If you are new around here, from March/April until about October I usually have a feature called Friday Fun + Frugal Finds. I share what I bought that week at yard sale or thrift stores. I plan on starting that feature (as soon as we have warm weather AND no rain so I can yard sale again!) with a little bit of a change – more on that later. But until yard sale season kicks into high gear, I thought I would spend the next few Fridays in March sharing other ways I am “frugal” in our home. I have been wanting to share some of my favorite apps, websites, and ways I save on everything home so we will talk about all of that and more. So hold on… if you think today’s post is not for you, that is fine – but I hope that you will take a minute to read it through and maybe learn a tip or two and I really don’t think you are going to want to miss the apps I use to save money at the end or a future post on how I save money with my smart phone!
Being frugal or thrifty and saving money is not just something I do by shopping yard sales or thrift stores, it is a way of life for me. That doesn’t mean we eat processed food and never have anything nice – quite the opposite! I cook mainly from scratch, we eat very little or no processed foods (but not organic), and we do have nice things, we just usually save for it first and try to be very wise with our money.
So let’s talk about grocery shopping.
A few years ago our grocery budget was $40 a week for 2 people – lunches included. I also spent around $20 a month on household items doing coupons and reward systems at various drug stores. So a total of $180 a month for groceries. I even blogged all about in a coupon blog (which was my first blog!) called Centsible Savings. I published an entire series over there on how to coupon – you can view that here. Since then gas prices skyrocketed which cause food prices to rise, that crazy coupon show aired on TLC, and things changed with coupons/sales, and store rules. So our current grocery budget is a bit different and I also don’t “coupon” as much as I used to. Our current grocery budget is $50-60/week and an additional $25/month on household products at CVS or Wal-Mart. So $225 –$250 a month for everything – groceries, cat food, toilet paper, hair products, toothpaste, etc. This is not a comparison guilt game either of “wow, I spend way more than that” or “wow, I spend way less than that” – I just want to share the ways I have found work for our family to save money and encourage you to try some of them if you want to try to save money on your groceries and household goods.
5 ways I save on groceries + household items:
1. Shop the sales. You can cut every coupon in the paper but if you don’t SHOP THE SALES, you will spend way more money than you ever need to spend. The sales ads in the paper on Sunday actually save me more money than the coupon inserts ever can or will. In fact you can never clip one coupon and save a significant amount on your groceries just by shopping sales. I base my menu and my grocery list on what is on sale that week – in fact I rarely buy anything (except staples like bread, milk, etc since those don’t really go on significant sale) unless it is on sale and usually at the lowest price it goes. I LOVE shopping at Publix – great customer service, clean stores, etc – and I LOVE their buy one, get one free deals. Grocery items go on sale on a rotational basis – every 8-12 weeks you will see the same thing back on sale again. So my goal is to buy the things our family eats on the week they are on sale and to buy enough of that item (if it is non-perishable) to last us until it goes on sale again in 8-12 weeks. So I “stock” my pantry with things we eat and that are on sale and then we eat pretty much from what I have bought in previous weeks. (How I organize my pantry post here.)
Here’s a scenario to help you see how much you can save by just buying things when they are on sales:
-Your family eats 2 boxes of cereal each week so when you go to the store you buy 2 boxes regardless of price – let’s just say it costs $2.50 a box. 52 weeks x $5.00/week = $260
–Publix runs just about every brand of cereal on sale at some point in the 10-12 week period usually BOGO (buy one get one free). So let’s say that you buy 8-10 boxes of cereal on the week that it is on sale for BOGO (enough to last you until that brand or another brand you like goes on sale again). You would cut that $260 in HALF saving you $130 a year! Or maybe the cereal only goes on sale for 2/$4.00 and you stock up each sale until it goes on sale again. 52 weeks x $4.00/week = $208 – still saving you $52 a year. That doesn’t sound like much until you think this is just ONE item on your list. Imagine savings like that on 30-40 items on your list. Here’s a short list of things I stock up on when Publix has them on sale for BOGO free – pasta sauce, pasta, canned veggies, frozen veggies, cereal, cat food, peanut butter, cake mixes, oats, granola bars, cleaning supplies, crackers, canned soups for lunches, condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo, etc.), salad dressings, oil, sugars, chocolate chips, juice, Coke products, and more… I pretty much NEVER buy any of the above things (and more) unless are BOGO or on some kind of sale. That is the only way I can keep our grocery budget as low as it is.
-Meat is another thing I only buy when on sale – we either eat what is on sale that week or what is in the freezer from previous weeks. For example: my goal price for boneless chicken breasts used to be $1.99/lb. and Kroger would run that sale every 4-5 weeks. We eat very little red meat and mainly chicken so the week that it is on sale I would buy 8-10 packages at $1.99/lb. and it goes in the freezer – same with any other kind of meat. If I was go to to the store and buy 1-2 packages EACH week regardless of the price (usually $3.99/lb.) – I would spend DOUBLE on chicken – just because of the week I “wanted” to buy it in. I can find lots of yard sale finds or thrift store pillows with the $20-30 I save in chicken each month! (By the way I buy my chicken mainly in bulk now from Zaycon foods <–(referral link) usually on sale for $1.59-1.89/pound and I buy 40-80 pounds at a time.)
