Not everyone is inclined to clip coupons, and for some of us, it makes no sense. Good couponing strategies means being able to find coupons for the items you already buy and use, find them on sale in the stores, and have a store that doubles or triples coupons to get the best deals. This can take a lot of time, and in some cases it is simply not possible depending on where you live.
While it is ok to use coupons for items you already buy, you are not likely to see the type of savings that extreme couponers do, without having a bit of luck and investing a great deal of time.
For those of us outside the couponing loop, there are other strategies we can use to save the most amount of money on our groceries. I am not saying you should not use coupons, if you have them, and can use them, then by all means do.
Strategies You can Use With or Without Coupons
1) Plan meals carefully – this point cannot be said often enough. To illustrate the point, make a list of what a typical shopping trip might look like. Or, make a quick “shopping” list of things you think you need or you might eat. Now for the same time period, make a menu of breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner meals, and carefully make a grocery list based on that. See the difference? If you work to use foods you have on hand already, you will find your list is much shorter, and that there is far less “junk” and expensive stuff on the list.
2) Shop from your Pantry – We all have food on hand even at the end of the pay period, and more often than not there is more food there than you realize. See how many meals you can make from your pantry before you go shopping for more food than you really need.
3) Read the Ads – Your best way to save money is to shop the ads and sales and if you can match a few coupons with those ads, so much the better. Don’t forget to use price matching in stores that allow it, this can keep your trips down to just a couple of select stores instead of running all over the place to get the best deals.
4) Rethink what you Make for Certain Meals – Some items are getting very expensive these days and finding a way to drop those prices can make a big difference in your bill. Red meat for instance has become very costly, but chicken and even pork can be purchased for a much more reasonable price. Buying foods in season can also take the bite out of high prices, and if you have farmers markets be sure to check them out. Some markets offer lower prices than the cheapest stores, so plan to make your menus around these items. The added bonus is that produce stands have much fresher and higher quality food, so you are getting better food for a lower price.
5) Don’t Pay for Convenience – The idea of buying carrots and other vegetables already precut might sound attractive but you pay extra for those conveniences. The same is true for prepackaged meals, they may be fast and easy but you pay extra for that.
6) Stock Up – If an item you use a lot goes on a really good sale stock up. For instance certain meats go on sale at certain times of the year. Buy a few extra hams, turkeys or other items when they are on sale and save a bunch of money. Don’t forget about buying family packs or heading to the butcher to buy meat packages, this can often save a considerable amount of money over your regular purchases.
7) Learn to Read Shelf Tags and Compare Prices – Pricing can be confusing, and it can be difficult to really understand what the best deal is, especially when package weights are not all the same. One way to compare prices to see what really is the best deal is to look at the shelf tags. Most often there is a unit pricing that can be used to compare prices between two products. More often than not the unit is the same for both products, but make sure to confirm that. Every now and then you will find that one product may determine units differently. In most cases units are described in ounces.
8) Don’t Buy Healthy and Beauty Items at the Grocery Store – Grocery stores are for buying food, but for convenience grocery stores also offer health and beauty items. More often than not those items cost more than they would in a super store, drug store, or dollar store. In fact many of the drug stores will offer great prices on these items on sale. So check your ads to see if you can save money on these items just like you can with groceries. These are also some of the best items to use coupons on, bogo is common and if you can pair a bogo with a sale, you can get some pretty good deals.
9) Don’t be Afraid of Store Brands – While it is totally ok to have certain favorite brands, don’t forget that buying store brands can often save just as much if not more than using a coupon. It is not unusual to save $1 to $2 on an item by purchasing the store brand.
10) Buy Local and In Season – As already stated buying at produce stands, meat markets and other local sources, can also save you considerable money. Pair this with buying and season and freezing or canning what you buy and you will get the best deals for your money. Look for meat, fruit, and vegetables in season.