I've always been a saver. I can remember being a kid and saving up my weekly allowance and birthday money for something big. But it wasn't until I was a newly-wed finishing school, and then when I was a new mom who chose to stay home with my first baby, that I really needed to save money on daily necessities. Sundays I would sit at the kitchen table marking all of the weekly sales and I would clip coupons. I knew which stores doubled coupons, which stores matched other stores' prices, etc. The past few years I have even printed coupons out online in addition to the Sunday paper insert. If I spent $100 on groceries I would probably save between $20-30 in sales/coupons, $40 on a good week. Thirty percent on average, I thought, was good!
Over Easter weekend I read this book by Terri Gault. She is the creator of The Grocery Game .
I had heard about the Grocery Game before but thought, "I am already saving a lot... was there really more I could possibly be doing to save my family money?" Turned out I was wrong! Since reading this book and implementing some of Terri's techniques I have saved between 50-70% on every shopping trip. I wouldn't have believed it before I saw my first receipt. And the best part is I am still playing the Grocery Game and think I will continue to get better at it!
Let me back up a little...
What is the Grocery Game?
The Grocery Game is a website that was created by Terri Gault, to help others save on groceries, cleaning supplies, and toiletries each month. Terri's 'game' is to purchase items while they are on sale plus you have a coupon, which further increases savings. That way, you will never have to buy anything at regular price. The website posts store lists of items going on sale plus the coupons offered to show you what to buy that week. A big part of the game is to stock up about 3 months of most things you use, because stores usually put items on sale on a 12 week rotation. So if you go through a box of cereal a week, and they are on sale plus you have coupons, you would purchase 12 boxes. That way you wouldn't have to purchase your cereal when it is full price if it doesn't go on sale again for a few months. Terri has numerous testimonials of people who said their refridgerators, freezers, and pantries were bursting at the seams plus they were spending much less per month.
For me, I feel that 3 months is a little excessive sometimes-- you have to take into account seasonal items, the expiration date, and the size of your pantry/freezer before you go out and buy 20 pounds of ground beef or 12 boxes of cereal. If you are able to add some shelves in the basement or garage for an extra pantry, and you are sure you will eat it before it goes bad, then you probably will save some money. But even with a large pantry, when Frosted Flakes went on sale plus with coupons I could get it for under a $1 a box, I only bought as many as I had coupons for: 5. So take it with a grain of salt and do what works for you!
The book also claimed that you could save much more $$$ shopping at grocery stores, even if they were higher-end stores, because they usually have better sales than stores that claim to have 'everyday low prices' and do not have a weekly sales ad. This was opposite of what I had been doing; I had been shopping mostly at a Walmart Supercenter. But overall I have saved more shopping at other stores, like Terri Gault suggested. I do want to mention that Walmart pricematches, though: I have heard that some Walmarts in rural areas only require you to tell them that another place has it for a better price and they will match it; at my store they require you to take the flyer in and sometimes they will even keep it. They do not pricematch produce prices, other stores' brands, or sales that require you to purchase a number of items (like, 6 for $8). Another thing to keep in mind is that Walmart does not double coupons. I am fortunate that I have at least 3 other grocery store chains nearby, all which double and sometimes triple coupons, up to $0.50. So if I have a lot of $1.00 coupons it may be beneficial to go to Walmart; if most of them are small amounts under $0.50 it might save me more if I go to one of the other stores.
Terri Gault claims that you can get great deals on beauty/health and cleaning supplies at drugstore chains like CVS, Walgreens, or Rite Aid. I have not had as much luck with those stores but know many who do. One thing I have done in the past was to save those "Free $20 giftcard with new or transferred prescription" coupons, and saved it for when I needed to fill a script (then switch back/forth) . I would save those giftcards and buy toiletries with them. CVS does "Extra Bucks" that print out on your receipt for a future visit. Those can give up to $5 off $15 at a time, which is a 25% savings!
A few odds and ends of tips on savings:
-For large purchases, and clothing: keep an eye out for sales flyers for a few weeks even after you have made your purchase. Many stores will let you come back and get a price adjustment afterward if you see it go on sale for less than you paid. Every store varies: some policies are 7 days, some 2 weeks and others up to 30 days.
-If you see something on sale but they are out of the product, ask the cashier if that store gives rainchecks. I get rainchecks very frequently. Rainchecks extend the sale to you, for the next time you shop there, even if the sale is no longer in effect. Most rainchecks are good for 14-30 days. Walmart does not give rainchecks.
- AllYou is an inexpensive magazine similar to Woman's Day. It is owned by Walmart and sold only in their stores, however you can order a subscription at www.allyou.com . I believe www.amazon.com has an even better deal per issue. The magazine is very inexpensive at $1.25-$1.99 each. I have been purchasing them for a year or so and they always pay for themselves because they have great coupons inside. Many of their coupons are 'Buy one get one free', some offer free items without any other purchase. Many are good only for Walmart but many can be used at other stores.
-Entertainment and Gold-C books can save you a lot. Not only does the purchase support your local school/girls scout troop/etc but I always make back what I have paid within a month or two. They are usually good for a year. I keep my Entertainment book in my car glove box so I always have it when I might need it. Sometimes when we want to eat out but don't know where, we will search for places in the book, where we can eat at a discount. This year my book even has a number of $5 off $50 coupons for one of my local grocery stores.
-Request a subscription of Kraft Food & Family magazine. It comes 4 times a year and is full of tasty, easy, and money-saving recipes, plus it always contains a number of coupons. Best of all it is free, plus they have online coupons at www.kraftfoods.com
Being as thrify as I am, I had a problem even paying the few dollars a week or month for the Grocery Game. So I searched around online and found a few other websites which basically do the same thing, only for free.
Here are some of the best savings I have made since I changed my buying habits:
-Cage Free brown organic eggs on markdown. They were $2.77 regularly; marked down to $0.50.
-Organic Valley 1/2 gallon of milk. Regularly $3.99 marked down to $1.60. I had a $1 off coupon = $0.60! There were still 10 days left until expiration when I bought it.
-Stonyfield organic fat-free vanilla yogurt 32 oz. Regularly $3.99 marked down to $1.99 plus I had a $0.50 coupon. It was triple coupon day up to $0.75 so I got the yogurt for $0.49! And it still had a week until expiration.
Some others not pictured:
-KROGER Oscar Meyer bologna $1 each ($2 for 2)- plus an online printable $1 off 2 coupon = $0.50 each
-KROGER Clean & Clear foaming facewash 18 oz- regularly $5.29 marked down to $1.29, plus a $1.00 coupon = $0.29!
-WALMART Kraft Macaroni & Cheese crackers 'rolled back' to $1.00- plus a $1 coupon = FREE
-WALMART Kraft Original BBQ sauce 18 oz. Regularly ~$1.50. On sale for $1 plus a $1 coupon = FREE
-WALMART Kraft Salad Dressings 16 oz. Regularly ~$2.50. On sale for $1.58 plus a $1.50 coupon = $0.08 each
-MEIJER Hunt's Ketchup 24 oz., on sale for $1 each- plus a $0.35 coupon doubled = $0.30 each
Websites that offer free printable coupons:
Very Best Baking
A Full Cup
Stonyfield Farm Request for coupons via mail
Hot Coupon World
The Grocery Game
I hope that some of you have as much luck as I do if you try out this method of shopping! The way I see it, you don't really have much to lose by trying. You might be pleasantly surprized. I'd love to hear from you if you decide to try the 'grocery game' (or your own version of it) and what your best deals were :)