Posted by: Vallere | March 24, 2010

Frugal grocery shopping 101

I believe very strongly in being a good steward of the money God has intrusted to us. As such, I look for every way I can to save. For clothes, I mostly shop at consignment shops or clearance racks. I’m a big fan of Freecycle and Craig’s List for things we need around the house. But when it comes to groceries, I think I’ve really hit the jackpot. I’ve cut our grocery budget by over half in the past year and I see absolutely no reason not to share how I’ve done it so that everyone else can eat for less, too!

The top three things we’ve done to cut down on how much we spend on food are to 1) grow as much of our own produce as possible, and what we can’t grow, we try to buy local (tomorrow I’ll try to post about urban – or at least suburban – gardening!), 2) buying beef in bulk straight from the farmer, and 3) couponing.

I know, I know, “Coupons?” you say…”Like the ones my mom clips and then forgets to use? Plus they never make coupons for the stuff *I* buy!” I felt that way too, until a good friend walked me through the process and now I can happily say that I went grocery shopping today and got over $57 in groceries but only paid $11 and some change. Honestly. I’ll even show you how I did it!

First off, I need to explain the whole process, and then I can give you a breakdown of my recipts. I shop almost exclusively at Harris Teeter. Every single day of the year they will double the value of every coupon whose face value is $.99 or less. That means your $.50 coupon is really worth $1 and your $.75 coupon is worth $1.50. Awesome, right? Then they have special weeks, like this week, where they will TRIPLE the value of coupons $.99 or under. So today through Tuesday my $.50 coupon is worth $1.50 and my $.75 coupon is worth $2.25. It’s truely amazing. Triples weeks pop up every couple of months. Sometimes they have a Super Doubles week where they will double coupons with a face value up to $1.98. That turns your $1 coupon into a $2 coupon and your $1.50 coupon will be worth $3.

The key is to match up the coupons you have with the items that are already on sale. Having a $1 off coupon for a $2.99 box of cereal is nice, but if the cereal is on sale at 3 for $6, it’s even better, know what I mean?

There is also the question of where to get coupons from and what to do with them once you have them. I’ve found that the Sunday paper from a larger city will have better coupons than the local paper. We live in Eastern NC, so instead of getting the local paper, I get the News and Observer from Raleigh. Sure I pay $2 for the paper, but if I use 2 $.50 coupons out of it, I’ve paid for it. So each Sunday I sit down and spend 20 minutes or so clipping coupons. It pays to not be brand specific for most items, like shampoo or razors or mustard. And if you ARE very brand loyal for a few things, the best way to get coupons is to go to the company website and sign up for their mailing list, or call the 1-800 number on the back of the product and give them a compliment…often they’ll mail you loads of coupons!

Once I’ve cut them out, I organize them in my notebook. I’ve got a 3 ring binder with 5 section tabs that corospond to areas of the store: Grocery, Housewares, Personal Items, Dairy/Cold, and Frozen. Behind each section I’ve got 5 or 6 baseball card holder sheets. I stick the coupons into the empty sections so that I can easily and quickly see exactly what I’ve got.

Then on Wednesday morning (when HT starts its new sale week) I click on their online circular and match up coupons with the sale items. I can also just click items I want to buy and it will make me a shopping list that I can print off and take with me. It also has the option of adding my own items, so if milk isn’t on sale, but I need it anyway, I can remember to grab a gallon. As I make my list, I pull out the coupons that go with it, and stick the list + my coupons in a page protector at the front of my notebook. Then I’m ready to go shopping!

Shopping rules: Hit the at-date produce rack first. Most of that stuff is still just fine for a few days and at the rate my kids eat fruit, it never has a chance to go bad. Hit the meat shelf looking for at-date meat. If I freeze it as soon as I get home, it’s fine for a long time. Start with the center of the store and get the cold stuff last so it doesn’t melt/get warm. Only buy what is on my list unless I see a SUPER good deal!

Today’s trip was a triples week, so I did exceptionally well, but last week was just a normal week, so I’ll share both so that you can see the comparison.

Last week, I got:

  • 5lb bag of storebrand sugar, $2.19, no coupon
  • bag of Millstone decaf coffee, sale price $5.99 – $2 coupon = $3.99
  • Aussie Shampoo and
  • Aussie Conditioner, sale price 2/$5 – $1 coupon for each = $3 for both
  • Dannon yogurt, e-vic sale price 10/$3 – $1/10 coupon = 10cups for $2
  • Dannon yogurt, sale price 10/$4 – $1/10 coupon = 10cups for $3
  • At-date apples – 3 for $.44
  • At-date grape tomatoes – 1/2lb for $.75
  • HT brand eggs, 18ct, e-vic sale price $1.57
  • HT brand skim milk, e-vic sale price $2.27
  • HT brand organic whole milk, sale price $4.99

Out of pocket: $23.08, between VIC deals and coupons I saved $24.02!

Today for triples I got:

  • 50ft Reynolds Wrap foil, sale price $3, $.75 coupon tripled to $2.25 = $.75
  • 4 bag Sucess boil in bag rice $2.55, $.50 coupon tripled to $1.50 = $1.05
  • 10 oz Mahatma saffron rice $1.00, $.50 coupon tripled to $1.50 = FREE
  • 16oz Mahatma long grain rice $1.69, $.50 coupon tripled to $1.50 = $.19
  • 2x 20 oz cans Dole chunk pineapple 2/$2, $.75/2 coupon tripled to $2.25 = FREE
  • 2x Ortega refried beans $2.58, $.75/2 coupon tripled to $2.25 = $.33 for both!
  • 2x French’s mustard 2/$3, 2x $.50 coupon tripled = FREE
  • 2x French’s spicy brown mustard 2/$3, 2x $.50 coupon tripled = FREE
  • Frank’s hot sauce $1.25, $.50 coupon tripled to $1.50= FREE
  • 4pk Northern TP sale price $2.94, no coupon
  • 2x V8 Fusion juice $7.18, 2x $.75 coupon tripled to $2.25 = $2.68 for both!
  • McCormmick vanilla extract $1.92, $50 coupon tripled to $1.50 = $.42
  • Bumble Bee light chunk tuna pouch $1.39, $.50 coupon tripled = FREE
  • Argo corn starch $1.75, $.40 coupon tripled to $1.20 = $.55
  • Argo baking powder $1.79, $.40 coupon tripled to $1.20 = $.59
  • Birds Eye frozen chopped spinach $1.75, $.50 coupon tripled = $.25
  • 2x Oscar Meyer turkey bacon 2/$5, 2x $.75 coupon tripled = $.50 for both!

Out of pocket $11.23, Amount saved via VIC and coupons $44.36!

So as you can see, totally worth it! And the money we save can be used to help pay off other bills.



  1. I’m am green with jealousy!

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