Step 1 The Meal Plan - Goal Reducing Waste and Dining Out
In this hub I will show you how to save significantly on your grocery bill. I have done this for years and have received requests to set up a blog to show how we do it. I also send with the deals that I have found at my local stores.
So let's get going. Step 1 PLAN:
The key word in saving on groceries is planning. Yes it is a little bit of work but it is definitely worth it. You spend time earning money right? Why not spend some time keeping the money you have earned? It is a great investment and it is tax free!!! You really cannot expect to walk into a grocery store and save big without a plan. (The marketing people know this and each grocery store has been set up to have you spend the most money, from the position of the milk to the candy at the register)
First you want to make a meal plan. Even if you never use any coupons or even if you do not look at prices at the grocery store, planning your meals will pay off significantly. You will not be tempted to go out for dinner if you have everything you need to make a meal and know what that meal will be. Furthermore if you have a meal plan and a grocery list that goes along with it, you will be less likely to buy items you do not need also known as impulse buys. The items you do buy will be used and will not spoil in your refridgerator.
Let’s start. Write down a week's worth of breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners. Do not think of fancy dinners and lunches but simple meals. You will probably make something you can cook in 30 minutes and not a 5-course meal.
(This is where you involve the family. Ask your spouse and kids what their favorite meals are and make a list. I have a spreadsheet with all the recipes that we like the most and I simply pick from that list)
Now go into your pantry and see what you already have and what you need. Write down what you need. You now have your grocery list and meal plan.
Here is a meal plan we have used:
2. Shredded wheat with milk
3. Cheerios with milk
4. Home-made muffins
7. Shredded wheat with Milk
Beverages for breakfast Orange Juice, Milk and Coffee
Lunch (My husband comes home for lunch but you can brown bag this)
1. Left over Spaghetti
2. Left over Taco’s
3. Left over Fish stick Casserole
4. Left over meatballs on sandwich bread
5. Left over pizza
6. Turkey Sandwich
7. Pizza rolls (Football Sunday)
Beverages water, apple juice, milk
- Fish stick Casserole
- Meatballs with peppers and mashed potatoes
- Pizza (home made)
- Misc Leftovers
- Hamburgers with chips
Beverage: Water ,Applejuice or Milk
At this point I would check my pantry to see what snacks we have left. And to see what ingredients I have and what I need to buy.
I have plenty of popcorn, goldfish, Carrots and apples. We can snack on muffins as well.
Notice how our lunches usually flow from what we eat the day before? No expensive dining out lunches for us. Food that might have gone to waste in other homes we use for lunch.
No more thinking about what is for dinner and no more expensive unhealthy drive through food!!!
Step 2 The Price List - Goal find out if something is a deal or not
This is a tool that can take some time to create but is definitely worth it. You can skip this if you know what you pay for the things you buy most often. I have created a spreadsheet. I have documented what I pay if I do not find the item on sale, the regular price I pay for an item. Then I record the price by the unit, so I can compare different packages. To get the price per unit you divide the price by the quantity, ounce, lb etc. In the example below I use the price per each.
Item Store Quantity Price Price per each
Eggs Sams 36 Each $4.82 $0.13
Advertisements and sales
I love advertisements. I find out what I need and what we normally use and then look at the ads. If an item we still have is on sale for way less than my pricelist price I stock up. I keep the items in my pantry until I need them.
The key is to never pay full price (your pricelist price) but to shop out of your own pantry when you need something. I calculate just like I did with the price sheet the price per each to determine if a deal is a deal. I saw eggs in the Walgreens ad a dozen for $1.00
Item Store Quantity Price Price per each
Eggs Walgreen’s 12 Each $1.00 $0.08
See how the price is lower than what I usually pay at Sams? 8 cents versus 13 cents for an egg. This is about a 40 % savings. You can calculate this by taking the price you normally pay (Sams in our example) then deducting the on sale price (Walgreens) then dividing this number by the price you would normally pay per each and multiplying this by 100.)
