I was bright red. And I’m a redhead…I looked like a tomato. I could feel the heat on my cheeks. Was I really carrying a zipper binder with prices and coupons into a grocery store? Only crazy couponing maniacs did that. I swear I was embarrassed the entire shopping trip. And the next one.
Then something happened. A lady stopped me in the store and asked me where I bought my coupon zipper binder. She used coupons! But always forgot them at home, they weren’t organized, or a meteor struck and she didn’t grab the right coupon in the rush to avoid death. You get the idea. This happened to me again and again. And I explained (again and again) that I saved most of the money by the papers in the binder, not the coupons. Though the coupons helped.
What were those sheets of paper? Don’t worry, they’re included below as free grocery printables for you to download and use. And, no, you don’t have to have a big coupon binder to use them.
First, some quick stats so you can get an idea of where you are on the spectrum:
• The monthly grocery budget of American households ranged from 12.4 percent to as much as 33 percent of household income (USDA).
• The midwest spends the most per month ($305) versus the Northeast (which only spends $290).
• Gen X spends the most on groceries, spending a little over $5,100 per year on groceries (Business Insider). (That breaks down to $425 per month).
• Despite the stereotypes, men actually make up 41% of those using coupons. It’s not just for women!
1. Pick 2 Stores
First, you need to pick two stores that are near you. While you might check circulars for other stores in the future, I want you to pick just two stores for now. I, personally, don’t run to five stores every week like you might see on the extreme coupon stores. Some weeks I just visit my favorite (cheapest store). Other weeks, I do the bulk of shopping there and drop in on two other stores to grab fabulous sales items.
2. Know Your Prices
Knowing prices is vital to saving money. I’ve included a free price tracking printable right below this.
You don’t need to check the price of everything. I would suggest checking meats you use often, and maybe 10 other items that you purchase often. Start there. Go to your two stores and write down the prices for your picked items. The reason we do this?
One quick example: let’s say you use one pound of ground beef on average per week. You normally buy it when it’s $3.59 a pound. But you notice a sale one week! It’s only $2.59 per pound. Instead of just buying your normal one pound, grab 12 (enough for the next three months…sales prices generally come back around within that time period). Freeze the extra. Do this all year. You just saved $52 this year. On one single grocery item.
Another example: let’s say you use two cans of “cream of mushroom/chicken/whatever” per week. Normal price is $1.09. But during sales, you can find it as low as $.59 (and that’s not counting the fact there are always coupons for this). Stock up for three months when on sale. That’s another $52 this year.
Free printable grocery price tracker.
Grocery Price Comparison <<<<Click there to download.
Instructions (for all printables in this post)
• Print options: regular paper works.
• All of the files are in pdf below. Or click on the image. It will open in a new window and you can either print directly or save to computer.
• The default size of these is full-page. However, if you want smaller, simply reduce the print size! If you’re not sure on how much to reduce, check out my post “How to Resize Printables to Fit Your Planner.“
3. Set Stock-Up Prices
You know how much your major items cost on a regular basis. (Because you tracked them above).
Now set a price for each item in which you would be willing to stock up for the next three months. Some people who really stock-pile also set a super-low 6-month stock-up price. I don’t do this because I don’t have the pantry or freezer room. 3 months at a time works well for me.
I have a free printable below for you to fill out with items you use regularly and your stock-up price for them.
Prices vary from location to location…and I didn’t want to just steal someone else’s recommendations. So I’m linking you to a couple of pre-filled out stock-up price lists. Joyfully Thriving and The Krazy Coupon Lady both have charts that are pre-filled out. Just keep in mind if prices are lower or higher than average in your area, the chart won’t be accurate.
4. Check the Circulars
Every single week, check the circulars for stores in your area. You already have your regular prices and stock-up prices in front of you. See a great deal? Go grab it. If you don’t see anything, don’t waste a trip to the store. It only takes me about 10 minutes a week to flip through the circulars for our local three stores (that I don’t regularly shop at). Especially since I’m just scanning it for the 15 items or so on my price-tracker sheet.
5. Try Store-Brand
Yes, take the plunge. Some things are going to be worse. I’ve honestly never found a store-brand cream of mushroom soup that was even close to edible. But canned vegetables? I can’t taste the difference. Even if you’re only saving $.20 a can, and use 1 can a week, that over $10 this year saved.
6. Try Alternatives
Try alternatives. For example, I just read a post about a Mom who realized she was spending way too much on snack foods for the kids. She was buying those pre-packaged snacks. Her alternative? Fresh fruit. She actually broke down the cost per serving and was shocked to find out that fruit was cheaper.
And if you’re buying the little snack packs, please consider stopping. Just buy the big box and divide them up. Use little snack bags or (reusable) get some of those tiny tupperwares. You’re paying a premium for the convenience of them being individually packaged.
If you have the time, make your own bread for pennies. I have recipes for white bread, wheat bread, french bread, and cornbread. You can also use bone and skin scraps and vegetable scraps to make your own chicken broth for FREE. I seriously use stuff that was going to get tossed in the trash anyways.
Another alternative is going meatless certain days. Beans are a great substitute and are very, very cheap.
Have you noticed we haven’t touched a coupon yet and we’re saving a ton of money?
7. How to Rock Couponing
This is where the coupons come in. If you’re dead-set against coupons, skip this part.
I’m going to highly, highly suggest you check out my post “How to Make a Coupon Organizer Binder.” Even if you don’t want a big binder, there are some great tips in there.
But if you don’t want to use a binder, you can still use coupons. The key to using coupons is this: it’s just a piece of paper. Don’t ever buy something because “I have a coupon.” Make sure it’s something you KNOW you’re going to use and that the price is decent.
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Here are some coupon organizers you can try:
However you organize your coupons:
Tip: Make sure you go through your coupons regularly. If something is about to expire, put it in the “about to expire” section and make sure you use it if it’s something that you always use.
What did you think? Are you excited about saving money…without having to touch a coupon?
Leave a comment below!