How To Save Money While Grocery Shopping

Hi all!

Demonica asked me a couple of questions in another thread about coupons and grocery shopping.

I’ve been couponing heavily this summer and have saved over $1,100 since June 30th (I’ve maintained a spreadsheet just to see the savings add up).

Rather than respond in that thread, I thought I’d start a new one. With the economy like it is, we can all use some help.

Here are some tips. I’ve been blogging about my couponing experiences (along with everything else in my life).

Here’s what Demonica originally asked:

Oh girl…you have no idea what you’ve asked for…:teehee:

Here’s what you need to do…

First, do you read blogs? I use Google Reader to get to my blog subscriptions quickly. It’s wonderful and easier than visiting sites separately.

I visit the following sites a few times a day:

Frugal Coupon Living
Southern Savers

The gals who run these sites do the hard work for the rest of us. They list the sales at various stores.

The neat thing about what they do is as they list store sales, they will tell you exactly where to find coupons.

The trick is saving your coupon inserts each week (if you do get a paper, which I HIGHLY recommend – get a paper from the biggest metropolitan area you can find…you’ll recoup your money in the end). Don’t clip the coupons yet…unless you’re gonna use something for a specific sale. Write down the date on the front of each insert and file it some place. You’ll need them as the weeks progress.

Ok…so the sites above will list the places you can find the coupons.

They are not only located in the newspaper but [B]online[/B], which they provide links for.

A couple of my favorite sites for printing coupons:

Target Coupon Generator (free registration required)
Hot Coupon World (free registration required…then click the link to access coupons)
Red PlumSmartSource

Most of the sites will ask you to install a Coupon Printer. It’s safe. Allow it to install the first time, and you should be set to go.

The coupons are supposed to only print once, but if you hit the “back” button on your browser, tell the computer to reload the page, you can get a second printing.

Why is this important?

Because for Buy One Get One Free (B1G1), you can use TWO coupons…one per product. That’s a huge reason why I buy two papers each week.

Now, using coupons is a bit like playing the stock market.

You need to wait for the prices to go low before you buy. Save those coupons. Sales come around in 10-12 week cycles…sometimes more often than that.

If you can wait and use coupons when things go B1G1, then you will have hit the jackpot. Most times, you’ll only pay a quarter of the cost for both items combined than not using a coupon or only using one coupon.

It’s really incredible.

Example that I did last week (read more here):

[B]Uncle Ben’s Rice – B1G1 @ $1.49[/B]
Used: $1 mfg off of each box (printed from the internet)
Spent: [COLOR=#FF0000]NOTHING[/COLOR]! This was a [COLOR=#FF0000]MONEYMAKER[/COLOR] of $.51

That $.51 went towards paying the rest of my bill. I made money on a couple of different products last week.

Now, another thing you can do is stack coupons. Stacking is where you use a store coupon (this is something not put out by the manufacturer but by the store itself) and combine it with a manufacturer coupon…for the same item. BIG savings. I often do this at Publix and Target. It saves tons of money.

If your store accepts competitor coupons, stack them with mfg coupons. Publix is the only store near me that allows this, and I save big time.

If you decide to take the plunge and start couponing, get organized. I blogged about my coupon organizers here and here.

Yes, it’s a bit of work. But it’s soooooo worth it, I cannot even tell you.

Last week, I paid $.07 for jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce. I got six free boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese.

My favorite experience recently was getting 12 free bags of dog food.


I have three large dogs and go through 50lbs a month. Combined with the two free bags I got yesterday, I should have enough dog food for a month.

Today, I got two free double-boxes of Kotex and one package of AA batteries. I also paid $.98 for four boxes of Tylenol today. I’m storing things away. A lot of it will go in a box for my daughter for college next year. I donated a bag of school supplies, and I have a bag of food that’s getting filled up and will be donated.