If you follow the example
13-8 = 5
0.3846 * 100 = 38.46%
You do not have to do the % savings to see that it is lower, but for those of you, who would like to see how much you save or not save this is a way.
I think this is a great deal, and as I only have about a dozen eggs left and I need them for my muffins, I will put the eggs on my grocery list.
If this were a deal on a non-perishable item I would stock up at this point.
Now lets add another level to this by combining the sales ads with coupons. I will show you a coupon organizing system later on. This is how our family gets to eat mostly brand name items. Here is what you do: You compare the sale price then deduct the coupon and compare that to your pricelist price.
Here is an example of peanut butter we recently purchased.
Walgreens had an ad for Skippy Peanut butter 2 for $3, so $1.50 a jar ($3/2).
I had four coupons for $0.50 off a single jar of Skippy Peanut butter.
This brings my price down to $1 a jar.
Now I plug this number into my price book to see if this is really a deal.
Item Store Quantity Price Price per oz
Peanut butter store brand Schnucks 40 oz $2.98 $0.07
Skippy Walgreen’s 18 oz $1.00 $0.05
It looks like this is a good deal especially when I calculate it to the % saved:
First determine the savings per oz
$0.07-$0.05 = $0.02
Now lets divide this by the original price per oz
And multiply this by 100
0.29*100 = 29% savings.
Sounds good to me!!!
Step 3 Coupons - Goal Organization
First I would like to say one thing about coupons is this. ONLY USE COUPONS AND BUY PRODUCTS THAT YOU WOULD OTHERWISE BUY. Do not buy a product just because you have a coupon and it is such a good deal. Even if you spend 35 cents on something you would otherwise not buy, it is an extra 35 cents you have spent and thus you have wasted money.
Lets get started find an old shoebox. Put a calculator and a pencil in the box. Next find about 40 envelopes (I prefer using old envelopes my husband's work can no longer use, and dollar store ones but you can also use the envelopes that credit card companies send application in).
Mark the envelopes with categories of groceries:
Here is what mine look like:
Baking (oil, mixes, sugar, flour etc)
Containers (Foil, Plastic wrap go into this category as well)
Dairy and Eggs
Hygiene Bodywash and Body Lotion
Hygiene Make Up
Hygiene Hair care
Jelly and Peanut butter
Mexican and Oriental
Paper Products (facial Tissue, cups, plates toilet paper)
Pasta and pasta sauce
Sauces and Seasonings
Snacks and Candy
Tooth Paste and Toothbrush and Mouthwash
Then you mark envelopes with specific stores you shop at. Example: Walgreen’s, K-mart, Target, Schnuck’s, Dierbergs.
Each time you have coupons you stick them in the appropriate envelope. Do not buy anything with them until you have read the section on finding deals
Step 4 Finding the Deals - This is where the Gold is
Finding the deals?
Did you know you can “stack” coupons?
You can use both a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on the same product. (Most stores will accept this. However I did find that Target some times gives me a challenge so I take their coupon policy with me when I go to Target)
Walgreen’s is a great place to stack coupons. Just this week they had their Joy dish detergent with a coupon for $0.89 and I had a manufacturers coupon for $0.50 off so I got the Joy for only $0.39. (Of course I first plugged that number into my price sheet)
Rebates got to love them
Another cool thing: in our area Walgreen’s and Ace have the most of these are Free after Rebate Rebates. I cannot remember the last time I paid for toothpaste, courtesy of Walgreen’s.
Here is how it works: You buy something and mail the receipt and the upc code to the address provided on the rebate form. You only pay for the taxes on the item and a stamp. Do not forget to mail the rebate in!!!
It gets even better: You can actualy make money on rebates!!! You can use a coupon on the rebate item. They usually refund you the complete amount you paid. not the amoung minus the coupon!!!
