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10 Tips to Saving on Your Grocery Bill

March 19, 2014

10 Tips to Saving on Your Grocery Bill

Is it just me, or do you sometimes think that clipping coupons is overrated? I will admit that I've saved a lot of money using them, but having to buy two or three papers each week, clip and organize the coupons, see if any of the local stores are having sales on those particular items and pull certain coupons for each store so you're ready to shop...it all seems like way too much effort sometimes...especially if I'm very busy. I have also noticed that if I have a coupon and a store has a sale on that specific item, I will buy the item, even if I don't need it or use it, which makes me feel like I'm wasting money instead of saving. I have assembled ten ways to save on my grocery bill. For me, it's a more realistic, time saving way to shop, so here goes...

#1: Make a menu. If you determine how many meals you need to make during the course of that month, and write out a menu that uses items you already have in your pantry, you will be utilizing what you already have and adding to it, so you won't be purchasing as much. You also won't be purchasing items you don't need.

#2: Categorize and budget your list. First, I write down each item I will need. Then I print out a categorized page that I fit each item neatly into according to where it is in the store. My categorized list is divided into twelve squares that are labeled (produce, frozen, condiments, bread, canned/dry goods, baking, drinks, snacks/other, cereal, dairy, meat, and stock-up items). After each item is put in the category it belongs in, I estimate how much the items in that category will cost and write down a budget for that particular category. After adding up each category and comparing the total to the total amount I have to spend, sometimes I have to lower my budget in a category or two and take something off of my list. If I still have some money, I add items to the 'Stock-up' category, like spices, rice, beans, vegetables, oatmeal, or anything that would be useful for future meals.

#3: Compare weekly sales between stores. There are certain stores that have a weekly ad that comes out, whether via newspaper or online, and I decide when I need to shop and what items will be on sale at that time. I usually do most of my shopping at Safeway or Wal-Mart, but once in awhile my local Walgreens will have a great sale that I don't want to miss out on, like turkey bacon or a dozen eggs for $0.99. In order to make sure I see these sales, I signed up online, so Walgreens emails me their sales each week. I also have their app on my phone and I have a Walgreens savings card that I use when I shop to make sure I get their great deals. It's much easier for me to look at the store sales online to determine if any of the items I need are discounted. I make my sale list and go from there.

#4: Printing coupons versus purchasing coupons...As I said before, sometimes coupons are overrated. Because it takes me so much less time to print coupons, and I only print the ones I will actually use, this is the easiest way to go for me. There are several great sites, such as http://www.couponmom.com, that you can go to, choose the specific coupons you want from those offered, and print. It's that easy!

#5: Bread stores. It seems as though most towns have them. I shop at a Franz bread store. If I were to purchase the Franz breads at the grocery store, I would be paying between $2.75 and $4.00 per loaf, depending on the bread. However, I can shop from the reduced breads at the Franz store for just $1.00 a loaf when you buy five items for $5.00. The reduced breads are just as good as the ones from the local grocer, and I am able to purchase what my family will need for the month for between $10 and $15. I then take it home to the freezer and it all keeps very nicely until we need it. Another great perk at the Franz store is that for every $10 I spend, they will sign a frequent shopper card. When the card is filled with signatures, I receive $10 in free items. When I shopped at the beginning of this month, I was able to get our bread for free this month.

#6: Check for reduced items at your regular grocer. As I said earlier, I typically shop at Safeway and Wal-Mart. Safeway has a reduced section for lunchmeat, hotdogs, bacon, sausage, and kielbasa. These items are still good, but are nearing the expiration date. I have found many great deals that I've purchased and added to the freezer at home for a meal later in the month. Wal-Mart is similar in that they reduce meat each morning in their regular meat section, which could include chicken, ground beef or pork, steaks, pork loin, etc. This is a great way to keep the meat budget in check while being able to feed your family good meals.

#7: Dollar Store snacks. My family tends to want a snack and then want to go to the store to buy something. Whenever that happens, we always overspend. I finally had the bright idea that the Dollar Store has snack crackers, cookies, and various other items for only $1.00, which is much less that I would spend for that item at another store. Now, at the beginning of the month, I buy snack crackers at the Dollar Store and put them in the pantry. They sell wheat crackers, chicken crackers, cheddar whales, and more, which is all the things my family likes for a fraction of the price.

#8: Discount grocery stores. I'm very excited because they are going to be putting a Grocery Outlet in our town soon. I remember shopping at one as a child with my mom, and again as an adult in another town. The amount of groceries you can purchase for such a low price never ceases to amaze me. You obviously should watch what you're buying because everything isn't a great deal, and stick to your categorized list, but I'm sure you would be surprised at how much you would save. They have everything from produce, to canned goods, to meat and dairy. It's worth the trip.

#9: Shop less frequently. I shop for my family once a month. I have always done my grocery shopping this way, even when all five kids still lived at home. I've found that less trips to the store means I actually purchase less via impromptu buying because something looks good. When I'm in the store more often, I buy more items I don't need.

