The premiere of TLC's Extreme Couponing ran earlier this fall. I'd read about it, but until this past week, hadn't seen it. As expected, it was more of the same. Shopping carts loaded down with hundreds of bottles of Lipton Tea and hot sauce. Moments of fake tension as a store manager tries to fix the register that has "broken" from all the coupons. I zoned out through most of the episode, but one small comment during the narration caught my attention.
A statistic was mentioned about the percentage of coupons distributed that are for food products. OK, I don't remember the percentage. I could take the time to try and look it up, but suffice it to say, it was extremely small.
Considering that the majority of coupons are for household and personal care items, how is a family supposed to save on weekly grocery bills? With coupons, you can walk out of a store on any given day with bags full of free soap and toothpaste. While this sure helps you stay fresh and clean (so fresh and so clean, clean - a little OutKast anyone?), it does little to fill the belly.
I don't claim to be an expert in the area of food savings, but here are some ideas to help you save money at the grocery store.
- Shop Store Sales - Check weekly ads found online or in newspapers. Shop around the sales. Use your store card to access sale prices.
- Use Coupons When Available- While a coupon for an item will save you money any day, save them to use when they can be combined with a store sale. Store sale + coupon = bigger savings. Check newspaper inserts, as well as online. See this previous post for online coupon sources. Shop at stores that double coupons, and keep an eye out for promotions for triple coupons (Harris Teeter).
- Know Your Prices - It can sometimes be difficult to know a good deal when you see one. I use a spreadsheet from The Krazy Coupon Lady, which lists good deal prices for frequently purchased items. I keep a copy of this spreadsheet in my coupon binder. If I don't immediately need an item, I'll wait until I see better price.
- Stock Pile (in moderation) - Buy multiple packages of the same item when prices are low (see spreadsheet). This way, you have the product on hand when prices rise.
- Buy produce in season - This time of year, look for items like pears, apples, root vegetables, etc.
- Cut Down on Meat - Meat is expensive. Try other, less expensive sources of protein, such as eggs, beans, or lentils. If you buy meat, purchase when the price is right (see spreadsheet) and freeze it for later use. Keep an eye out for meat coupons. They are sometimes found in unexpected places - necks of wine bottles (in NC you don't have to purchase the alcohol to use the coupon), attached to coupons for charcoal (ex.- buy charcoal, get $2 off meat), etc.
- Menu Plan - At the beginning of the week, I like to plan out a week of meals. I take inventory of what is already in the house and try to plan meals around those items. A menu plan also helps minimize impulse purchases as well as the number of trips made to the grocery store each week.