2. Use coupons. I use to coupon very heavily a few years ago – it wasn’t rare for me to go into Publix and buy only things that were on sale and then save an additional $20-30 in coupons on top of that. In the cereal scenario above, if cereal was on sale for BOGO free AND you had coupon for $1.00/2 boxes you would save even more making your normal $2.50 box of cereal cost $1.50 for 2 boxes! But coupons don’t come out like they used to several years ago, stores restrict the # of items and the # of coupons you can use, and our eating style has changed too, but I still save about $10 a week just in coupons. You can read more in this post, but the main places I find my coupons are in the Sunday paper, online printable coupons from sites such as coupons.com, or store coupons in the sales flyers. I wrote an entire series on my old coupon blog on Centsible Couponing versus Extreme Couponing. And Southern Savers has an amazing resource walking you through shopping sales + using coupons here.
I also use several websites to help me watch the sales and match coupons with the sales – SouthernSavers.com is the main one where you can select and print your shopping list based on the sales ad that week and it has any available coupon or printable coupon matched with each item. I also follow MoneySavingMom.com and Hip2Save.com
3. Shop Aldi. If you have an Aldi nearby and have never been inside, you need to go NOW! I buy most of my fresh produce, milk, eggs, butter, and some staple items if they haven’t been on sale at Aldi. They regularly run strawberries and fresh whole pineapples for $0.99, 3 lb. bags of apples for $1.99, bananas for $0.33/lb., and low prices on pretty much every kind of fresh veggies and fruit. I buy my canned beans, whole garlic, sugar, flour, and ground turkey there as well, along with many other things. We try to eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and lots of salads especially in the summer, yet fresh food is expensive at the grocery stores, so Aldi is my favorite place to shop for those items. They also have an entire line of gluten-free and organic food if you family chooses to eat that way.
4. Maximize the “rewards” programs at drugstores. Almost every drug store has a discount/reward card like the CVS ExtraCare card and they also offer sales and promotions each week where you get an additional discount or get a coupon back on your next purchase for buying certain items. I won’t go into all the details here but it is explained in depth here if you want to learn the system.
Some of you might have laughed at my “mini drugstore” in my linen closet (see how I organized it plus changed my wire shelves here), but I save a lot of money by stocking up on things we use on a regular basis during a promotion/sale at CVS. Here’s just a short synopsis of a recent deal I got and how I stocked up on Tresseme hairspray. Tresseme hairspray is $3.50-4.00 at Walmart and I go through quite a bit with my curly hair. CVS had a sale if you bought $20 worth of Tresseme products you got a $5 “coupon” (called an ECB or Extra Care Buck) back on your receipt that you can use to buy anything in the store on your next purchase – basically like CVS cash. I scanned my reward card at the coupon center in the store and got a coupon for $5/20 Tresseme purchase and I had printed 2 coupons at home from coupons.com for $2.00/1 bottle of hairspray. Hairspray was on sale for 3/$10 and I bought 6 bottles = $20. $20 – $5/20 CVS coupon = $15 – $4.00 from the printable coupons = $11 – $5 in Extra Care Bucks I had gotten last week = I paid $6 + tax on SIX bottles of hairspray making them about $1 each! Plus I got my $5 ECB or “CVS cash” on my receipt that I could turn around use right then for toilet paper or something else that we needed or that was on sale or I can wait until next week to use it maybe on a deal on toothpaste or contact solution (ECB’s expire in 30 days). If you want to learn more about how to shop the drugstores and specifically CVS check out this tutorial from SouthernSavers.com.
5. Use coupon or money-back apps right on your phone! With the popularity of smartphones all kinds of apps have been developed to help you save money. In the last 6 months I have accumulated almost $75 in using various apps! There are MANY different apps out there like this but these are my favorite grocery store apps that I have installed on my phone – Checkout51, Snap by Groupon, Walmart Savings Catcher, Ibotta, SavingStar, Shopmium, Jingit and Shrink.
These all work about the same way – you can check the apps beforehand to see what kind of deals they have that week or you can just go shopping as usual. When you get home lay out your receipt and go through the apps seeing if anything you bought matches up. Some of the apps are store specific and Aldi is not on every app. Then with most apps you take a picture of your receipt, check the items you bought that qualify, and submit. On most of the apps once your account reaches $20 you can request a check, transfer to paypal, or redeem for a gift card. Checkout51 is probably my favorite app and the one that I use EVERY week. Aldi purchases qualify on Checkout51 and there is always some kind of fresh produce offer like $0.25 off bananas or tomatoes or lettuce. You just take a picture of the receipt and submit and within an hour the money has been credited to your Checkout51 account. Walmart Savings Catcher will match prices at local grocery stores with what you bought at Walmart and if they find a lower price, they give you that amount of money back in your account (which you can cash out for a Walmart gift card.)
I encourage you to check out some of these apps and also read this post by Molly on how she saves money with apps.
Also, if you have an iPhone and a wireless printer, you can install the coupons.com app right on your phone and print 2 more coupons of any coupon you want right from your phone and iPad and another 2 coupons from your computer. Why would you need 4 coupons? Because you are going to buy 4 boxes of cereal or hairspray when it is on sale, right?
Next week I am going to talk about how I save money with my smartphone with other apps – on fun home stuff and everything else. You won’t want to miss it! If you have any questions about shopping with coupons or shopping CVS, I would be glad to help! Email me or ask in the comments.
How do you save money on groceries or household items? Are you a coupon clipper or do you shop the sales?