pull up every store in the area and the price of the same product. This allows you to find the best price and then go to that store to purchase it. Search for coupon apps for grocery stores and apps that allow you to store the data from every key ring reward cards you currently carry. Groupon is an amazing app to save on hair care and personal care services, businesses that provide excellent savings for birthday party ideas, vehicle services…just about everything you could possibly think of. If you are planning to take a trip to another city somewhere, change the location setting in your Groupon account and find fun and exciting things to do at a huge discount!
PART III will cover more ways to get your kiddos involved, sales cycles at the grocery store and the best time to buy certain products – all to really stretch those grocery dollars!
If you find this helpful, would you kindly share with other moms? What are some additional points you would add to the list to help a fellow busy mom out there?