Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Top Ten Grocery Savings Tips

A recent discussion on one of my mommy groups prompted me to come up with a list to help people save money on their grocery bill and stick to a monthly budget. I couldn't sleep and wrote this list at 3am so I apologize if parts of it are less than stellar, but I wanted to post it here nonetheless, so that some of you might benefit as well!

1. Plan Your Meals. There are generally two schools of thought on this: a) plan a whole month at a time, or b) plan weekly based on what's on sale. To really save money, I like to plan weekly, based on what's in the weekly store ads. Basically, you should create a master list of the meals you make on a regular basis, what your family likes to eat, including sides and such. Then you can take inventory of what you have on hand, compare that to what's on sale for the week, and plan accordingly. Many sites will summarize the best deals in the grocery ads for you each week. For the DFW area, I like,, For other areas (since prices vary by region), check the Grocery Gathering at for listings in your area. Another tip, plan your use of fresh fruits/veggies around what's in season. Even though most produce items are available to us year-round, if an item is in season, it's going to be much cheaper than an out of season product that has to be shipped in from another location.

2. Buy Extra on Sale. Most sales cycle every few weeks, meaning that what's on sale this week will likely be on sale again in a few weeks. If there is an item your family uses regularly, it makes since to buy enough when it is on sale to last you till the next sale. For instance, my family loves boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They are on sale this weekend at Albertson's for $1.68/lb. Rather than buy a little this week at that price and then buy more next week at $2.99 (or more) per pound, I'll buy enough to last us a few weeks until the next sale. This seems only logical and while many of us do this with meat, you'd be surprised how many people balk at doing this with other items. Even fresh fruits and veggies can be bought in bulk and then peeled, chopped, diced, etc and frozen for future use.

3. Shop More Than One Store. For some of you who live in more rural areas, this might not be as feasible to do, but for most of us who live in larger cities, we have our pick of grocery stores nearby. It may take a bit more time but the savings are worth it in the long run. Best case: Throw a cooler in your trunk and make the rounds purchasing only the best deals at each store. At the very least: Compare the ads and choose the store that has the best deals on the majority of the items you need that week. Also, check to see if your store will price-match competitor's ads. Wal-Mart will match competitor's ad prices, but sometimes the deal is better at a store that will double/triple coupons.

4. Forget Brand Loyalty. You can save so much more by purchasing store brands or even purchasing a different name brand that's on sale for a lower price that week. And a lot of the store brands are manufactured by the same people who make your favorite name brands anyway. If there is something that you absolutely can't budge on (for me it's my Colgate Total toothpaste), that's fine, just make sure you stock up when you find the best deal. But for most items, you'll learn it doesn't really matter.

5. Use Coupons. I hear people say all the time that they don't have time to use coupons. I laugh when I hear that! The sites listed above (and many others) will tell you if there is a coupon available to match with a sale and where to find that coupon. If it was a coupon that came out in the paper, they'll tell you what week it came; if it's a printable coupon, they'll provide a link to the site to print the coupon. The hard part is already done for you! Just cut it out and take it with you.

6. Sign up for Savings. If there is a product your family loves, go to their website and see if there is a mailing list or email list to sign up for. You can receive coupons and sometimes even free samples for doing so. This is especially helpful for items such as organic products that don't have newspaper coupons as often. And be sure to sign up for your favorite stores' email and mailing lists too. They usually send special coupons to their loyal customers. (You can create a separate email address specifically for this purpose so the emails don't crowd your inbox.)

7. Know Where to Find Your Store's Bargains. Most stores have a policy of marking down perishable items shortly before they "Sell By" date is up. Meat, bread, eggs and deli items are especially prone to this practice. Meat can be purchased for deep discounts when it is near the "Sell By" date and is still perfectly fine if used or frozen by that date. So stock up when it's cheap and fill your freezer for later! Bread, cheese, lunch meat and many other items can also be frozen for later use if you cannot consume it before the "Best if Used By" date. Here's a good list of things you can freeze for later use:

8. Think Outside the Major Grocers. Ethnic grocery stores are treasure troves of bargains! They often have great deals on meat, fresh veggies and other items that are prominent in their regional cuisine. I found a great little Mexican grocery store near my house that sells rice and beans in bulk, has very cheap limes and peppers of all kinds and they always have the best meat. I even found large containers of spices for a fraction of what I would pay at my local grocery store. Another favorite of mine are bread outlet stores, such as Mrs. Baird's. Not only can you find great deals on bread, but also chips, snack cakes, bagels, english muffins, all sorts of items. And my local store offers a punch card that rewards frequent shoppers with free items! But my favorite place of all has got to be my local Farmer's Market, bar none! The best choice of fresh fruits and veggies and often cheaper than my grocery stores' sale prices!

9. Grow or Pick Your Own Veggies/Fruit. Start a small garden with your favorite veggies, fruits or herbs. I'm currently growing onions, bell peppers, rosemary, basil and parsley in a small container garden in my backyard. Look for Pick-Your-Own Vegetable farms in your area where you can spend some family time together cashing in on a great bargain. is a great place to start hunting. Or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or co-op where you pay a set amount to help sustain a farm in exchange for a share of the harvests each month. There are many different options for many different budgets. Try this site for details:

10. Make Your Own Convenience Packs. Instead of buying pre-packaged convenience items, buy larger packages and make your own convenience packs. When you get home, spend about 20 minutes a week chopping up veggies, portioning out chips and snacks, and putting them in ziploc baggies or reusable containers. You'll save several dollars each week because you aren't paying for all that extra packaging! Don't believe me, check out the cost comparison one mom did:

If you have any other tips, I'd love to hear them - leave me a comment below!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Win a $25 Target Giftcard

Your Coupon Buddy and Your Frugal Buddy are giving away a $25 Target giftcard! Bonus: If you win, and you are a (verified) subscriber to BOTH Your Coupon Buddy and Your Frugal Buddy, your $25 Target gift card will turn into a $50 gift card!

Click here to enter!