It’s wild and crazy, but it’s become an adventure. Especially when you pay $25.13 and SAVED $92.18 for this:


Wow, great info! :thumbsup: We don’t have Publix here and I generally forgot to use coupons :shifty:. Our Ralphs has one one of those little cards you scan and if you use it regularly you get coupons mailed to you worth quite a bit. Last week I saved $12 with the coupon right off the top and then another $20 by buying sale items. :thumbsup:

Oh…one thing I hate about coupons are the ones where you have to buy 3 of something to get the measly 50 cents off. We are retired with no kids around so I really don’t need 3 giant boxes of Cheerios for instance. Not much place to store them even if I did. :teehee:

I have read about coupon cards that you can load online. That would be so fabulous! I don’t have any stores that will accept them.

There’s also a company called Cellfire that will send coupons to your phone. You somehow use them at stores too. It’s another thing I can’t do because of my rural location.

As far as the buy whatever’s get whatever’s free, those are great ways to collect food for donating to food pantries. So many times recently, I’ve gotten things for free or almost free. The extras go into the bag I have in my pantry. I’m going to take it real soon to a gal who just started a local food pantry.

As far as storage, I cleared out shelves in my pantry to store the extra stuff. If a hurricane heads my way, I’m set. :rofl:

I am a coupon clipper and a sale shopper…the hubby used to laugh at me for watching how much I could save on each receipt until I saved a couple months worth of recipes and added them up for him. I’ve had bad luck with the computer printed coupons - my store refuses them. I will have to check out the sites you listed as it has been more than a year since I tried any. There is just 2 of us so many times the BOGO’s or buy 3 get one frees don’t benefit us.
The biggest problem and most expensive problem I encounter shopping is that I do not like boxed/prepared foods which is what a lot of the coupons are for. I like to cook from scratch so I buy basics - there are never coupons for fresh veggies or fruit and they cannot be stock piled while on sale, although I do try to base our weeks meals by what is on sale. Same with staples like canned beans, cheese, sandwich bread, sandwich meat, flour, butter, eggs etc.
One thing I have found really DOESN’T save me much money is our membership at the local Sam’s club. They take cash and check only - which I rarely carry - I get cash back with my credit card and I am careful to keep track of what I put on it and pay it off monthy. There are many things I’ve priced out at Sam’s that are NOT cheaper than the regular grocery store - laundry soap and papertowels are two things I can think off of the top of my head that are more expensive. I get the membership super cheap through work so we use it for gas and in general milk, OJ, and canned beans by the case (when they have them) are cheaper there. If I know we are having company and can eat 5 lbs of berries or some other fruit before it goes bad it is typically a good deal - but seriously who can eat 20lbs of grapefruit ?!

From what I’ve read, the things you should get at wholesale clubs are bread, milk, and eggs. I’ve found that chicken breasts are usually cheaper by pound there as well.

It’s interesting that you mention how there are rarely coupons on fruits and veggies. I just read an article in Time Magazine that talks about how cheap it is to eat the boxed stuff, but when it comes to eating fresh, we pay prime bucks. Farmers are actually rewarded financially for growing products that feed our need for cheap, pre-fabbed food rather than the healthy stuff. Interesting reading.

I have been fortunate to find competitor store coupons on meat, chicken, and fruit. Publix accepts these coupons (say, $2 off of $5 worth of produce). You see the coupons occasionally.

I am so impressed with this coupon clipping initiative. I’m sure I could save a lot of money, but the work needed to do this seems completely overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that I’m one of those dumb a**es who forgets to bring the coupons to the store and I don’t like to travel all over the place to get groceries at a decent price. I stick to store brands as much as possible.

My question…How long did it take you to get proficient in coupon usage to the point your at now where it’s a big game? It sounds like fun to watch the savings pile up.

I can honestly say that it only took one time at the store before I was hooked.

I started out with a free trial of The Grocery Game. You sign up for stores closest to you, they provide lists of items that are rock-bottom prices, decent sales, and buy-only-if-needed items.

It taught me how to look at pricing and what I should be willing to pay.

I canceled my free trial a couple of days before it was time for me to start paying. I figured out that I could get the information for free elsewhere, but the game taught me some good habits.

The first time I took a list to the store, I saved $70. When you do that, you can’t helped but be hooked.

I went to CVS the second week and saved a massive amount on shampoo, laundry soap, and other goodies.