#10: My biggest secret...Safeway! I know...Safeway isn't a secret, but I truly don't think most people realize how much you can really save when you utilize all of Safeway's savings. First, it is essential to download the Safeway app onto your phone. Then you can easily look at the weekly sale and add items to your list. In addition to the weekly sale, Safeway offers digital 'U' coupons that are coupons just for you, offered to loyal customers who use their app. The app also keeps track of specific items you frequently purchase and it sends you 'U' coupons for those items as well. This is where I use most of my printable coupons. Many times I've added a 'U' coupon to my card via my app, and I will have a printable coupon for the same thing, i.e. Safeway had Gerber Graduates baby snacks on sale in their weekly ad for 2/$4. I had a 'U' coupon added to my card for $1 off when you purchase 3, and I also had two printable manufacturers coupon for $1 off when you purchase 3, which made each one only $1.33 when I purchased six. I always try to use my printable manufacturers coupons with my 'U' coupons for double the savings.

Another great Safeway coupon deal is the $10 off your grocery purchase of $50 or more. I took advantage of this at the beginning of this month. I had three of the $10 off coupons. Two had been mailed to me, and I clipped one from the paper. We put $50 worth of groceries in our cart, used our $10 off coupon and paid. When the receipt printed, it also printed another $10 off coupon, so we had three $10 off coupons again. We went through the register several times that day with $50 worth of groceries and our $10 off coupon each time, but we also used our card that had the weekly sale and our digital 'U' coupons applied. We ended up spending a total of $508.02, but our total savings was $258.85! Although that may seem like a lot to spend, we are now stocked up on many items that we won't have to purchase again for several months, which will save us money in the months to come.

A great thing about shopping at Safeway is that you receive points on your card depending on how many dollars you spend, and those points transfer to gas rewards, or savings off of your gas purchase. We shopped last month and had saved up enough points to get $1.00 off per gallon of gas, so we paid $2.09 per gallon and we filled up.

I hope some of my grocery shopping tips will help make a difference for you. Please feel free to add some of your own great tips in the 'Comments' section below.

Planning Your Grocery List

April 4, 2014

Planning your grocery list can be stressful when you're on a budget. Here are a few helpful ideas so you can be more organized and less stressed and come up with some great dishes for your family this month! This also works when shopping for household supplies. Keep reading!

First, plan a menu! When you have a menu plan for the month and you use items you already have when planning first, you end up having to buy less at the store. Also, you don't end up shopping for random items and then trying to figure out a meal with those items later. You can shop with a purpose.

Because it can be difficult to come up with meals for a month, I have created a menu list that I can choose from soups, salads, pasta dishes, breads, side dishes, vegetables, main dishes, and casseroles & main dishes. You can find my 'Menu Items' list under the 'Printables' link at http://www.meemawscottage.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Menu-Items.pdf. Please feel free to use this as an idea to create your own list with menu items your family enjoys.

Second, make sure you're remembered everything you will need. I do a monthly inventory of my cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer. I use a list I've made of products I regularly purchase at the grocery store by aisle. I have sections such as produce, frozen, condiments, dairy, meat, etc. I have listed every item I could or would possibly purchase from each section. Then, when I'm making my monthly grocery list, I look over my inventory list to make sure there is nothing I've forgotten. You can find my 'Store Inventory by Aisle' list under the 'Printables' link at http://www.meemawscottage.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Store-Inventory-by-Aisle.pdf.

Next, print out a 'Categorized Page & Grocery List' from the 'Printables' link at http://www.meemawscottage.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Categorized-Page-Grocery-List.pdf. Place each item you will need in the proper section. After each item is put in the category it belongs in, estimate how much the items in that category will cost and write down a budget for that particular category. After adding up each category and comparing the total to the total amount you have to spend, you may sometimes have to lower your budget in a category or two and take something off of your list. If you still have some money after budgeting your categories, you can add items to the 'Stock-up' category, like spices, rice, beans, vegetables, oatmeal, or anything that would be useful for future meals.

I typically shop for groceries and household supplies separately. I have created a shopping list for household supplies as well. I print a list each month and check off the items I need. I have placed letters under some items, such as deodorant (K, D, C). The letters are initials of family members. I circle the letter(s) of those who need deodorant so that when I'm shopping, I'm not wondering who it was that needed that item and I can choose the item that the individual prefers to use. The 'Household Supply Shopping Guide' is also posted under the 'Printables' link at http://www.meemawscottage.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Household-Supply-Shopping-Guide.pdf. Please feel free to use it as a guide to create your own list.

When you use the templates I've discussed, you will not only be less stressed and more organized, but you will also save money! I encourage you to try it and leave us some feedback!

Christmas Budgeting Tips

August 27, 2016

I’ve seen and heard so many comments about the fall season being right around the corner. People are eagerly awaiting the falling leaves, bonfires, pumpkins and harvest parties. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Unfortunately, fall only lasts for three short months. Then Christmas will be upon us. And with Christmas usually come shopping, spending, and debt, unless you plan ahead.

