Over the past three or four years, I have been working steadily to reduce my family’s weekly grocery bills by using coupons and not sacrificing healthy, tasty, satisfying meals. Part of this effort has been realizing that the word “convenience” usually means unhealthy and expensive. So many things that come in boxes and plastic containers have been part of my shopping for so long, that I have had to work at increasing my awareness of alternative ways to buy and prepare our food.
Another big part of saving money at the grocery store for me is not accepting inferior products just for the sake of saving money. Trust me on this: the cheapest toilet paper is not always worth saving a few pennies on each roll. Sometimes it is better to use coupons and wait for your preferred toilet paper brand to go on sale so you can stock up, than to routinely buy the cheapest brand on the shelf.
Some of the strategies I have incorporated into my weekly shopping include:
· Planning menus around seasonal produce and the cuts of meats featured in store circulars
· Use a list to note what pantry items are almost depleted or special items needed for recipes
· Clip coupons on items you already like and use, and to try new items at a reduced cost.
· Keep a well stocked pantry and refrigerator. Have enough basics on hand to feed your family for 2-3 weeks. More than that is hoarding, less than that leaves you exposed in an emergency.
· Reduce waste by not buying more than you will actually use, or freezing the meats you buy that cannot be used within 3-4 days of purchase.
· Check the expiration dates and rotate your pantry stock so that the older items are place up front and used before the newest items.
· Buy generics and store brands if they are comparable or acceptable quality.
Coupons are more than just the junk mail that comes to your mailbox every Wednesday or the booklets that come with your Sunday newspaper in the comics section. Online coupons are easy to find and use, like the free online coupons. You just have to make the effort to find what will be useful for your family.
When I first started clipping coupons, it was tempting to just clip everything that looked good and carry them all with me to the store. I soon learned that keeping up with all the coupon requirements can get overwhelming. Not only do you have to buy the brand and the size specified on the coupon, but you also have the buy the quantity specified and make sure you use them before the expiration date.
I learned how to find and use online coupon codes for not only groceries but also for online shopping. So much of what I want to buy is online now, but a huge expense can be the shipping and handling charges. I discovered that most online retailers will waive the shipping and handling charges if you find and use a coupon code.
Most groceries are cheaper to buy locally and freshness is an issue, but there are a lot of retailers who will feature online that are the same price or even cheaper than what you can find in the local stores. And if the local store does not have the size or color that you want, it is often a good bet that their online store has what you need. In fact, I just got a great deal on new bedding by using a Pottery Barn coupon, and it was delivered right to my doorstep!