I’ll agree that it is work, but once you get a system worked out (for me, it was making a binder for my coupons), you really streamline the process.

I officially started this in late June. I think it probably took about a month to get completely organized and comfortable (i.e. not embarrassed at the stores).

I encourage you to make the effort. Why give a store more of your money if manufacturers offer tools to save?

It’s a great feeling to walk out of a store paying maybe 20% of the total bill.

Those are great deals Auburnchick, but I’m like vaknitter. I make most of my stuff from scratch - I am a vegetarian and I like to try to watch what I eat (not that I always do :teehee: ) and the pre-packaged food often contain too much salt, sugar or hidden ingredients for my purposes. I find that the coupons in the papers are often for things I wouldn’t buy, or I would buy generic for even less than what the coupon would save me. But I am going to try those sites you posted - maybe they will offer me more than mylocal paper. That would sure help.

I do try to get things on sale as often as possible. I’ve never been to a Sams Club, but I have a Costco membership and I love it. We get 2 big bags of bagels for $4.99 there - I leave one out to be devoured by the boys (including my 35 year old BF) and I slice and freeze the other bag. Same thing with bread. I also find that Costco’s deals on detergent and bleach are way better than Target (which is where I used to go because they were better priced than Walmart even). I especially save on optometry there. All of us wear glasses and/or contacts and the savings have been immense in that regard.

One place where I have saved money in fresh fruits and veggies is by joining a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture). I get a box of in season all organic fresh fruits and veggies straight from the farmer every week for $19 at Abundant Harvest Organics. I am AMAZED at what they pack in there. Plus, I can always skip a week if I’m too stocked up. Once I got some eggplant (along with nectarines, plums, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, basil, squash, cucumber, cantaloupe, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something) and I thought I’d get some more eggplant at Ralphs to make a whole lot of eggplant Parmesan - the eggplant I bought at the store cost nearly half of what the entire box from the CSA cost me - and it wasn’t even organic. The only downfall is that you only get what’s in season so if you have a hankering for tomatoes in December you’re out-a-luck. I find that its kind of fun to arrange recipes around the in season veggies though.

One thing that I do that saves me a bit of money while grocery shopping is write a list and stick to it, if it’s not on the list, it isn’t bought. So a little bit of planning goes into the list itself, generally what meals I’m going to cook and so on, plus all the utility stuff.

I agree 100% on the list thing. I copy/paste the lists from Frugal Coupon Living and Southern Savers, put each store’s respective list in an envelope along withe coupons for each store, and then put on horse blinders and my mp3 player. No distractions or else it will take me forever to get done!

I just saved money by switching to Geico on a cell phone while I was grocery shopping!

I tried coupons. Couldn’t get any cooperation on keeping them organized and I was spending more time sorting through them and finding anything expired every time I wanted something than it was worth so I gave up. Plus the fact that I had a system that would allow me to go through the coupons a day or so before they expired so I could use them before they expired but that system was being ignored for the pile method caused me too much aggravation.
I don’t buy that much in groceries anyway. I save my money in the backyard and woods.

Any suggestion for cheap and easy organization, so easy a caveman could do it?


First of all, I save my coupon inserts in folders like this…

Write the date of each insert on the front. The savings sites I posted before will tell you the insert (RP=Red Plum, SS=SmartSource) along with the date. You never know when you’ll need something.

Let me copy and paste from my blog for how I made my coupon binder for the other types of coupons I find (internet, peelies, etc.)…

My daughter was in charge of cutting each coupon out while I made the binder. As she cut them, she organized them into categories…


That’s a whole lotta coupons, eh? Can you imagine going through them one by one to find something in particular?

The day before we worked on this project, Chicky and I had gone to Hobby Lobby, armed with a 40% coupon, where I purchased a package of plastic baseball card pages.

I found file labels in my closet and wrote the names of different categories on them…two per label (one on the left and one on the right side of each label). I used my paper cutter to cut a straight line through the middle of them.

I tried my best to alphabetize the categories, and I did a fairly decent job of it.