I had a rebate at Walgreens for a cold medicine. I printed a coupon for $2.00 off. I paid $7.99 for the medicine minus my $2.00 coupon so I only paid $5.99 yet they sent me a rebate check for the full $7.99 so Walgreens paid me $2.00 for shopping there!!!
Walgreen’s rebate program is ongoing and it is called the Easy Saver Catalog.If you opt to get a gift card instead of a check you receive an additional 10% back. I use these rebate gift cards for future great deals at Walgreen’s.
These are items the store has too many of or they are close to the expiration date. I love these in the meat department “Reduced for fast sale”. The meat is still good if you use it within two days or if you freeze it within two days. Which is what I do. Again compare to your pricelist.
Sams and Costco
Sams and Costco are great. However use common sense if you are small family a huge can of beans is going to get wasted even if it is cheaper by the ounce. And wasted food is expensive food.
Not everything you buy in bulk is cheaper. Recently I found paper towels and eggs cheaper at Walgreens or Aldis. Also keep track of what you spend at these stores because you might not be saving enough to make the cost of the membership worth it.
These stores are set up for people to buy on impulse. Stick to your list.
Eventually you will get to a point where you “shop” in your pantry and only buy perishable items not on sale. All other items you will have purchased on a deal.. Stock up when you find a great deal so you never pay full price again!!
DO NOT GO OVER YOUR BUDGET NO MATTER WHAT THE DEAL. Even if it is a rebate, if you have to put it on your credit card you end up going into debt and that is a big NO NO.
Stick to your list!
If at all possible leave the kids at home. Kids tend to ask for things that are not on your list and if you are tired you tend to cave in and give in.
Do not go to the store hungry….
Looking at the ads
Lets go to our kitchen table and grab all the ads of grocery and other stores in the area. Look through each and look for items you usually buy. Circle those. Now see if you have a coupon for the same item. Compare the price with or without coupon to your price list as discussed earlier. If it is a deal place the coupon in the envelope for the particular store.
After you have completed this routine for all stores that you usually visit, go back to your envelopes and see how many deals there were. If you just have one or two deals and they are not “I can stock up on this” items put those envelopes in the box, as it might not be worth it to go to the store for just one or two things. (Maybe later on this week you might be near the store and can go in, so you want to have them with you)
Look at your meal plan as well and look at the ads to see what stores have the items you need. Take your grocery list and split it up between stores and put each grocery list in each store’s envelope. Seems like a lot of work but in reality you might only go to two or three stores and this way you will not forget anything.
We are ready to go to the store. Take your box with envelopes with you inside the store. I usually put the lid in the basket and the box where the kids would sit once I am in the store. (You do not want to do this outside; wind tends to make coupons fly. I speak from experience!!! It is no fun to chase coupons in a rainstorm)
Now I go and get my stuff but I keep my eyes open for coupons. Yes there are coupons to be had in the grocery store on those little deals hanging from the shelves. I do not buy the products but simply put them in the category of my coupons. (The product might go on sale and I can get a better deal later)
When you find a deal you did not expect, like a clearance item and it is an item you normally use, you will have to compare it to your pricelist. This is why you have your calculator in your box. Simply so you can do your calculations in the store. Oh yes of course first you check your coupon box to see if you have a matching coupon.
Recently I found yogurt drinks on Manager’s Special a fancy term for clearance for $0.99 and I had a $0.55 off coupon this made these drinks only $0.45. Normally these drinks are $2.99 so I saved $2.50 and 83% savings!!!
Where to find coupons and free or cheap stuff
Where to find coupons and free or cheap stuff
Of course your Sunday paper has coupons and store ads sometimes have coupons.
But did you know that a lot of companies have coupons online that you can print, and take to the store? Set up a free email, like a hotmail,gmail, yahoo email, for the purpose of subscribing to coupon websites and signing up for free samples. This will reduce the amount of junk mail you will get in your personal email.
The only store in the St Louis area that I have encountered that does not take these is K-mart.
Here are some websites that have good coupons.