I have to admit, I’m really not good at using coupons. Don’t get me wrong – I like the collecting process! I love ferreting out big bargains in the Sunday paper or stalking major savings online, and afterwards, organizing my finds neatly and sticking them in my purse with my grocery list. But I always space out at the cash register, forget to use them, and end up spending more money than I would have if I’d have just bought my usual store brands.
Not using coupons at the grocery store doesn’t have to automatically disqualify you as a strategic and spendthrift shopper. With a little planning and effort, you can get the same, and sometimes better savings, than you would have if you’d headed to your local grocery store with a fistful of sweaty coupons.
Here’s the four-step process I use to save money on my groceries:
Step #1: Research.
Before I even think about grocery shopping, I hop on the internet and find out where the deals are at. Most of the grocery stores I go to have their weekly sale fliers online, and I take a quick glance at the meat section. Meat usually comes out as the most expensive item on my list, so I try to cook first with what’s on sale.
Step #2: Make a plan.
Once I know where the deals are, I make a meal list. And since I always have great recipe ideas until it’s actually time to make one of these menus, I save these lists in a folder I can refer back to next time it’s time to make a meal list. After a couple months of saving lists, I have lots of ideas to choose from.
Step #3: Write a list.
Once I’ve got a list of my meals for the week, I take a quick look in the cupboards to see what I still have on hand, and then I go down the list and write down the ingredients for each one. Dividing them up by section (dairy, meat, veggies, etc.) helps me get in and out of the store quickly.
Step #4: Obey the list.
I try my hardest not to get anything that isn’t on the list. Mentally talking myself into “just one thing extra” can quickly get me into trouble, budget-wise. I try to keep to the motto – if it ain’t on the list, I ain’t buyin’ it.
This might sound like a whole day’s worth of effort, but it’s really not once you get the hang of it. I work full time, and can usually carve out about a half-hour on a weeknight to make my lists without feeling like grocery shopping and strategic planning consumes my life.
Now, if I can just figure out a strategy to keep myself away from the candy aisle….