There are many verses in the Bible that talk about money. God directs us to be good stewards with the money that He gives us, and it is not His desire that we would have debt..."Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8) I purposefully budget months in advance to ensure that every bill is being paid, along with every activity, birthday and anniversary gift, and I know when a payday will be short due to a holiday or day off, so it doesn’t blindside me. With only months until Christmas and with sixteen people to shop for, I make my Christmas budget early. For those who aren't living paycheck to paycheck and can afford it, the cost of Christmas may not leave a dent in their bank account. But the vast majorities of people do live paycheck to paycheck and can't afford a large expenditure to come out within a month or two in preparation for the holidays.

Some may not have much money to devote toward gift giving, but with a little creativity you might be surprised at what you can do! I tend to shop online and can usually find items very inexpensively, even if they appear expensive at first glance! Stores offer a percentage off of your purchase if you sign up via email for their ads. That is a small price to pay for up to 50% off your purchase. You can also shop in the clearance section of online stores and find super deals. In addition, if you type in 'promo codes for ......' whichever store you're shopping, you can apply those codes for more money off, and many times can find free shipping! My favorite promotional code website is http://www.retailmenot.com/. Another little secret is to shop on holidays such as Labor Day and Veterans Day. Most online stores have special sales or offers on holidays that can be combined with promo codes that result in amazing deals!!

There are always other creative ways to give gifts. When I didn't have a lot to spend, I have gone to the local dollar store and made gift baskets for my grandchildren, including coloring books, crayons, candy, a doll or cars, or whatever they might like. They are easily personalized. I have also given homemade jams and jellies, as well as breads, cookies, and candies to the adults in my life. They appreciated my gifts because they knew I gave part of myself. No matter what, there is a way when you want to give to someone else. Start planning now. You'll be glad you did, your bills will still be paid, and you won’t be incurring hundreds of dollars in debt.

Five Steps to Saving Big When Shopping Online

November 2, 2015

Many people start Christmas shopping early, but even more wait until Black Friday and Cyber Monday in order to score the best deals. However, there are ways to save BIG and you don't have to wait! Just follow these tips, and you will be well on your way to finishing your Christmas shopping list in record time without having to fight the crowds for the items you want! Remember...you should never pay retail price for an item when there is always a way to save!

1. If you have a favorite store or brand, go to that store online and sign up for an account. This is not signing up for a credit card, but just giving them your name and email. Then, when they have a sale, you will receive a notice in your email inbox announcing the sale, how much you can save, when it expires, and the promotion code that must be applied at checkout in order to receive your discount when shopping. *Please note: Most stores will only allow one promo code to be used per transaction, so if you have more than one code, you must determine which will bring the biggest savings, i.e. is 25% off plus free shipping a bigger savings than 40% off your order, not counting the shipping cost? It depends on your total, so you have to do the math.

2. People are obviously going to be shopping at other times of the year besides just Christmas. Check your favorite sites when there is a holiday near. There are holidays throughout the year, including Presidents Day, Valentines Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas. We all have birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions to shop for sometime between January and December. If you know you need to shop for an upcoming occasion, watch the calendar for the nearest holiday and then seek out those sales! And remember...if you follow number one above, you will be getting emails alerting you of those sales. Also, it's so much easier to begin shopping for Christmas far in advance, utilizing these sales for your benefit.

3. NEVER purchase anything online without a promotion or discount code. If you do not already have a code, you can search for one. My personal favorite website to find promo codes is http://www.retailmenot.com. You can plug the online store you want to shop at into the 'search' box and the search results will bring up a variety of available coupon codes to choose from.

4. Watch for the perks when you become a repeat customer of an online store. There are many opportunities for savings by watching for those stores who take care of frequent shoppers on their website.

Example A: Watch for the 'Free Shipping' sites and remember them. There are many websites that offer free shipping on your order if you purchase a specified amount. You will find free shipping at Amazon if you purchase $35 in products, Target offers free shipping when you purchase $25 in products, and Old Navy offers free shipping when you purchase $50 in products, to name just a few.

Example B: Because I shopped at a certain store online, I earned 'Super Cash'. Then, when I shopped again at a later time, for every $25 I spent, I could take $10 off in 'Super Cash'. I spent $50, got $20 off in 'Super Cash', received their 'purchase $50 and get free shipping' deal, and looked up a promo code online to receive an additional 25% off of my order. I ended up getting a HUGE discount!

Example C: I receive coupons in the mail from stores that I shop at frequently. One such coupon was for $50 off of a purchase of $100. They also have a free shipping deal if you purchase a certain amount. Therefore, I purchased items that were already marked down a lot, plus received $50 off, and got free shipping, thus saving more than half off of each item.

Example D: Some stores have a 'Perks' card that you can buy. When the 'Perks' card is presented at the time of purchase, it allows your total purchase to be discounted by a certain percentage. 'Perks' cards expire after a specified time (usually a year), and you can get some big savings using these discounts when used with the holiday sales and store mark downs.

5. Always check the 'Clearance' department, even at online stores. Why pay full price when there could possibly be some great items that are marked down up to 75% off? Many times promotion codes do not apply to clearance items, but coupons, such as the ones described in Example C above can typically be applied to your purchase, regardless of what items you are purchasing.

When you follow the steps above, you will be surprised at how much you can save! The holidays are here, so challenge yourself to complete your shopping list and pay less for every item! Happy holidays!!