My original intent was to use all nine slots on each page; however, it didn’t take me long to realize that many of my coupons are long, and some of my coupons would be hidden, so I had to come up with another plan.

I decided to place labels at the tops and bottoms of each page. I placed the coupons for the top labels in the middle slots. This allows me to see their category names. The bottom labels correspond with coupons placed in the bottom-most slots. The coupons cover the middle slots, but it doesn’t really bother me because I can see those labels, which are at the very top of each page.


Another thing I discovered…you can only use one side of these pages! Thankfully, my package came with a lot of pages, so I have plenty left over.

Here’s what it looks like when I turn a page…


I added four new categories towards the end of this project, so I just stuck them on the last page. It bugs me a little that they aren’t in alphabetical order, but oh well. I was not about to shift the labels and coupons.

[LEFT]All-in-all, this was at least a two-hour job. I just know the time will have been worth it the next time I plan a big shopping trip.[/LEFT]

Here is a list of coupon categories…

Before I list them, let me suggest something to you (something I wish I’d thought of before setting up my binder). Keep all of your category letters separate. By that, I mean, keep the A’s together. If you have open slots at the end, don’t automatically start with the B’s. Just leave them in case you need to add more A’s later.
When making my binder, I accidentally left out a few categories, and rather than moving my labels around (I’m anal in this way), I stuck the new categories at the end of my binder. It’s going to drive me nuts, I know, and I might eventually go back and slip them in.

Ok…now for the categories…
Air Fresheners
Band Aids
BBQ Sauce
Breakfast – Frozen
Canned Meat
Canned Veggies
Contacts (here I mean solution)
Dairy – Miscellaneous
Dish Detergent
Foil/Plastic Wrap/Wax Paper
Frozen Dinners
Garbage Bags
Ground Beef
Hot Dogs
Ice Cream
Muffin Mix
Office Supplies
Paper Plates
Paper Towels
Peanut Butter
Plastic Baggies
Pop Tarts
Postage Supplies (could put these coupons under Office Supplies)
Sauces – Miscellaneous (I figure hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc. could go here)
Spaghetti Sauce
Toilet Paper
Vitamins (I don’t have this category in mine, but you might need it)


:notworthy: You have inspired me.

Nathalie, it’s truly inspiring how you work to save money for your family. But like Evona, I don’t use most of the stuff you do. We make our own household cleaners, bake our own bread, go to the co-op for honey, maple syrup, etc. Now, once upon a time I did coupon shop, and several times came out with a basket load of groceries for a ridiculously small price, but they don’t print the coupons and rebates for the stores here like they did in New Mexico.

OMG Nathalie I am humbled by your organization! :thud: :notworthy:


Being organized is one of my “things” I guess. Now, my house is not all clean and whatnot, but everything does have a place. Whether it gets there or not is a whole nuther story. :wink:

Truly, though, you can’t do serious couponing without being organized. Most people give up because they can’t put their hands on something they know they have.

This way, I know what I have and don’t have to spend much time finding it.

We’re all looking to save $$ and time. It’s the best of both worlds.

Nathalie, I am awed by your organizational skills. :notworthy:

Since my favorite grocery store only accepts one Internet coupon per day (avoiding fraud, I guess. They used to not accept them at all), they don’t have a frequent shopper card program, and they don’t put out a weekly flyer, I had to get creative.

I started a price book where I would keep track of the things I bought the most and what the unit price was and at what stores I went to frequently. The book “The Tight Wad Gazette” has a lot of info about price books. This way, I had in writing what something cost at my favorite grocery store and I could compare it to the sale flyers from the other grocery stores in the area and then plan my shopping around what was on sale and where. It also helped tremendously when I did have coupons. I’m not a hardcore couponer like you, but I admire your mad couponing skills tremendously. :notworthy:

Holy Moley, Natalie! That’s amazing.

Guess what? I got a few coupons from CVS (local drugstore) and got my conditioner free when I bought the shampoo for $3.99 (B1G1)and I got a 7.5 oz. hand soap for FREE!

Baby steps!

I agree…baby steps. Once you get a taste of saving, you get hooked!